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My top 5 things to do on the Island of Hawaii

June 21, 2021
8 min read
Hawaii big island beach
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Editor’s note: The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau helped arrange some of the activities mentioned, so TPG could write about them. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren’t subject to review by anyone outside The Points Guy.


Travel is back in a big way, and the definitely includes Hawaii. As I've been reporting, the state is already flooded with visitors despite COVID-19 restrictions, and you should plan ahead, and be sure to make advance reservations as both restaurants and activities are selling out.

Once Hawaii allows visits without testing for vaccinated travelers, it's likely to get even busier.

Here's a few of my favorite things to do on the island of Hawaii to help you plan ahead if you are going.

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Manta ray night snorkeling

(Photo courtesy Anelakai Adventures)

Price: Manta Ray Night Snorkel in Kona $130

My absolute favorite thing I got to do on Hawaii was night diving with the Manta Rays with Anelakai Adventures. It sounds terrifying, but it was absolutely thrilling. You meet up at the water's edge near Kona at sunset. Then you get put in partial wetsuits and life jackets, and then you get to help paddle a double hulled canoe out into the bay.

Related: Fair warning: Hawaii is crowded again

The company describes it this way:

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"Experience a manta ray swim like no other, with a small group of no more than six and the most eco-friendly tour available. Enjoy an authentic Hawaiian experience in our paddle-powered canoe with one of the ocean’s most graceful creatures."

It's environmentally friendly with no motors, no oil or gas and you don't touch the wildlife (though they may touch you). We got to see as many as 6 rays at a time which was incredible. The mantas are attracted to lights that are placed on the hull of the canoe. You dangle off the back and put your head under the water and observe these wonderful creatures as they swim towards the lights.

(Photo courtesy Anelakai Adventures)

Whale watching

Price: $98 for adults, $78 for children

I can definitely recommend Body Glove for whale watching and other fun activities near Kona, Hawaii. They have large boats that leave the dock in the historic part of Kona every day at 1pm.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Here's how they describe the tour:

"Every year between December and April, more than 8,000 humpback whales journey over 3,500 miles to Hawaii where they congregate to breed, calf, and nurse their young. Our two and a half hour whale watching in Kona tour offers you a rare opportunity to view and experience this phenomenon."

Related: A review of the Hawaii Hilton Waikoloa Village

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I was there towards the end of the season, and while we did get to see a few whales well off in the distance, for the most part they were fairly scarce. There was a brief sighting of dolphins too, but the whales were elusive.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Still it was a nice afternoon on the water, and you are likely to get luckier than I was.

(Screenshot courtesy Body Glove Hawaii)

After your whale watching, take some time to explore historic Kailua-Kona and Hulihe'e Palace.. the one-time vacation home of Hawaiian royalty. It's right next to the harbor at the Bay of Kailua, and there's souvenir shops and a famous spot to get some shaved ice.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Related: Hawaii making it easier to visit

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Volcano tourism

Price: $225 adult, $200 child

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I really loved the all-day adventure that was Hawaii Forest & Trail's "Volcano Unveiled" tour. Our guide Gary picked us up in a comfortable van for the journey that takes you from morning to night in a 10-12 hour exploration of Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park and Kīlauea Volcano.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

It includes a climb inside a volcano tube (tunnel made from erupting lava) that's off-limits to the general public.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Here's how the company describes the tour:

"The most in-depth volcano experience on the Island of Hawaii is back! Your National Park Certified Guide will share a mix of natural and cultural history about the island’s formation, illuminating the stories behind the ever-changing landscape of our island home."

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

You'll get to see some unique areas of the island of Hawaii including spotting some abandoned old avgeek treasures.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

You'll also get to see some of the unique flora and fauna of Hawaii.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

You'll also get to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and see some of the volcanic wonders of the island.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

It all culminates in a spectacular show from the active volcano. It was rainy and cloudy the day we were there, so there weren't great views of the volcano itself, but as you can see from the pictures there were eery views of the glowing sky. It was pretty cool.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Snorkel adventure

Price: $100 for one hour, or customizable on request

Related: The Mauna Lani Auberge Resorts Collection in Hawaii

One of the really cool adventures I got to do on Hawaii was a really enjoyable outrigger canoe paddling trip to snorkel on the reefs just off of the newly renovated Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection.

The young instructors were fun and down-to-earth, and led us on a spectacular, but too brief snorkel adventure out in the ocean. They are with you every step of the way, and even if you just paddle near the top of the water, you can see an abundance of sea life.

Here's how the hotel describes it:

"Tropical fish sail by in schools. A lazy sea turtle paddles over a snowflake eel hiding in a coral crevice. You can watch this all day. Head to the Surf Shack, our sports activity center, for a snorkel mask and start your aquatic odyssey."

It's one of many activities you can do at this five-star property even if you're not a guest.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Conclusion

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I'm just scratching the surface of what to do on the island of Hawaii. Couple of other honorable mentions should include dining at Magics where you can see locals surfing from your table and exploring the island by car (preferably a nice convertible).

No matter what, you're likely to have a good time on the island. Just remember to book ahead.

Featured image by (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023