Travel Tips for Visiting the Big Island of Hawaii

Are you getting excited about your upcoming trip to Hawaii? You should be! The Big Island has a whole lot to offer to visitors, from gorgeous coastal views to award-winning sushi restaurants. Of course, there’s often only so much you can fit into a vacation. Check out our quick look at premier travel tips to make your travel easy and for some hot ideas on where to go and what to do:

Car Rental Information

While the Big Island does have some public transportation options, most anyone staying two nights or longer will want to rent their own vehicle. A rental car will enable you to quickly and efficiently get to the best sites on the Big Island — and to do so on your time. You can get the best car rental deals by either booking directly with your car rental company of choice and paying upfront or by going for a package resort stay deal. 

Pet Information

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Visiting the Big Island with pets used to be very, very troublesome and improbable as the state once required a 30 to 120-day quarantine hold, and that hold had to be at an approved facility. Thankfully, recent legislation has significantly cut down on that time and made it possible for those, who properly prepare, to bring their pets with them on their trip to the Big Island of Hawaii.

The key phrase here is, of course, properly prepare. Those wanting to visit the Big Island with their pets may need to start planning that visit as many as four months in advance. That’s because you must show proof that your pet has had two rabies vaccinations, including one that is active and recent. In order to skip quarantine and bring your dog with you directly from the airport, you will also need a FAVN antibody test, proof of microchipping, a personal vet health certificate, and complete a full permit with a $165 processing payment ten days before arrival. Additionally, upon arrival at a Big Island airport, pets will need to undergo an inspection by an authorized Hawaiian veterinarian who will confirm the pet’s identity and requisite paperwork.

You can shorten some of these steps and opt instead for a five-day quarantine hold, but the price difference is negligible. We estimate that, including flight tickets and general vet visits, pet owners can expect to spend about $1,000 in total costs and several months of office visits and paperwork preparation to bring a pet to the Big Island. 

Best and Worst Times to Visit

The two worst months to visit the Big Island of Hawaii are December and January because that is when everyone wants to visit Hawaii. Northerners, Midwesterners, and those in Cascadia are all looking to flee the frigid winter months and escape holiday planning with a visit to tropical Hawaii. Such crowds invariably mean higher flight costs, more expensive lodging rates, and longer restaurant wait times, among other things. So if you can, avoid visiting the Big Island at this time.

Instead, consider a visit to the Big Island in late summer and early fall, such as September and October. These months are less busy as families are starting school again and temperatures have cooled down slightly. This equates to fantastic swimming during the height of the day with cooler morning and evening temperatures that are great for hiking and activities like dining outdoors. 

Top Things to Do

First off, it’s really, really hard to have a bad time on the Big Island. Just about every corner, every trail, and every edge of the shoreline has something unique and special to offer. That said, the following is a look at some of the most popular things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii:

Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is located near the Hilo Coast and is home to one of the state’s most famous waterfalls, Akaka Falls. The big draw here is the short hike through a tropical landscape and out onto a scenic overlook of that 442-foot waterfall. There’s also a secondary waterfall, the 100-foot Kahuna waterfall, visible along this easy trek. 

Sunlight on Water Tours

What is Hawaii without its water landscapes? Surfing, swimming, and snorkeling are all huge pursuits here and while you can do that last one from the shoreline, boat tours allow you to really get out to some of the best underwater spots. Sunlight on Water Tours is one of the exceptional snorkeling outfits on the Big Island of Hawaii that know the best, uncrowded underwater spots around the coastline. On one of their trips, you have the chance of seeing magnificent wildlife like humpback whales, dolphins, manta rays, whale sharks, pilot whales, tropical reef fish, sea turtles, and much more.

Magical Creatures Sanctuary

Magical Creatures Sanctuary is a unique Hawaii attraction that is tucked away from the big resorts. This animal rescue nonprofit is a volunteer-run, donation-only facility where guests can enjoy an easy walking tour amidst rescued farm animals like sheep, pigs, and goats. 

 All About the View ATV Tours

All About the View ATV Tours also has some resident animals, including ducks, cows, and horses, but their main order of operations is offering superb ATV tours through Hawaii’s backcountry. Enjoy a thrilling ride through a working livestock ranch that includes lovely ocean cliff vistas. 

What Not to Do

tree split in the middle with warning signs and rules about beach in hawaii

Before we close out, let’s talk just briefly about some things you should not do on your vacation to the Big Island. First and foremost, don’t just stay in your resort town. Yes, it might have everything you need, from beaches to eateries, but there’s much more to see and do on this island, including those aforementioned tours. Also, don’t take the lava rocks (or risk being cursed), be smart before entering the water (don’t swim where you don’t see anyone else swimming), and never leave valuables in your car (Hawaii may be paradise but it still unfortunately has petty theft). 

Learn More About Hawaii

Going to more than just the Big Island? Make sure to check our other pages to learn more about all the Hawaiian islands, including top tour outfitters and things to do.