Next in my Hawaii Favorites series - the Big Island (or Hawaii)!
I've been to the Big Island twice now. The first time I stayed on the Hilo side of the island - I would recommend this side if you plan on taking a helicopter tour, love waterfalls, and want to visit the volcanoes. But other than that there isn't much to do and very few hotel choices. Locals also didn't seem to really dig tourists in this area.
If you prefer more resort-like then you'll want to stay on the Kailua-Kona side (where I stayed during my last trip). Now the Big Island is definitely not Maui...you're not going to have a bunch of beaches to choose from (although you can find some if you're up for a drive) and the draw here is really the volcanoes and really awesome waterfalls. It also always feels way hotter on this island to me than the other islands.
Favorite things to do:
*Hands down my favorite thing to do on this island (and in the future probably all of the islands) is a helicopter tour. On my last trip I took one over the volcanoes and actually saw lava. Pretty cool experience (even if I was terrified at first to get on the helicopter). I also got to see a waterfall from the air which was definitely worth the initial fear :)
*Punalu'u black sand beach - the.most.amazing.waves.ever. Just trust me. You can walk (carefully) from the black sand beach where everyone is checking our the turtles to a somewhat safe rocky ledge where you can take a million (if you're like me) photos of the bluest water and amazing waves.
*Farmers market in Hilo - they have lots of cool fruits you may not have ever seen before and fun made-on-the-island crafts.
*I'm dedicating a whole section to the waterfalls because they're just that spectacular on this island - and most you can just drive up to the parking lot and get out and enjoy them.
*Pineapples - I've been here three times now. My favorite drink is the 'real' Hawaiian punch. I try to get the burger with sweet potato fries. They're pretty amazing. The restaurant is also near the farmer's market which is definitely worth a trip.
*There's a little shave ice place right across from Pineapples - I also go here for shave ice before heading back to my hotel
*Kona brewing company - I talk about them a lot since they brew my favorite (only available on the islands) beer - Wailua Wheat. Their food is pretty good too and you can take a tour of the brewery (which includes tasting a bunch of different beers at the end).
*The sunsets are really pretty on the island (even if it's difficult to find a beach to watch them on ;) )
*Pu'uhpnua o Honaunau - there's a lot of history here - I think you can even take tour. To be honest I just came here to take photos of these guys...
Up next - Oahu!