I recently got to spend 8 days on the Big Island. My home base for the week was in Kona due to the wedding I was there for. Since I have been to the Big Island 4 times now, I got to create a kick ass day trip to hit some amazing beaches, restaurants and various sites!
If you didn't know, the Big Island is the largest of the Hawaiian islands. If you plan to take a day trip, rent a car and leave early. You will cover a lot of miles during your day trip compared to other islands where the destinations are a lot closer and you are traveling at a much slower pace.
As you read this, you may think: "man, she really visits a lot of places in a short amount of time." Keep in mind my travel style:
My travel style reflects my travel mentality: Chances are, I may never be back to this spot in my lifetime. I would rather SEE some of these places, rather than spend hours at one place. I am OK taking some photos and having the memory.
Few things to throw in your car for the day: cooler with beer and water, few snacks to tide you over, jacket (yes, it gets cold when you go up the mountain!), and your swimsuit and a towel.
Ready? Let's go!
Honorable mention sites on your drive between Kona and Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Randy's Huli Chicken and Ribs - This side of the road stop was featured on one of the food shows that I watch! We meant to stop here, however, they are only open Thursday and Friday. If you are taking this trip on one of these days, make the stop and take some food to go!
Kona Coffee Living History Farm - Kona is known for their Kona coffee. However, not all coffee that is labeled Kona coffee is authentic! This farm is a great place to learn about the history of coffee, get some samples and buy authentic bags of Kona coffee to take home!
Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Kona to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau
Drive Time: 40 minutes
First stop is a beach and historical park that I discussed in my post from last week. If you missed that, check it out here! 8 Must Visit Beaches on the Big Island. I put this as my first stop because I recommend getting here early in the day. As it gets later in the day, the historical park and even the public beach get pretty crowded. I recommend spending about an hour here. If you want to come back later in the week, the fee you paid to visit the national park is good for 7 days!
Punalu'u Bake Shop
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau to Punalu'u Bake Shop
Drive Time: 1 hour
This spot should for sure be on your list! Ever heard of a Hawaiian malasada? It is basically a doughnut, but they make them in about 15 varieties at this bake shop. I highly recommend going here early (before 11) to get all the options. We chose a guava flavored, classic, lemon filled and vanilla custard. You better believe we sat there and ate all 4 before getting on the road again!
Punalu'u Bake Shop to Volcano Winery
Drive Time: 43 minutes
A winery on a volcano…in HAWAII?! Yes! One of the first things I researched for the trip was where all the breweries and wineries were. Come to find out this is actually the ONLY winery on the Big Island and only one of two on all the islands. This is the first stop where you may want your jacket. When we were visiting, it was around 58 degrees! The tasting room is a pretty good size. For $8 you can try their: Symphony Mele, Pinot Noir, Volcano Red, Symphone Mele, Volcano Blush, Hawaiian Guava-Grape, Macadamia Nut Honey Wine, Infusion Tea Wine, and Volcano Winery Estate Teas. These wines will not be like anything you have ever tried! Since they are utilizing more local ingredients to make these wines, you will not only get different liquid consistencies with some of these wines and also different flavors than you may be used to! We ended up LOVING the Hawaiian Guava-Grape wine and bought one to take home! They also bragged about their cheese platters, however, we were saving our appetites.
Volcanoes National Park
Volcano Winery to Volcanoes National Park
Drive Time: 7 minutes
Disclaimer: There was an eruption in May 2018. When we visited in February 2019, there were still a lot of sites, hikes and viewpoints closed due to toxic gasses. I wish they would have told us how much was actually closed BEFORE we paid the $25 entrance fee.
However, check the website before going to see what is open. I would highly recommend checking out the Thurston Lava Tube (the reason we went). You can walk through a lava tunnel, which is pretty cool! There are also various places when the whole park is open that you can view a lot of the craters and learn about the lava flows over the past hundred years.
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center
Volcanoes National Park to Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center
Drive Time: 35 minutes
You know those little blue cans of nuts you see in ALL the ABC and Hilo Hattie merchandise stores? Well you can visit the visitor center and even take a tour of the factory. This is the ONLY site that they are picked, produced and shipped to stores! In the gift shop, you can also try all the flavors of the nuts before you buy. My absolute favorite is the chocolate covered with toffee. We also purchased a few of the nuts with spices.
Honorable mention sites on your drive between Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center and Mehana Brewing
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo - I visited this zoo ten years ago! It is a small zoo but it has exotic animals. It's worth the stop if you have the time.
Mehana Brewing Company
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center to Mehana Brewing Company
Drive Time: 15 minutes
This was one of the brewing companies I discovered from my general research about the island's breweries and wineries. This is a small tasting room in their warehouse. They have about 10 beers on tap. We ended up doing a tasting of about 6 different beers. I actually really enjoyed a lot of their beers. We ended up doing their mix and match 6 pack to add to our beach beers!
Hilo Burger Joint
Mehana Brewing Company to Hilo Burger Joint
Drive Time: 4 minutes
We came here based on a recommendation by the gal pouring us our tastings at Mehana. This burger joint is filled with locals from what I could tell. They have a full bar with a good amount of beers on tap. We stuck to drinking the local beer. On their menu, they bragged about having the best burgers. Their beef come from cows that are raised with no hormones and are grass fed on the Big Island. I have to confess, it was one of the BEST burgers I have had. I typically don't finish a whole burger, but I did that day!
Honorable mention sites in Hilo
Hilo Farmer's Market - The farmer's market is every day, however there are two days of the week where they have a bunch more vendors to choose from!
Richardson's Beach Park - I spent many days here when I was a wide-eyed 18 year old. This is a great black sand beach that has great snorkeling and turtles!
By this time, you should be tired from not only driving so much, but from seeing so much! I have good news, you don't have to take the same route you did to get to Hilo. You get to cross through the mountains home.
Hilo to Kona
Drive Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Have you visited any of these places before? Have you driven this route before? What spots should I hit next time I am on the Big Island?