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Hawaii, United States: Best outdoor attractions to visit on Big Island

By Rosamond Chung 23 November 2021

As the largest and arguably the most diverse island in Hawaii, Big Island is a must-see spot when on your trip to this state. It is one of the last volcanically active islands in the world, but that's not all. There is a wealth of stunning natural wonders for the eye to behold, if you know where to look. Here are the best outdoor attractions on Big Island to add to your itinerary.

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Photo credit: Guille Pozzi (via Unsplash)
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Punalu’u black sand beach

Famous for its sea turtles and black sand, Punalu’s beach is a great spot to visit when seeking a place for some cool pics. The colour of the sand is due to eroded volcanic materials such as lava and basalt rocks, which are dark-coloured. The beach is home to the endangered hawksbill and green turtles, and while they are within arms reach, it is important not to touch the turtles, as they are protected by federal and state law. Also, it is advised not to swim here as the waves are extremely strong. Although there are a few rules to abide by, the black sand beach is a must-visit—it’s not every day that you see basalt being created by lava!

Photo credit: Guille Pozzi (via Unsplash)
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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This national park is definitely one of the most popular spots on Big Island thanks to its hiking trails, stunning landscapes, and out-of-this-world views. Some must-visit spots in this massive park would be the Hōlei Sea Arch where you can see views that follow through the coastline, making it an amazing spot for sunset and sunrise watching. If you are more of a hiker, Kīlauea Iki Trail is for you— this trial follows the crater rim, surrounded by so many stars that it feels like you've travelled to another galaxy.

Photo credit: Martin Zangerl (via Unsplash)
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Mauna Kea summit

Mauna Kea summit offers something that you wouldn’t expect on a tropical island—temperatures around freezing level. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano that erupted over 4000 years ago; most of this mountain is underwater, but if it stands on ground level, it is technically the tallest mountain in the world! To Hawaiians, the summit is considered sacred and a place to visit when in search of ancient spiritual connections. The summit is home to one of the world's largest observatories and is unparalleled for stargazing.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Photo credit: Roberto Reposo (via Unsplash)
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Akaka Falls

Considered the most famous and accessible waterfall on Big Island, Akaka Falls is a waterfall measuring 422 feet. With less than a half-mile hike to this waterfall, the Akaka Falls Loop Trail is a great family-friendly hike. During this short hike, you will be walking among towering banyan trees, waterfalls, and lush greenery. A little tip: don’t stop once you reach the first viewing area of the falls. Continue walking and you will be rewarded with another waterfall—Kahuna Falls.

Photo credit: Marc Shandro (via Flickr)
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Ho’omau Ranch

Ho’omau Ranch is a great place to visit if you are looking for any type of outdoor activity like horseback riding and utility terrain vehicle (UTV) or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours. Not only do these tours take you through the Native Hawaiian Forests, it’s also a perfect chance to visit places you couldn’t get to without these vehicles. Something even more amazing about these tours is you get to see Pritchardia Schattaueri, a species of palm tree endemic to the southwestern part of Big Island and one of the rarest tree species on earth.

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Rosamond Chung

Former editorial intern

Growing up in Hong Kong, Rosamond is a recent high school graduate who is in the middle of her gap year. She has always been interested in capturing little moments and stories in the places she goes to. Whether it’s her love for film photography or her obsession with making playlists, you will always see Roz with a camera around her neck and lo-fi bops playing on her headphones. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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