Free or almost activities on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is BIG, hence the name, but along with it’s smaller sister islands, it has tons of things to see and do and experience for not a lot of money.

Here are some of the things that you can do on the Big Island without taking a bite out of your wallet:

Parks – With over a dozen state parks in the Big Island, you can drive all over the Big Island and never be too far from a state park.  Some of our favorites are

  • ‘Akaka Falls State Park – at $5 per car entrance fee, you can take a pleasant walk to vistas overlooking both the Kahuna falls and the ‘Akaka Falls.
  • Hapuna Beach State Park– on the Kohala Coast, this beach park leads to one of the best beaches in the Big Island. Again $5 per car for parking
  • Kalopa State Recreation Area- this one is completely free and you can head here for a family hike in the cool highlands 2,000 feet above sea level. The easy nature trail winds through a grove of native ohia trees. Additional lures: picnic areas and an arboretum with rare palms, hibiscus and other island plants.
  • check out more of the Big Island’s State Parks at

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- You can’t go to the Big Island and not check out Volcanoes National Park.  At $10 per car entrance, this is the best value in the Big Island.

From the park’s website:

One to 3 Hour Visit ?

If you have only one to three hours, explore the summit of Kīlauea volcano via Crater Rim Drive; an 11-mile road that encircles the summit caldera, passes through desert, lush tropical rain forest, traverses the caldera floor, and provides access to well-marked scenic stops and short walks. (Note: Crater Rim Drive is closed between Jaggar Museum and the Chain of Craters Road junction due to volcanic activity in Halema’uma’u.)

Four to 5 Hour Visit ?

If you have four to five hours, you may also explore the East Rift and coastal area of the Park via Chain of Craters Road. This road descends 3,700 feet in 20 miles and ends where lava flows crossed the road in 2003.

Explore the Park on Foot

Hikers will find an abundance of trails to satisfy their curiosity. Day hikes and backcountry hikes offer great adventures for visitors who wish to explore beyond the roadways.

Depending on changing volcanic activity, there may be opportunities for viewing active lava flows from the end of the road. No food, water or fuel is available along the Chain of Craters Road.

Check out all of the things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at

Made in the Big Island

Coffee Plantations- there are hundreds of coffee farms in the big island and many offer tours to the public.  Don’t miss the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival held in November in Kailua-Kona.  We stopped in at one on our Circle Island Tour and ended up buying lots of coffee (so I’m not sure if this would constitute a free thing to do in the Big Island 🙂 )

Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company- The free samples alone are worth a visit to this Kawaihae-based factory.  Take a self-guided tour showing the growing, shelling and roasting processes.

Big Island Candies – in Hilo, take the self guided tour of the cookie and candy manufacturing and check out some of the delicious samples.

Traditional Portuguese Bread Making- every Thursday, Kona Historical Society presents free demonstrations of traditional Portuguese bread making. Visitors get to help roll and pan the dough for baking in communal wood-fired stone ovens. Of course, you won’t be able to leave without buying one and  finished product is sold for $7 per loaf.

Also check out:

South Point-  this southernmost spot in the U.S. is where the first Polynesians landed in Hawaii. The sea cliffs provide a unique vantage for gazing out to sea.

Puako Petroglyph Preserve- This was on our list to do when we stayed at the Fairmont Orchid.  Just a short hike leads to one of Hawaii’s largest fields of ancient lava rock carvings with over 3,000 images of human and animal forms representing  everyday life.  You can access the trail at Holoholokai Beach Park and if you stay at the resort, they have staff led hikes on a scheduled basis.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center- in Hilo, the discovery center explores the unique science, culture and history of the northwestern Hawaiian islands and surrounding marine environment. It offers hands-on exhibits, maps, murals, a saltwater aquarium and life-size models of sea life designed to educate and entertain.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach- located on the southeastern tip of the Big Island, this beach is probably the most famous bland sand beach in Hawaii.  Also a home for the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, this is not really a swimmable beach but is definitely one to check out.  PLEASE do not touch the turtles.

And not to be missed:  

view from the Mauna KeaStar gazing at Maunakea– There are guided stargazing tours that offer transportation, warm parkas, dinner, access to the mountain summit, detailed narratives about the history and cultural significance of Maunakea as well as night viewing for a fee.  But for those who want to venture up on their own, the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station at the 9,300-foot level is accessible via two-wheel drive vehicles.  The visitors’ center is open daily, and offers summit tours and public stargazing.  We did this on our own and it was amazing.  If you have asthma or any bronchial issues, you may want to check with your doctor since the high altitude can be hazardous to your health.  The picture above was taken from the hilltop next to the Visitor’s Center where we saw a spectacular sunset before heading to the range led star gazing session.  This is FREE but PLEASE leave a donation so others may enjoy it as much as you did.

My Vacation Lady is a Hawaii Destination Specialist and we strive to make your vacation or honeymoon to Hawaii one that you will remember for a very long time.  Let us help you get the most out of your vacation or Hawaiian honeymoon with lots of cost saving tips.


By |September 19th, 2014|Categories: All|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Free or almost activities on the Big Island of Hawaii

About the Author:

Mindy Gilbert of My Vacation Lady has been helping clients, just like you, plan their dream vacations, cruises and honeymoons since 1994.