48 Hours: Hawaii’s Big Island

You’re finally deciding to take that trip to Hawaii but you can’t figure out which Island to visit first?

Why not island hop and spend a few days here and there?

Here’s a short guide to 48 hours on the Big Island of Hawaii, take a look you may need more that 48 hours!

48 Hours_Hawaii

Day 1: Arrival to Big Island via Oahu

You’ll spend a few hours of your day transporting, most island to island flights are around 1 hour (varies on which island you are traveling to and from).

With a few hours on the island you can get your bearings and make a plan of action. Should you eat, make your way to the nearest beach or head to the hotel?

Exploring the area will give you a great sense of the island!

(Upon arrival to the Big Island we wandered West of the Hilo Airport and came across a small park with a beautiful cliffside view and small hiking trail: Onomea Trails.

coastal view

Our main adventure on our itinerary here is to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Since we knew that hiking was in the future, we needed to gather a few essentials: water, snacks and sunscreen! So we found the nearest store, Target!*)

*helpful tip: Hawaii doesn’t distribute plastic bags, either purchase a reusable bag or bring one from home. you can always use it for souvenirs later!

When you’re ready, make your way to your destination/hotel. By this point you’ll probably be ready to get settled for the evening.

(We stayed at the Volcano House, the only hotel inside the park. Which has a fantastic view of the crater!)

Be sure to have a meal, and prepare for your next day’s adventure!

Glow from Kilauea

(Unfortunately our plans were crushed by inclement weather; we’d set up a Lava Tour- 6 mile hike to see flowing lava. Instead, we decided to wake up early and head over to the visitor center in hopes to hike to lava flows ourselves.)

Day 2:  Prep for the Day’s Adventures & Explore!

[You’ve almost reached your first 18 hours on the island and you still plenty of time]

Make sure you are prepared for the day, check the weather before heading out. Pack sunscreen and a rain jacket or poncho at the very least.

(In the morning we watched the sun come up over Kilaeua as it smoked and puffed all morning long, sipping on the best latte I’ve ever had in my life!

brad_nicole crater

After breakfast, we packed for a nice day of hiking. The sun was shining so we had hopes that maybe the Lava Tour might go on. We started the day at the visitor center as planned and spoke with the rangers about where to see lava. They suggested to go down to Chain of Craters Rd. hike 3 miles out, take a left and hike 3 miles up and you might see something.)


sink hole


Hiking can get a little strenuous on the Big island. Water, a snack, a hat and good hiking shoes should be priorities. There are maps available at the Visitor center, if you do come into contact with Lava, please keep your distance!

(After parking the car along the road and spraying each other down with sunscreen, we walk toward the gravel road and begin here for our 3 miles. Along this 3 miles are miles and miles of igneous rock, piled high in mounds on itself! Seeing this is fascinating enough. We were determined to find the flowing lava! Around Mile 1-1/2 is a small oasis of palm trees at the cliff edge and it’s stunning!


We’d hiked for about 1-1/2 hours when a couple started walking toward us, so we inquired if they’d seen anything. They had not and  did not want to hike any further, Decisions needed to be made… we climbed out and through the mounds of rock to see as far as we could, hoping that the other hikers might show signs of lava flows. As we watched them continue hiking onward and upward without stopping, we knew there may be nothing up there so we turned our butts around and hiked back to the car.

Back at the paved road they’d opened the popsicle stand. It was a wonderful treat after the long hike in the 100% sunny skies. We treated ourselves with Pineapple popsicles!  On our way back to the hotel for lunch the weather began to turn.)

 Now What?

(With the park being in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t have too many options of things to do or places to go unless we wanted to drive an hours time to get anywhere. We’d decided at lunch that maybe we could find a spa and just have a relaxing rainy afternoon. That was a bust! The spa was shut down due to a plumbing issue, so instead we gathered our rain gear and headed to the Thurston Lava Tubes just a short drive in the park.

Thurston Lava Tube

The lava tube was a very mild 1 mile RT hike. We’d walked through 1/4 mile long tube and then back around to the parking area. Interesting, but not mind blowing. The hotel does not have TV’s in the rooms; which is terrible on a day like today. We grabbed some cards and drinks then headed back to the hotel for the rest of the day)

Day 3: Departure of Big Island back to Oahu

[You’re rounding out your last few hours on the island, but there is still time for one last adventure]


There are a few sights to see before departing the Big Island, but keep in mind that drive time will take a chuck out of your day. Plan accordingly!

(I’d scheduled us a tour to the Seahorse farm on the South side of the island near Kona Airport. There was a estimated 2 hour drive ahead of us, we decided to leave 3 hours early just to be safe!


There was a turn off to a Black Sand Beach along the drive and of course we had to stop! The winding roads are pretty rough if you have any kind of motion sickness. We we arrived to the beach we were just looking around, not expecting to see SEA TURTLES!!!! This was the best day ever! After all the other let downs, today was a total turn around. I’d been seeking to find turtles on the beach at some point (in my life). Today was the day! There was one and then there was another… it was magical.)

Punalum’u Black Sand Beach Park incase you want to visit.


(We’d arrived with 30 minutes to spare at the Seahorse farm. The tour was about an hour and a half long, where we learned about the natural habitats of Seahorses and coming close to being an endangered species. The seahorse farm rescues and breeds seahorses for domestic purposes. They explain their processes and why they are doing this as well the changes they hope to make for future generations. At the end of the tour you will get the chance to hold a Seahorse!)

By the time you’re ready to depart Hawaii, you will have a few adventures under you belt. Hopefully your plans workout as you expected! The Big Island is (obviously) the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. You may want to spend a few extra days here to explore more or come back another time. 48 hours will get your feet wet about this island and help you decide which is your favorite!

Mahalo & Safe Travels!

P.S. don’t forget to check out more photos from our Big Island Adventures here.


P.S.S. my second National Park tee is now available in the shop section!

10% of sales are donations to the National Parks Foundation

Volcanoes NP tee


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