Hawaii Travel

16 Things to Do and Eat While On the Big Island of Hawaii

Aloha… the Big Island of Hawaii holds a very special place in my heart.

I envision living here someday very soon, unless of course, somewhere else on this beautiful planet manages to give the Big Island (BI) a run for it’s money. But lezbehonest, that’s probably not going to happen.

A post shared by Kelly Hanner (@kelly_hanner) on

There’s something super friggin special about it… maybe it’s the energy of Pele the volcanic goddess and creator of the islands.

Or maybe it’s all the ridiculously good looking surfers.

It could be that there’s 8-12 different climates on the island… so you could be in the jungle, the snow, the desert, etc all in one day.

Maybe it’s all the wildlife.

Or maybe it’s the fact that you’re still on US soil, but it’s so far removed from the US that you feel like you’re in another country.

It very well could be the culture, and the beautiful native Hawaiians.

Or it could be all of the plumeria (my favorite flower) fragrantly chilling on their trees, waiting to fall to the earth so you can plant one behind your ear like a tourist.

Exhibit A: Tourist AF

Maybe it’s for the black sand beaches and the aloha vibe.

I don’t know necessarily if it’s just one thing that gives me a lady boner, but I think trying to pin point it would discredit all of the wonderful things that kept pulling me to the island. Since first visiting I’ve now spent a total of 4 months there including Christmas, which by the way was badass.

In those 4 months, I’d like to say I got a pretty good grasp of the Island, even though there’s soooo much more I have yet to explore.

I’m going to do my best to share my favorite places on the Big Island, but i must leave one of my favorite, secret, local beaches off the list… because I’d hate to be that person that ruins the intimacy behind that epic beach.

Top 6 Places to Eat on the Big Island

  1. Evolution Bakery & Cafe- Kona

    Of course, I gotta cover food first and foremost. This place is the absolute tits. I try my damnedest to locate a breakfast place like this while on the mainland, but haven’t found anywhere that comes close. Evolution Bakery is located right off the main strip of downtown Kona (the most touristy part of the island). Tucked behind a couple establishments in a shopping centre, you’ll stumble upon this killer breakfast spot. It offers a variety of sinfully delicious and healthy menu items as well as awesome kona coffee (something Hawaii is known for), smoothies, and baked noms. I’ve brought plenty of people to the Big Island with me, and every time this place is a must.

    When I go, I get their “Mermaid Smoothie” and the “Warrior Breakfast Bagel” on a gluten free everything.

    Some light reading with my noms. I’m salivating now.
  2. Basik Café- Kona

    Along the main strip of Kona, you’ll find Basik Café where you can grab the best, and biggest acai bowl on the island. It’s located on the second floor of a building with open air view of the ocean where you can enjoy your big ass acai bowl and watch the dolphins play along the coast.

    This thing is legit the size of your dome.
  3. Umeke’s- Kona

    Get your poke (pronounced poke-eh) bowl fix while on the island. Hawaii is known for it’s poke bowls. THE BEST place to get fresh, tasty poke is Umeke’s. Keep in mind… there’s two of them the one without the bar is my favorite. This is a must.

    Tako (octopus) with some rice topped with extra tasty green stuff. Get extra of the green stuff, it’s totally nom worthy.
  4. One Aloha Shave Ice- Kona

    Hawaii is also known for it’s shaved ice, BUT most of the shaved ice on the island is filled with artificial colors and ingredients. I was fortunate enough to fine One, Aloha Shave Ice, who just so happens to serve up really tasty, and additive free shaved ice that doesn’t have the nasty fake sugar-filled ingredients. No technicolor sludge sold here. They have a plethora of tasty, homemade flavors to become addicted to like a crack head. They also have a punch card to get a free shaved ice… which is kind of dangerous, I do not need an incentive to keep going back for more.

    Y’all got any shave ice? *said like Dave Chapelle’s Tyrone Biggums*
  5. Big Island Juice Co- Hilo

    Located in Hilo, Hawaii right down from Yoga Centered (mentioned below), is one of my favorite finds, Big Island Juice Co. If you’re looking for a variety of juices, smoothies, and acai bowls where they put a lot of effort and heart into it, look no further. Truthfully though, their acai bowls give Basik Café’s bowls a run for their money. It makes for a great stop after one of the classes at Yoga Centered.

    She’s a beaut, Clark! *Name that movie*
  6. Tina’s Garden Cafe

    If you like healthy, big portions of thai food you’ve found your place. Tina’s Garden Cafe is THE spot. I’ve had multiple meals here and they’ve all been awesome. Do know that there could be a wait here, because it is THAT good. The portions are huge AF and the food is so flavorful it’s as if a bunch of Oompa Loompas are tap dancing all over your taste buds. 

    Papaya salad- easily could feed a small army.


Top 10 things to do on the Big Island:

  1. Swim with the dolphins at two step

    Honestly.. this is one of the coolest experiences ever. It can be hit or miss, but if you manage to manifest an adventure swimming alongside the plenty of dolphins that like to hang out at Two-Step beach, then consider yourself blessed. IF you don’t manage to see dolphins, it’s all gravy baby because there’s plenty of sea turtles and exotic fish to get your jollies off too.

    Don’t mind me, just an obligatory selfie with the dolphins.
  2. Get up close and personal with manta rays

    My first time here, my friend Lindsey who so gratefully took me under her wing while I stayed with her and her husband Danny, took me to swim with the manta rays at night. You have to go through a tour agency in order to do this, it costs around $100 but every dime is worth it. You put on a wet suit, take a boat out to the area they’re know to inhabit, hop in the water, and anchor up to some huge floatation device that has lights attached to the bottom which attracts plankton, thus attracting the manta rays so they can come feast on dinner. They are majestic AF, they swirl around like dancers fluidly dancing through the water, coming just sheer centimeters away from your face as they dine. It’s a really cool experience, one that should not be missed.

    They’re just big ol’ gentle giants.
  3. Jump off the end of the world at South Point

    Drive all the way down to the southernmost point of the BI and you’ll find South Point, a place where only the stupid brave survive. Granted, there’s warnings all around telling you to not to jump off the cliff, but it’s a known tourist attraction, so jump at your own risk. There’s also the toilet bowl a legit stones throw away, where you have to be super careful to time out just the right time to jump into an old lava chute that is open from the top, and thankfully no longer spewing hot lava into the sea. Both equally scary and thrilling… Max, my boyfriend, did back flips and dives off the cliff like it’s no big deal.

    I believe I can fly *cue R.Kelly*
  4. Get naked at the black sand beaches

    There are multiple black sand beaches on the BI but personally, none compare to the clothing optional beach, Kehena. My first time visiting this beach I was alone. After witnessing the beautiful array of various body types completely free of clothing, people confident in their own skin, I decided to strip down bare ass naked too. My soul awakened, finally I saw that my body was normal… if you need a self love, body epiphany Kehena beach, in Pahoā is where you must go. Want to up your naked escapades? Try snorkeling here naked- it is out of this world.  And TRUST ME, no one is creepy, as long as you keep your cool, others will keep theirs as well.

    If this doesn’t make you want to book a ticket, you’re dead.
  5. Cross seeing lava in real life off your bucket list

    So… Imma be real with you- these expeditions I’ll be talking about are dangerous, possibly illegal, AND you need to make friends with a local to cross this off your bucket list. BUT if you want to cross some shit off your bucket list, you’re just going to have to be cool with potentially being a criminal, or dying… no joke.

    The first picture below is from when I went on a renegade lava hike. It was an all day adventure where we hiked through old jungles to the point where the jungle immediately stops, and all you can see in front of you is an old prehistoric looking lava field, where lava completely destroyed all the jungle as it tore through on it’s route to the ocean. It honestly looks like something from the dawn of time. You walk overtop of old, glassy lava, and eventually make your way to real lava flows. Now it doesn’t flow fast AF like one would imagine, it’s slow on it’s destructive path, but the heat under your feet is hot enough it’ll burn the sole right off your shoe- I saw it happen to someone on the hike with me.

    Burn baby burn.

    Second renegade badass bucket list worthy item that can be crossed off, if you meet the right people and are willing to risk it that is, is a full moon hike through Hawaii Volcanoes National park to the mouth of the active volcano. Max and I just so happened to find a crew to do this with, we hiked maybe two hour into the park under the cover of dark, to the mouth of the volcano with handkerchiefs around our mouths and noses to shield us from all of the sulphur gusts and clouds that arose from the mouth of the volcano- because, if you weren’t aware, if you inhale enough of the sulphur and gases you’ll die- hence why it’s dangerous. That being said, it’s really dope. You get right up on the edge of the volcano, and that strange voice in the back of your head keeps warning you to watch the f*ck out or you just might fall, dying in one of the worst ways I could ever fathom. One must do this without using flashlights so please DO NOT try and do this on your own, it is an absolute must to go with a local to show you the way to get there.

    Let me just say, Max is not high here, he just looks out of it thanks to the sulphur fumes.
  6. Hit up the farmers markets for local produce, goods, and people watching

    If you go to the BI and don’t go to one of the many farmers markets, especially Uncle Robert’s down in Pahoā, you certainly missed out. You’ll find everything from avocados the size of your head, dragon fruit, mangos, local honey, artisan foods, crafts and jewelry, and an eclectic array of funky, cool people who all opted to live a radically cool life out on an island in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles off the mainland.

    The OG of fermenting vegetables.
  7. Learn how to hang ten

    Thanks to HYPRNalu Hawaii, a surf school in Kona, I finally crossed another bucket item list off. One day I randomly decided to call around, and manage to speak to Ian the owner, who was able to fit me in for a surf lesson. I first got a feel for the board on land, and then one of their instructors took me out and helped push me into waves… finally catching a couple waves. It was exhilarating, I can now understand the passion surfers have for their craft. There’s just something about feeling the power of the ocean right under your feet… it’s something you must experience yourself to understand.

    Gnarly waves, bruh.
  8. Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, legally

    If you recall, we hiked the park on a renegade full moon trek to the mouth of the volcano. I encourage you to see the beauty of the park during the day, legally. It’s beautiful. The flora and fauna of the park is something to behold. It’s a legit jungle, with a volcano, wild orchids, old volcano tunnels, and so much more.

    Obligatory yogi shit
  9. Get centered

    One of my favorite finds was Yoga Centered, in Hilo right down from Big Island Juice Co. They offer a variety of classes and workshops to help you get centered and find your inner OM. Pretty sure that when I eventually move to the Big Island, I’ll move within driving distance of the studio, it’s that good. I bought a ten class pass when I went, which was within the normal price range of other studios on the mainland. Molly, the owner of the studio is a total babe, and very friendly too. If you have a mild addiction to yoga clothes and cute bikinis stay away from their shop… it’s lethal. If you see the cute little leopard print thong swim suit bottoms I am notorious for wearing in beach photos, Yoga Centered is where I got it from.

    Back bending on them haters.
  10. Catch the sunset at Kua Bay

    Sand on my cheeks, the only way to live.

    I challenge you to try to find a sunset that rivals that of the one you’ll see at Kua Bay, a well known, sometimes crowded, beach north of Kona. Aside from the jaw-dropping sunset, you can snorkel, frolic in the sand like an innocent little child, or you may be lucky enough to make friends with the slack-line crew that wild outs all day. The sunset at Kua Bay is absolutely magical, and if it’s your last night on the Big Island, I can’t think of a better way to end your travels than to see the watercolor sky splashed around the bright yellow hue of the sun as she says her goodbyes.

Get your hiney to the Big Island, pronto tonto. I could honestly write novels about how special this island is to me, but I’d rather you go there and experience it for yourself.

Of the 10 things I listed, what would you most like to do on the BI? Which of the 6 foodie places would you like to smash some food at?