When most people think of Hawaii, they typically think of Hilo’s lush, tropical landscapes or the major tourist towns like Honolulu. While these areas are worth exploring, there are also some fantastic places across each island! In this post, you will learn about the best spots on the west coast of the island of Hawaii. By the end, you’ll be ready to start planning your own exciting trip to the west side of the big island!
The West Side Vs. The East Side Of Hawaii
The stunning islands of Hawaii have long been treasured destinations for many travelers. Containing distinct environmental features, the natural beauty within these islands is breathtaking. And the big island is no exception! However, for those familiar with the area, this island’s west and east sides are vastly different. While the west side has a more developed coastline, the east side is marked by its remote, rural landscape.
Still, places like Hilo and Hawaiian Paradise Park are well-known tourist spots on the east side of Hawaii, with gorgeous waterfalls, serene beaches, and lush landscapes. These areas are perfect for adventurous travelers looking to get off the beaten path. But if you prefer more urban environments, you might enjoy exploring places like Kona and Waimea. These towns are bustling hubs full of restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions that will keep you entertained for hours.
But don’t feel like you have to miss out on the natural elements of Hawaii; the west side still has plenty of beauty to offer. From the stunning volcanic peaks to the abundant waterfalls, there are endless opportunities for exploring natural wonders on either side of the island.
Places To Visit On The West Side Of The Big Island
When you arrive on the west side of the big island, you might be overwhelmed by all the different things you can explore. Luckily, this list includes some of the best places to visit while you’re on this side of the island.
Kealakekua Bay is an iconic spot in Hawaii that draws travelers from near and far. Situated on the southern coast of Kona, Kealakekua Bay’s cliffs provide a stunning backdrop for its crystal-clear sea. The area was once a favorite fishing spot of Hawaiian royalty. Today, it’s one of Hawaii’s most pristine marine preserves – so unique that it’s a protected “National Historical Park.”
This magical place has something to offer everyone: immersed in history and culture, travelers can experience various marine life species swimming through its waters or enjoy kayaking while admiring the breathtaking landscape. It’s no wonder why Kealakekua Bay keeps people coming back!
Downtown Historic Kona
Downtown historic Kona is packed with amazing places to explore and learn. Well-preserved historical sites and iconic landmarks illustrate its fascinating cultural past. Take a stroll down Ali’i Drive and enjoy the many sights like City Hall, Courthouse Park, Hulihe’e Palace, and Moki’s Footprint.
You’ll also see distinct architecture from the early 1900s, including the Japanese stone steps, initially constructed by plantation workers; historic homes of the missionaries who used to live in this area; and churches built decades ago, with many still standing today. Discovering all that downtown historic Kona offers can be an enriching experience for anyone who visits!
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is a place of cultural and historical significance in Hawaii. The park covers 1,160 acres and comprises three distinct environments: ancient fishponds, coastal sand dunes, and upland forests. Visitors can explore native Hawaiian history by taking guided tours or visiting the museum at Kaloko, which houses artifacts showcasing traditional cultural activities such as fishing and farming.
Wildlife enthusiasts will also find plenty to appreciate here, with various species, including spinner dolphins, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, humpback whales, and Hawaiian hawks. The park’s mission is to preserve the sacred artifacts and archaeological sites that are part of its history for future generations to learn from.
The majestic beauty of Pololu Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii is an experience like no other. Located on the north shore of the island, flanked by lush green cliffs that reach as far as the eye can see, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most beloved and iconic natural wonders of Hawaii. A popular destination for residents and tourists alike, the valley is a stunning embodiment of the power and grandeur of nature.
An unforgettable sight to behold, this breathtaking landscape features vibrant blue waters below, with trails allowing explorers to take in its panoramic views. Pololu Valley is a beacon for appreciating the island’s local ecology and breathtaking infrastructure.
While inland from the west coast, visiting Mauna Loa is an unforgettable experience. With its incredible beauty and size, it is often called the “Long Mountain” as it spans about 75 miles across the island of Hawai’i. The world’s largest active volcano and one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, Mauna Loa, stands 13,680 feet from sea level. As you explore its many features, you can’t help but marvel at its vastness. A trip down to Kilauea Caldera is a must-do to see the forces of nature at work with boiling lava mounds and steam vents in what looks like a surreal dreamscape.
Touring the summit will give you a glimpse at why over 300 recorded eruptions have occurred since 1843. From coastlines to lava fields and craters spiced up with colorful plants that line some of these trails, you get a flavor for Hawaiian culture, extreme geological activity, and nature’s wonders, all wrapped up nicely within one massive mountain.
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Located just south of Kealakekua, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm serves more than its eponymous beverage. It is a unique destination where today’s visitors can step into history and learn about the past lives of their forebears. Through interactive displays, cultural programs, and educational workshops, visitors are transported back to when Kona coffee was harvested by hand.
The farm offers an authentic peek into traditional Hawaiian culture and its rich immigrant heritage by recounting the stories of early 20th-century immigrants who settled in South Kona in pursuit of gold, better opportunities, and cooler climates. It also immerses guests in the agricultural industry that continues to define the region with sustainability at its core. From coffee pickers to entrepreneurs to paniolo ponies, there is no shortage of fascinating stories to discover at this remarkable living museum.
Plan Your Trip To Visit The West Side Of The Big Island!
Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventurer, or simply looking for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience, there is something to be found in Hawaii’s natural and historical wonders. From the iconic beauty of Pololu Valley to the power and scale of Mauna Loa and the rich history of the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, each destination offers a unique glimpse into the rugged beauty, rich culture, and awe-inspiring natural features of this incredible island state. So why wait? Discover the many wonders that the west side of the big island of Hawaii has to offer today!