Measuring in at more than 4,000 square miles, Hawaii Island is not only the largest island in Hawaii, but it is also home to some of the greatest natural wonders found throughout the islands, from active volcanoes and majestic valleys to colored sand beaches and cascading waterfalls. With so many breathtaking spots to choose from, we found it difficult to narrow our choices down to just 10 of Hawaii Island’s most magical natural wonders. But after some serious deliberation, we curated the
perfect road trip to Hawaii Island’s most breathtaking natural wonders – a 290 mile, 7.5 hour trek around nearly the entirety of the Big Island.
1. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea measures in at 13,796 feet above sea level, the highest point in the state of Hawaii. In fact, when measured from its oceanic base deep in the vast Pacific, the mountain measures in at more than 33,000 feet tall – that’s higher than Mount Everest. The summit is also home to one of most-well known observatories in the world.
2. Kaumana Caves
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Thurston Lava Tube gets all the credit, but Kaumana Cave, located near Hilo, is certainly worth the visit. The skylight entrance drops into two miles of pitch-black caves, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as vines and roots falling from the cave’s roof.
3. Waianuenue Falls
A short trail from the parking lot offers views from the waterfall’s summit, and if you visit on a sunny morning, you might experience how the falls got its name – waianuenue means rainbow in Hawaiian.
4. Hawaiii Volcanoes National Park
Whether you have lived on Hawaii’s Big Island for your entire life, or this is your first time visiting, you absolutely must explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A trip to Hawaii Volcanoes isn’t complete without a visit to the Kilauea Caldera, a trip down the Thurston Lava Tube, a walk through the lava fields, a drive down the Chain of Craters Road, and, of course, as much hiking as you can handle.
5. Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
Nestled between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Naalehu town on the Big Island, Punaluu is perhaps Hawaii’s most famous black sand beach, and is a popular haven for honu to relax.
6. Papakolea Green Sand Beach
On the southernmost tip of Hawaii Island is Papakolea, a green sand beach so unique that you will only find one other spot with this iconic sand on the planet. The green hue comes from olivine, a mineral and common component of Hawaiian lava. Because olivine is denser than other minerals, it accumulates on the shoreline naturally, creating a green hued beach.
The stunning beach is only accessible via four-wheel drive, or a 3-mile hike, but trust us, the experience is entirely worth it.
7. Kealakekua Bay
Hawaii Island’s beautiful reef-filled Kealakekua Bay is one of the state’s most historic bays, and a known dolphin hangout. The bay is also home to the famous Captain Cook monument, and crystalline waters.
8. Golden Ponds of Keawaiki
In the middle of a massive lava field, on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, is this pair of freshwater pools, home to a thriving population of golden algae that gives the pools a luminescent glow.
9. Waipio Valley
The sacred Waipio Valley was once the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I, and is an important site for Hawaiian history and culture. But history aside, “The Valley of the Kings” certainly appears as though it was made for royalty – the valley is full of tropical vegetation and surrounded by 2,000-foot tall cliffs.
10. Akaka Falls
Cascading 442 feet into a lush, tropical jungle is perhaps Hawaii’s greatest waterfall. Located on the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast is Akaka Falls, a place of pure paradise flowing from the Kolekole Stream. To view the falls, visitors take a half-hour paved trail leading through a jungle of banana plants, towering bamboo groves and lush orchids.