Introduction

The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise that offers a diverse range of landscapes and experiences, from serene beaches to lush rainforests and dramatic volcanoes. If you’re planning a trip to this breathtaking island, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is where to stay. With so many charming towns and resort areas to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is the best fit for your needs and preferences.

In this article, we will highlight the top areas on the Big Island that are ideal for accommodation. Whether you’re looking for bustling beaches, cultural attractions, or a peaceful retreat, we’ve got you covered. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clearer picture of the different areas available and be able to choose the perfect base for your Hawaiian adventure.

From popular tourist hubs to hidden gems, each area has its own unique charm and appeal. Factors such as proximity to attractions, available amenities, and local culture should be considered when selecting your accommodation. Additionally, your own preferences and interests, such as beach access, shopping opportunities, and dining options, will also play a role in determining the best area for you to stay.

So, whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply in search of a relaxing getaway, read on to discover the best areas to stay on the Big Island of Hawaii. With our comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and find the perfect home base for your Hawaiian adventure.

 

Kailua-Kona

Kailua-Kona is a bustling seaside town located on the western coast of the Big Island. With its vibrant atmosphere, historical sites, and stunning sunsets, it’s no wonder that Kailua-Kona is a popular choice for visitors.

This charming town offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly hotels and cozy vacation rentals. You’ll find that Kailua-Kona is a great base for exploring the island, as it is centrally located and offers easy access to many popular attractions.

One of the main draws of Kailua-Kona is its proximity to beautiful beaches. From the popular Kailua Bay to the serene Magic Sands Beach, there’s a beach for every preference. If you’re into water sports such as snorkeling or paddleboarding, you’ll be delighted by the crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life.

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the historic Kailua-Kona village is a must. This area is home to Hulihee Palace, a former royal residence, and the Mokuaikaua Church, the oldest Christian church in Hawaii. Strolling down Ali’i Drive, the main street of Kailua-Kona, you’ll encounter a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries.

In the evening, make sure to catch a spectacular sunset at the iconic Kailua Pier. This is also the starting point for the annual Ironman World Championship, a world-renowned triathlon event.

If you’re looking for a taste of local culture, the Kona Farmers Market is a must-visit. Here, you can sample fresh produce, local delicacies, and handmade crafts.

Kailua-Kona also serves as a convenient starting point for day trips to other parts of the island. You can easily venture to popular destinations such as the coffee farms of Holualoa, the stunning Kealakekua Bay, or even take a scenic drive to the famous Waipio Valley.

In summary, Kailua-Kona offers a perfect blend of beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, and convenient access to other parts of the island. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, this vibrant town has something for everyone.

 

Waikoloa Beach Resort

If you’re looking for a luxurious and upscale resort experience, Waikoloa Beach Resort is the perfect choice. Located on the picturesque Kohala Coast, this area is known for its stunning beaches, world-class golf courses, and high-end accommodations.

Waikoloa Beach Resort is home to a variety of lavish resorts that offer a range of amenities, including beautiful pools, spa facilities, and gourmet dining options. Many of these resorts are situated along the coastline, providing guests with breathtaking ocean views and easy access to pristine white sand beaches.

One of the main attractions in Waikoloa Beach Resort is its Kings’ Shops and Queens’ Marketplace. These upscale shopping centers have an array of designer boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, making them a perfect spot for indulging in some retail therapy and fine dining.

Golf enthusiasts will be delighted by the championship golf courses in the area. The Waikoloa Beach Resort Golf and King’s Course are renowned for their scenic beauty and challenging fairways. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or just starting out, these courses offer an unforgettable golfing experience.

For those interested in experiencing Hawaiian culture and history, the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve is a must-visit. This ancient site contains over 3,000 petroglyphs that depict various symbols and figures, providing insights into the island’s rich heritage.

If you want to explore beyond the resort, Waikoloa Beach Resort is conveniently located near popular attractions such as Hapuna Beach State Park, Mauna Kea Observatory, and the beautiful Waipio Valley. Additionally, you can embark on water activities such as snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, or even take a sunset cruise along the coastline.

With its luxurious resorts, stunning beaches, and abundance of recreational activities, Waikoloa Beach Resort offers a truly indulgent and unforgettable vacation experience. If you’re seeking a lavish getaway with all the amenities at your fingertips, this is the ideal area to stay on the Big Island.

 

Hilo

Hilo, located on the eastern side of the Big Island, offers a distinct contrast to the resort areas on the western coast. Known for its lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and rich cultural heritage, Hilo is a haven for nature lovers and history enthusiasts.

One of the main attractions in Hilo is the stunning Wailuku River State Park, which is home to the iconic Rainbow Falls. This majestic waterfall, named for the rainbows that appear in the mist, is a sight to behold. Visitors can enjoy scenic walks, capture breathtaking photos, and even take a refreshing swim in the natural pool below the falls.

Hilo is also well-known for its botanical gardens. The most famous of these is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which houses over 2,000 species of tropical plants. Walking through the beautifully landscaped gardens, visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of Hawaii’s flora.

For history buffs, a visit to the Imiloa Astronomy Center is a must. This educational facility offers interactive exhibits that showcase the unique connection between Hawaiian culture and astronomy. Visitors can learn about the islands’ celestial navigation history and discover the wonders of the universe.

Another cultural gem in Hilo is the Pacific Tsunami Museum. Hilo has a tragic history of being affected by tsunamis, and this museum provides a comprehensive understanding of the science behind tsunamis and the impact they have had on the community.

In terms of accommodation, Hilo offers a range of options, from charming bed and breakfasts to budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals. The town also boasts a vibrant local food scene, with authentic Hawaiian cuisine and fresh seafood being among the highlights.

While Hilo may not have the sprawling beaches of the western coast, it offers its own unique charm and an authentic Hawaiian experience. From its natural wonders to its rich cultural heritage, Hilo is a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper connection with the island’s natural and historical roots.

 

Kohala Coast

The Kohala Coast, located on the northwest side of the Big Island, is known for its pristine beaches, luxury resorts, and world-class golf courses. This area offers a perfect blend of relaxation, natural beauty, and upscale amenities.

The Kohala Coast is home to some of the most beautiful and renowned beaches on the island. From the powdery white sands of Hapuna Beach to the tranquil waters of Mauna Kea Beach, sunbathers, swimmers, and snorkelers will find themselves in paradise. The crystal-clear waters provide excellent visibility for exploring vibrant coral reefs and swimming alongside colorful marine life.

In addition to its stunning beaches, the Kohala Coast is also famous for its exceptional golf courses. The Mauna Kea Golf Course, Hokulia Golf Course, and Waikoloa Beach Golf Course are just a few of the world-class options available to golf enthusiasts. The lush fairways, breathtaking ocean views, and challenging holes make these courses a golfer’s dream.

For those seeking a luxury experience, the resorts along the Kohala Coast deliver in every aspect. From the Fairmont Orchid to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, you’ll find top-tier accommodations, exquisite dining options, and pampering spa facilities. The resorts often feature beautifully landscaped grounds, serene pools, and private beach access, providing a truly indulgent and relaxing getaway.

While the Kohala Coast is primarily known for its natural beauty and luxury resort offerings, it also offers opportunities for exploration and adventure. Take a helicopter tour over the stunning coastline, go whale watching during the winter months, or embark on a sunset cruise to witness the magical Hawaiian sunsets.

If you’re interested in immersing yourself in the local culture, be sure to visit the nearby historic town of Waimea. This charming town offers a glimpse into Hawaii’s cowboy heritage and boasts a thriving arts scene, with galleries showcasing local artisans.

In summary, the Kohala Coast is the epitome of luxury and natural beauty. Whether you’re looking to relax on pristine beaches, play golf on world-class courses, or simply indulge in the finest amenities, this area provides an unforgettable experience on the Big Island.

 

Volcano Village

If you’re a nature lover and want to experience the raw power and beauty of a live volcano, Volcano Village is the perfect area to stay on the Big Island. Located near the entrance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this unique and charming village offers a one-of-a-kind experience.

The highlight of Volcano Village is, of course, the renowned Kilauea Volcano. This active volcano provides visitors with the opportunity to witness lava flows and explore the dynamic landscape of the park. Hiking trails like the popular Kilauea Iki Trail allow you to traverse across volcanic craters and lush rainforests, showcasing the incredible diversity of the area.

A visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must when staying in Volcano Village. Here, you can explore the Thurston Lava Tube, a natural tunnel formed by flowing lava, and experience the steam vents that emit intense heat from within the Earth’s core. As the park is open 24/7, you can even take a nighttime hike to witness the mesmerizing glow of flowing lava against the dark sky.

In addition to the volcanic attractions, Volcano Village offers a serene and peaceful setting. The village is surrounded by lush greenery and is home to an array of bed and breakfasts, cottages, and vacation rentals. This provides visitors with a cozy and intimate accommodation experience, with easy access to the national park and the village’s charming restaurants and galleries.

For art enthusiasts, the village has a thriving art scene, and you can explore local galleries showcasing the work of talented artists inspired by the surrounding natural landscapes. Be sure to check out the Volcano Art Center, which offers a wide range of artistic disciplines and workshops.

Keep in mind that volcanic activity can vary, and it’s important to stay updated on any safety precautions or closures in the area. The local visitor center within the national park can provide up-to-date information on the current volcanic conditions and any access restrictions.

In summary, if you’re seeking a unique and immersive experience surrounded by the power and beauty of an active volcano, staying in Volcano Village is a must. From exploring lava fields and hiking through rainforests to discovering local art and culture, this area offers a truly unforgettable adventure on the Big Island.

 

Keauhou

If you’re looking for a peaceful and authentic Hawaiian experience on the Big Island, Keauhou is the perfect area to stay. Nestled along the Kona coastline, this tranquil neighborhood offers a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor activities.

Keauhou is known for its pristine beaches, many of which are less crowded compared to other popular areas on the island. One of the main attractions is Kahaluu Beach Park, a popular snorkeling spot with vibrant coral reefs and an abundance of marine life. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or a beginner, exploring the underwater world at Kahaluu Beach Park is a must.

For history and culture enthusiasts, visiting the Keauhou Historic District is a must-do. This area contains important archaeological sites, sacred heiau (temples), and ancient petroglyphs. Take a guided tour to learn about the rich cultural heritage and significance of these historical sites.

Keauhou is also home to the Manta Ray Village, where you can have a unique and memorable experience swimming with gentle manta rays. These graceful creatures come to feed on plankton attracted by underwater lights, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the abundance of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding in the area. Keauhou Bay is a great starting point for water activities, and you can explore the stunning coastline and possibly encounter dolphins or sea turtles along the way.

In terms of accommodation, Keauhou offers a range of options, from upscale resorts to vacation rentals and smaller boutique hotels. This area provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere, where you can unwind and relax while being surrounded by the beauty of the natural surroundings.

If you’re interested in experiencing local culture, don’t miss the Keauhou Farmers Market. Here, you can sample fresh produce, local crafts, and delicious Hawaiian snacks.

In summary, Keauhou offers a peaceful and authentic Hawaiian experience, with its stunning beaches, cultural heritage, and outdoor activities. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, this area provides a perfect balance and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of the Big Island.

 

Captain Cook

If you’re looking for a quieter and more laid-back area to stay on the Big Island, Captain Cook is a hidden gem worth considering. Located on the western side of the island, this charming town offers a peaceful retreat and a glimpse into the island’s historical past.

Captain Cook is named after the British explorer, Captain James Cook, who arrived in Hawaii in the late 18th century. It is in this area that Captain Cook first made contact with the Hawaiian people. Today, the town pays homage to its namesake with historical markers and monuments that offer insight into the island’s rich history.

One of the main attractions in Captain Cook is the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, also known as the Place of Refuge. This sacred site served as a place of sanctuary for those who broke ancient Hawaiian laws and sought forgiveness. Visitors can explore the park’s beautifully preserved temples, royal fish ponds, and witness the sense of peace and tranquility that still resonates within the area.

Captain Cook also offers access to some of the best snorkeling spots on the island. The nearby Kealakekua Bay is a marine life paradise, offering crystal-clear waters and an array of corals and colorful fish. Snorkelers may even have the chance to swim alongside dolphins or spot the occasional sea turtle.

For coffee enthusiasts, a visit to the Captain Cook Coffee Company is a must. This family-owned coffee farm offers guided tours where you can learn about the coffee-making process, sample some of their delicious brews, and purchase locally grown beans to take home as a reminder of your trip.

In terms of accommodation, Captain Cook offers a variety of options including bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and small boutique hotels. Many of these accommodations are nestled in lush tropical settings, providing a peaceful atmosphere where you can truly unwind and disconnect.

A visit to Captain Cook is a step away from the tourist crowds and into a more secluded and authentic Hawaiian experience. Whether you’re exploring the historical sites, snorkeling in pristine waters, or simply enjoying the serenity of the surroundings, Captain Cook offers a tranquil and captivating stay on the Big Island.

 

Pahoa

Pahoa, located on the eastern coast of the Big Island, is a vibrant and eclectic town that offers a unique blend of art, culture, and natural beauty. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, Pahoa is the perfect area to stay.

One of the main draws of Pahoa is its artistic and bohemian atmosphere. The town is dotted with art galleries, boutiques, and eclectic shops where you can find unique handmade crafts, clothing, and jewelry. Exploring the local stores and engaging with the talented artists and craftsmen is a must-do when visiting Pahoa.

Pahoa is also known for its diverse dining scene, offering a wide range of culinary experiences. From farm-to-table restaurants to food trucks serving local delicacies, you’ll find plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous Pahoa lava flow drink, inspired by the town’s volcanic surroundings.

For nature enthusiasts, Pahoa is a gateway to explore the stunning Puna District. Here, you can witness the dramatic beauty of the lava fields from past volcanic activity. The nearby Puna Coast Trail allows hikers to experience the ever-changing landscape as they walk along the rugged coastline.

If you’re looking for a unique beach experience, Kehena Black Sand Beach is not to be missed. This secluded and picturesque beach is known for its jet-black sand and the occasional sightings of spinner dolphins in its shallow waters. However, be cautious of the currents and only swim where it’s safe.

Another natural wonder near Pahoa is the Kapoho Tide Pools. These crystal-clear tide pools are perfect for snorkeling and offer a chance to spot colorful tropical fish and even sea turtles. It’s like swimming in your own private aquarium!

In terms of accommodation, Pahoa offers a range of options from boutique bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals. This allows visitors to have a more personalized and intimate experience, immersing themselves in the local culture and feeling like a part of the community.

In summary, Pahoa offers a vibrant and unique experience, combining art, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re exploring the town’s artistic side, immersing yourself in the local dining scene, or discovering the stunning natural surroundings, Pahoa provides an off-the-beaten-path adventure on the Big Island.

 

Waimea

Located in the uplands of the Big Island, Waimea offers a charming and picturesque escape from the coastal areas. With its lush green landscapes, charming town center, and rich cultural heritage, Waimea provides a unique and inviting atmosphere for visitors.

One of the main attractions in Waimea is the Parker Ranch, one of the largest and oldest ranches in the United States. A visit to this working cattle ranch offers a glimpse into the island’s cowboy culture and heritage. Take a guided tour to learn about the ranch’s history, explore the expansive grounds, and even try your hand at roping cattle.

Waimea is also known for its beautiful botanical gardens. The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden showcases a wide variety of tropical plants, including exotic flowers, palm trees, and towering bamboo groves. Taking a leisurely walk through the gardens is a peaceful and serene experience.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Waimea area offers stunning hiking trails with breathtaking views. The Waimea Nature Park offers an easy and scenic trail along the Waikoloa Stream, while the Waiaka Trail takes you through forests and past waterfalls. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or prefer a leisurely stroll, there’s a trail for every skill level.

Waimea is also home to a vibrant arts and cultural scene. The town hosts regular events and festivals, showcasing local art, music, and dance. Additionally, the Kahilu Theatre is a renowned performing arts venue that attracts both local and international talent.

If you’re a food lover, Waimea will not disappoint. The town offers a range of dining options, from cozy cafes and farm-to-table restaurants to upscale eateries. Many of these establishments proudly feature locally sourced ingredients to create delicious and memorable culinary experiences.

In terms of accommodation, Waimea offers a mix of charming bed and breakfasts, small inns, and vacation rentals. Staying in this area provides a peaceful and serene experience, surrounded by the lush green rolling hills and cooler temperatures.

In summary, Waimea offers a unique and enchanting experience on the Big Island. Whether you’re immersing yourself in cowboy culture, exploring botanic gardens, enjoying outdoor adventures, or indulging in the local arts and culinary scene, Waimea provides a captivating and memorable stay for visitors.

 

Conclusion

The Big Island of Hawaii is a destination that offers a multitude of experiences for every type of traveler. Choosing the right area to stay can greatly enhance your Hawaiian adventure, and we’ve explored some of the best options on the island. From vibrant towns to peaceful retreats, each area has its own unique charm and appeal.

If you’re seeking a lively and bustling atmosphere, Kailua-Kona is the perfect choice. With its beautiful beaches, historical sites, and a wide range of accommodations, this vibrant town offers a central location and easy access to popular attractions on the island.

For those seeking a luxurious and upscale experience, Waikoloa Beach Resort delivers in every aspect. From stunning beaches, world-class golf courses, and a plethora of upscale resorts, this area provides an indulgent and lavish vacation experience.

If you want to immerse yourself in nature and explore a live volcano, Volcano Village is an ideal base. With its proximity to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and unique accommodations nestled in the rainforest, this area offers a truly unforgettable experience.

Keauhou, on the other hand, provides a peaceful and authentic Hawaiian experience. With its serene beaches, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities, this area offers a perfect balance for those seeking relaxation and immersion in the local culture.

For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, Captain Cook and Pahoa are excellent choices. Captain Cook offers a glimpse into history and the chance to explore natural wonders, while Pahoa offers a bohemian and artistic atmosphere along with access to pristine beaches and volcanic landscapes.

Waimea, with its lush green landscapes, charming town center, and rich cultural heritage, offers a unique and inviting atmosphere for visitors. From exploring working cattle ranches to enjoying art and cultural events, Waimea provides a captivating and serene stay on the Big Island.

At the end of the day, there is no wrong choice when it comes to choosing where to stay on the Big Island. Each area has something special to offer, whether it’s natural beauty, cultural experiences, or luxurious amenities. Consider your preferences, interests, and desired experiences, and choose the area that best aligns with your vision of an unforgettable Hawaiian vacation. With its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Big Island is sure to leave you with lasting memories.