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Joe's Local Tips And Top Picks For Big Island Visitors

Updated: Apr 4

tips for Big Island Visitors
Image by twenty20photos

If you are traveling to the Big Island, it can be a little overwhelming to try and decide exactly what you want to do during your stay. Even if you are visiting Hawaii on a budget, there is so much to do and see for little to no money, especially if you have already rented a car from Big Island Jeep Rental.

Continue reading for our best tips and tricks when it comes to visiting the Big Island with our Big Island travel guide.

Tips for Big Island Visitors

1- Use reef safe sunscreen.

Please, pretty please. If you are a sun burner, pick up a UV resistant rash guard(shirt) at Walmart for $10. We provide free locally sourced reef-safe sunscreen with our Jeep rentals

2- Pick up some reef shoes.

We have a lot of beautiful coral reefs often out a bit that you can't see. Reefs are like sea urchins which can easily ruin your trip / the next month of your life.

3- Throw up the shaka to cross the street

Folks are more likely to let you go. Use the shaka to ask folks to let you into traffic. Let others into traffic. Aloha is contagious once you contract it.

4- Keep your distance from turtles and monk seals.

Really, we don't want them to stop coming around and you could get a fine

Tips for Big Island Visitors
Image by twenty20photos

Things We don't recommend to Big Island Visitors:

1- Going to Green Sands.

In my opinion, just not worth spending a whole day doing. I just personally don't see the effort to reward balance here. If you do feel strongly about going, pay a local when you get there to take you out to the beach

2- Waipio Valley

Let's respect the locals. It's so busy these days that locals can't get to work, home, shopping, etc. Please visit Pololu Valley instead. Just as pretty with black sand beaches and waterfalls and a nice 15-20 short and beautiful hike.


3- Jumping off cliffs, especially with the winter swells

4- Taking the entire soft top off of the Jeep.

It's a huge pain to put back together, especially when you hit rain (and you will)

Big Island Activites

1-Swim with mantas. And also swim with dolphins!

Kona is essentially the only place to do this that doesn't require scuba. We like the folks at Dolphin Discoveries (nice married couple running the operation). They gave us a 10% off code for our guests: 'JBIJ10'

2- Mauna Kea

Drive up to Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain on earth(from sea level but it's still awesome). This is why you need a 4Wd.

3- Pololu Valley

Sort of similar to Waipio in that you see waterfalls, black sand beach but it's a short hike as opposed to treacherous descent.

4- Hapuna beach

This is the largest white sand beach we have and where you want to go body boarding at.

5- Some Snorkeling places

5.1 Kahalu'u Bech Park.

Good for beginners, and they have reef safety folks onsite most days to help explain our environment.

5.2 Captain cook monument.

In my opinion, (and feedback from others) it is the best snorkeling in Hawaii. You can hike down (ugh!) or rent a kayak and kayak over. Kayaking is cool as you have a good chance of dolphins playing along side you. Of course, a boat ride over is even better

5.3 - "Two Steps".

More advanced. Great snorkeling out there but even the advanced snorkelers we know have been caught in dangerous rips out there so be careful!

6- Secret Beaches

Check out the 5 secret beaches that our friend Julie put together at 365 Things To Do In Kona, HI. In fact, check out her page for all sorts of things. She often has posts about kid friendly events and does a great job informing folks about taking care of the island.


1- Kaaloa's Super Js Authentic Hawaiian - legit Hawaiian! skip the touristy Luau buffet food and hit this place instead.

2- A-Bay's Island Grill. There is a location in Waikaloa, and now a new one has opened up right on Ali's drive! You NEED the crab cakes for sure! Lots of beers on tap, great atmosphere, nice owners.

3- Don's Mai Tai Bar & Restaurant (in the back of the Royal Kona resort) famous for the yearly global Mai Tai festival, these folks have the great drinks and great ocean-side seating.

4- On The Rocks​ - This is to the right of Huggos. Grab a table by the ocean, kick off your slilppahs, and enjoy the sand on your toes as you watch a nightly band or hula lesson.

5- Island Lava Java - kinda famous for their 100% Kona coffee and brekky but they have higher end dinner plates.

6- Foster's Kitchen​. Also higher end unique dishes. OMG the Lamb! Lots of gluten free options.

8- Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill Kona. Probably the fanciest dinner place with food to match. REALLY good stuff. No ocean view so maybe save this spot for a night you are eating after sunset.

9- Island Ono Loa Grill. Little burger joint a bit off the Alii path. Best burger I've had in years. Try the pablono burger.

10- Da Poke Shack.​ Not sure if you like poke? They let you sample. Like poke? This is THE place.

11- Kona Pub and Brewery​ - Home of the original Kona Brewery. I highly recommend the pizza with the roasted big garlic. Save the garlic for your pizza and slather it on like you'll never kiss a person again. Amazing people, beer, everything.

12- Laverne's - This is a sports bar that typically has live music in the evenings. A good mix of locals and chill visitors. Friday and Saturday after 10PM, it turns into a dance club.

13- Poi Dog Deli. The BEST sandwiches and a huge beer selection. As a reuben sandwich connoisseur, I was super happy to find this place doing it the right way. They have live music and change their menu up often so check out their FB page


This place is top of the line luxury (5 star) and when you arrive, you feel like you own the place. Hardly anyone around, very spread out, chairs all along the private white sand beach.

I guess there are only 4 bars in the state of Hawaii that are legally allowed to be this close on the water, and Kona Village has two of them... Fun fact - you don't have to be a guest to enjoy lunch or dinner at Kona Village.

There is so much to do and so much to experience on the Big Island. From amazing food to incredible sights to see, Hawaii has it all.

We hope you enjoy your stay!

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