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7 Day Big Island Hawaii Road Trip

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Luke and I were married in September 2021! We had such a hard time picking a honeymoon destination. In the era of Covid, it was a challenge finding a dream destination that wasn't bombarded with travel restrictions. Our hearts set on a Hawaiian honeymoon and we couldn't be happier with our decision! We split our time on Kauai and Big Island, follow along on our Big Island 7 day road trip.

Table of Contents

Black Sand Beach Hawaii
@ Black Sand Beach


Our visit was in September, which is a beautiful time of year in Hawaii. The weather is perfectly warm ranging from mid to upper 80s. During this time the busy summer season is coming to an end which makes for a more intimate vacation with fewer crowds.

Visiting Hawaii anytime between March and September will be amazing. The weather is hot and the islands experience less rain during this time.


While visiting Big Island you will definitely need a 4-wheel drive vehicle. This will allow you to navigate remote areas on the island. 4WD vehicles are required to visit sites such as Waipio Valley and Mauna Kea. Make sure to book your car rental way in advance to secure a reservation.

Over the years I have accumulated essential websites for booking travel that have helped me snag the best deals and experiences. Our go to rental car company is Budget. We have found Budget offers the most affordable overall prices when paying upfront compared to other car rental companies. Their website regularly offers discounts up to 35% off!

Waipio Valley Waterfall
@ Waipio Valley


Kona has a great town center with lots of places to eat and shop. We stayed at the Royal Kona Resort. The rooms are typical, but the location is great! We loved their protected cove on property and it’s a short walk into town for dinner.

This hotel also puts on a Luau, many people came from different resorts to take part in this experience. If you are a guest at the hotel, you can watch from a far or from your rooms balcony depending on which way it faces for free! This is a major perk of being a hotel guest at this resort if you were interested in seeing a Luau performance. This is also the only resort I could find that did not have a resort fee!

@ Royal Kona


Go to Mahai'ula Beach

My absolute favorite beach on the island! A white sand beach oasis surrounded by lava rock. This beach is located in Kekaha Kai State Park. We were so thankful to have a 4-Wheel drive vehicle to get to this location. The road is unpaved and has massive potholes with uneven terrain. Arrive early to experience fewer beach goers. After lunch the beach starts getting crowded.

White san beach big island Hawaii
@ Mahai'ula Beach

Scuba Dive with Giant Manta Rays

This activity is considered a bucket list experience. On this once in a lifetime adventure you will see some of the most majestic creatures in the ocean, Giant Manta Rays!

On this night dive you'll make your decent to the ocean floor (30ft). The dive master will have everyone circle around the “camp fire”. The camp fire is a set of large lights placed in the middle of your group to attract plankton, which then attracts hungry Mantas! Watch from the ocean floor as they swoosh by you.

*You can also choose to do a snorkel tour if you are not scuba certified. Do NOT miss out on this once in a lifetime experience!

We booked through Big Island Divers who I couldn't recommend more! Our dive master Ryan was very knowledgeable and confidently went over the dive plan with everyone before entering the water. You can tell this company revolves around safety. We were also accompanied by a marine biologist who gave us a run down of interesting facts and what to expect when coming into close contact with Manta Rays.

Snorkel Kealakekua Bay in Captian Cook

This historic bay features the James Cook monument and Kealakeua Bay. James Cook was a circumnavigator and explorer that happened upon the island. The monument marks the spot where he supposedly died in battle against the native Ka`awaloa villagers.

On this tour you will take a boat ride veiwing Kona's volanic coast into the beautiful bay, witness the monument, and snorkel! There is a gorgeous colorful reef right off shore with many fish! If you're lucky you might spot some spinner dolphins. Wildlife sightings are never guaranteed.



Driving from Kona to Volcano is about a 2hr 15min drive. Wake up and get on the road nice and early to not waste the day. On the way be sure to stop at these amazing locations before reaching your accommodation in Volcano for the night. When you wake in the morning spend the whole day at Volcanoes National Park before driving to Hilo.

Check out this resourceful Guide to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for accommodation information, lava viewing, hiking tips, and trail recommendations.

Hawaii Lava Tube
@ Hawaii Volcano National Park

Hike Papakolea Beach (Green Sand Beach)

This 5.6 mile out and back trail features crystal green sand that gives the beach its name. It is popular, so be sure to arrive before noon since the parking lot fills up quickly.

The hike is easy being flat for the majority of the trail, only becoming uneven when making your way down to the beach. Keep in mind there is no shade along this trail or at the beach itself. It's a hot and sweaty hike!

Don't forget to wear reef safe sunscreen and to bring a day pack with water, snacks, and towels. This is a remote location with nowhere to buy supplies. Here is an essential packing list to help you prepare for Hawaii.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
@ Green Sand Beach

Visit Black Sand Beach

Also known as Punalu'u Beach, famous for its black sand and frequent turtle sightings! The water has a dark blue hue due to the black sand. The beach is swimmable but is very rocky in some areas. The sand is spectacular in contrast to the green lush palm trees lining the beach.

Black Sand Beach Hawaii
@ Black Sand Beach

Hike across craters and walk through a 500 year old lava tube. Kilauea and Mauna Loa Volcano are currently active! If you're lucky you'll be able to see the glowing lava from the observation deck above the crater on your visit! Refer to the guide for accommodation suggestion, lava viewing, and hiking trails.



Driving from Volcano to Hilo takes about 45 minutes. Hilo is the Big Islands capital and the islands largest city. I wouldn't suggest staying in the city itself, but somewhere more remote or oceanfront. Hilo is a great location to explore surrounding areas.


We stayed at the most amazing property with its very own waterfall! The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls has the largest privately owned waterfall on Big Island right in there backyard and it's swimmable! Take a seat on the gorgeous lanai overlooking the falls and enjoy a complimentary breakfast.

Boutique Hotel in Hawaii
@ Kulaniapia Inn


Akaka Falls State Park

The State Park is only about a 20-25min drive from Hilo. Enjoy two waterfall sightings along this half mile long hike. You'll see Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls, a 442ft cascading waterfall from viewing platforms. Many don't consider this a hike, it's more of a family friendly walk though tropical vegetation on a paved path. The entrance fee is $5 and the parking fee is $10.

Akaka Waterfall in Hilo, Hawaii
@ Akaka Falls

Rainbow Falls

The best time to visit Rainbow falls is in the morning. You'll have a better chance of seeing a misty rainbow created from the reflecting morning sunlight that gives this waterfall its name! This is the easiest waterfall to visit in Hilo since it's only a short walk away from the parking lot to the view point. You can not swim here.

Waterfall on Big Island
@ Rainbow Falls

Carlsmith Beach Park

This beautiful beach park is surrounded by lava rocks and has more grassy areas than actual sand. It is known for amazing snorkeling and sea turtle sightings. The lava rocks and reef create protected lagoons perfect for swimming. There are picnic tables and lots of little coves throughout the park. The parking lot can get packed pretty quickly so be sure to arrive in the morning to be able to find a spot more easily.

A must see while visiting Big Island! This dormant volcano is a 1hr and 15 minute drive from the Hilo area. It's known for stargazing and unforgettable sunsets!

Volcanoes on Big Island
@ Mauna Kea

1 DAY IN KONA (Last Day)

We decided to make our way back to Kona from Hilo for our last day, completing a full 360 around Big Island! Stop along the way at Waipi'o Valley and Hapuna Beach.


Driving from Hilo to Waipi'o Valley is only about 1hr 10min car ride. It is also just 1hr 30mins drive from Kona. Visit the observation deck to witness the spectacular view from above and then drive down a one way unpaved bumpy road into the valley itself!

4WD is required, you will not be allowed down without it. The drive is not for the faint of heart, it is steep, uneven, and narrow! There is personnel at the entrance making sure only 4WD vehicles pass. They also assist with visitor questions and driving directions.

Hi'ilawe Falls is the tallest waterfall on the island and is in Waipi'o Valley. It was visiting this waterfall where we first encountered the Valleys wild horses! One came right up to us looking for pets and attention and stuck its head right through our car window!

We then drove our car to where the river meets the ocean at the bottom of the valley to lounge on the beach. We witnessed a horse cross the river! Surrounded by beautiful scenery and wild horses, it is a memory I will cherish forever.

*Update: As of February 25, 2022 the state has closed off the road into the valley due to hazardous conditions. Only residents and crew workers can access the road. You can still visit the view point.

Best View of Waipio Valley
@ Waipio Valley


The largest white sand beach on the island! This beach has beautiful swimming conditions and is a great area to snorkel. Parking is $5 per vehicle. The beach has restroom facilities and ample parking. We spent a few hours here tanning and swimming.

Best Beach on Big Island
@ Hapuna Beach

Dear Traveler,

Big Island is often overlooked. Don't miss out on this special island that offers so many once in a life time experiences! Let me know your thoughts and plans for Big Island in the comments below. Have the best time!

Talk to you soon,

Corlu xo

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