7. Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
One of the most accessible, interesting, and enchanting cultural sites in the State of Hawaii is the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Translated, the “Place of Refuge at Honaunau” is the most complete restoration of an ancient Hawaiian religious sanctuary in Hawaii. On the black lava flats of the southern Kona Coast, Puuhonau o Honaunau is a preserved ancient Hawaiian village – be sure to visit this rare sight.
8. Kealakekua Bay
Settled over a thousand years ago, the surrounding area contains many archeological and historical sites such as religious temples. Famously known for it being a part of Captain Cook's voyage into a new world, he landed on this beach with his widely publicized first steps and ironically his last steps. The bay is also a marine life conservation district, a popular destination for kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, and a great place to book a whale watching tour.
9. Pololu Valley
Pololu valley is situated in a remote area at the very tip of northernmost part of the island. Pololu is the last in the chain of inaccessible valleys. Most tourists come to see the lookout which overlooks a lush valley and surrounding sea cliffs, but a gem is hidden in the Pololu Valley. At the water’s edge lies a black sand beach. This is one of the most spectacular panoramic views on the beautiful big island.
10. Waipio Valley
Waipio Valley long sat as the capital and permanent residence of Hawaiian Alii (kings). The shoreline in the valley is an amazing black sand beach, popular with surfers! A few taro farms are also located in the valley. Several large waterfalls fall into the valley to feed the river which flows from the foot of the largest falls at the back of the valley out into the Pacific.
11. Akaka Falls State Park
At Akaka Falls State Park you will see two gorgeous waterfalls on one very short hike. The pleasant 0.4-mile uphill hike to the 100-foot Kahuna Falls will take you through a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns. The journey will end with the breathtaking towering Akaka Falls which plummet 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge.
12. Liliuokalani Park and Gardens
Liliuokalani Garden is a serene and tranquil area to visit. Much of the park now consists of Edo-style Japanese gardens. It is said to be the largest gardens of this type outside of Japan. The gardens contain Waihonu Pond as well as bridges, koi ponds, pagodas, statues, torii, and a Japanese tea-house. A perfect place to meditate and get your Zen on!
The county seat of Hilo offers multiple attractions and a beautiful insight to the island. Some attractions that definitely hit a high note with me are: Palace Theater, Paneawa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Richardson Beach Park, Lyman Museum, Honolii Beach Park, Coconut Island, Mehana Brewing Company, Mauna Loa Macademia Nut Co and the world famous Hilo Boardwalk. Hilo is definitely a must see on this beautiful island.
14. South Point (Ka Lae) and Green Sand Beach
Situated at the absolute southern point of the big island, lies this beautiful attraction. If you ever wanted to see what it'd feel like to be at the absolute southern tip of the United States, then this is the place to visit. The Green Sand Beach is also a unique hidden gem located at the southern tip. The green sand beach is a favorite hangout for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. A must see!
15. Saddle Road
In for an exhilarating drive? Built in 1942, this 53-mile long road is extremely dangerous with its narrow structure, blind turns, rough surface and single-lane bridges. Many rental car companies used to prohibit use of their cars on Saddle Road, but some now permit use of the road. The highway experiences heavy use as it provides the shortest driving route from Hilo to Kailua-Kona and access to the slopes of Mauna Loa and the Mauna Kea Observatories.
From milepost 35 to 44 the road passes the main gates of Pohakuloa Training Area and Bradshaw Army Airfield before continuing across the military reservation. Military vehicles including armored personnel carriers occasionally cross or occupy the roadway. Artillery exercises, including live fire, are not uncommon with batteries set up along the roadway firing towards Mauna Loa. Don't listen to your rental car company – this drive is so worth it!
16. Thurston Lava Tube
Take a walk in the dark through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-year old lava cave located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings. The Thurston Lava Tube is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave.
17. The Original King Kamehameha Statue
This statue is the original. According to the legend, this statue was lost at sea around the Falklands islands along its way to the big island. When the artist found out he quickly ordered another one to replace the original. Oddly enough, the original was found and sent to this location due it being Kamehameha's birthplace. Check this magnificent peace out!
18. Kailua Kona
This gem located on the western side of the big island is a resort area filled with multiple attractions. Kona Brewing Company is definitely a highlight with an extremely unique brewing process and guided tour.
Multiple beaches lie in this area. My favorite beaches to check out include White Sand Beach, Magic Sands, and the amazing Kahaluu Beach Park. Kailua Kona also offers the Kona Pier, Kailua Pier, Mokuaikaua Church, Royal Footsteps Along the Kona Coast, Holualoa Village (great variety for shopping), Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm and the oasis of Rainbow Falls. This touristy area has a lot more to offer! I would also recommend this to be your base on this island!
19. Star of the Sea Painted Church
With frescoes and stained glass adorning the interior, the Star of the Sea Painted Church boasts a history as colorful as its walls. Paintings tell the story of Father Damien Devester, a Belgian priest who helped Leprosy patients on the island of Molokai and later died from the disease himself. The upper section features paintings by another Belgian missionary, Father Everist Gielen, who began constructing the church in 1928. The paintings cover the arched ceiling across the length of the church.
20. Wood Valley Temple
Nechung Dorje Drayang Ling "Immutable Island of Melodious Sound" is a Buddhist temple and retreat located on 25 acres in Wood Valley, the Kau District of the Island of Hawaii. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has visited and taught here. Visiting Tibetan lamas of all lineages are invited to teach programs at events open to the public. This is a place for great masters to teach and for students to practice teachings through contemplation and meditation.