Where to Stay on the Big Island – Areas & Hotels (2024!)

Cliffside view overlooking a lush valley and a curved beach leading into a calm ocean, under a cloudy sky

Are you looking for the most beautiful area where to stay on the Big Island? Awesome! 

I am here to tell you I’ve done all the planning for your Hawaiian vacation! I’ve compared all the areas and all the hotels so I can give you the ultimate Big Island itinerary!

Guess what? Big Island makes justice to its name, it is actually pretty big!! If you decide on staying on the beach and will try to reach the main national park, that’s 2 hours one way right there – that is why it is so important to do your research beforehand. 

But worry not; this is why I am here! Read this post to learn more about 6 towns, see why I recommend staying there, and how each of them is different. 

That being said, the best area for first-timers is Kona! It is the liveliest area, home to the best and most beautiful sandy beaches, and home to most tourist attractions! 

Big Island is popular all year round, and the best hotels and beach resorts tend to book fast, so you MUST book your hotel room in advance! Especially in December, when all accommodation prices practically doubles. 

Quick Picks for Your Stay

Here are the best places to stay in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. They all have great reviews and ideal locations close to beaches!


Watch my video, it will give you a visual explanation of all the areas:


Which side of the island to stay on?

A colorful map highlighting the best areas to stay on the Big Island Hawaii, with numbered locations and labels for easy navigation

As I said earlier, the areas can be quite far from each other, and they all have different properties. Some areas are great for beaches (Western Side), and some others are lush and tropical (Eastern Side)! 

The western side is more popular, and the Eastern side is more laid-back! 

PRO TIP: If you are staying for at least 6-7 days, why not stay on BOTH sides – Kona for half of your stay and then to Hilo/Volcano for another half? Consider renting a car for more flexibility!

1. Kona Coast – the best place to stay for the first time

Coastal view of luxury homes nestled among palm trees on the rocky shores of Kona Coast

Kailua-Kona Town (or just Kona) is located on the western side of the island, just 15 min away from the airport, and it is the most popular airport on the island.

Kailua-Kona means “two sea leeward” in Hawaiian! 

If you are visiting Hawaii for a beach vacation, Kona is the place for you! On this side, you can spend time like beach bums, sunbathing at the stunning beaches, and practicing water sports. And Kona is also the best spot for shopping on the Big Island!

Kona has the biggest town center filled with nice restaurants, boutiques, the popular Ululani‘s Hawaiian Shave Ice (try the lychee flavor!!), and coffee shops!

Did you know that there are over 650 coffee farms on the island? I highly suggest you check out our guide to the best Kona coffee tours!

FUN FACT: Kealakekua Bay was the site where captain and explorer James Cook used to land during his expeditions. There is even a town named after him, and home to one of the best beaches in Kona: Two Step Beach.

Kikaua Point Park is one of the best areas on the Big Island for snorkeling among sea turtles and manta rays, sailing, and seeing dolphins in the Pacific Ocean! 

Some of the Big Island must-sees are the Puʻuhonua, a historical National Park, and Huliheʻe Palace, a former royal vacation palace of Hawaiian Monarchs. 

For shopping, head to Alii Drive, the main street of Kona’s downtown. Here, you can find everything from cute boutique stores to cafés and restaurants!

For non-touristy things to do in Kailua-Kona, I suggest you visit the Keahole Point, especially during the winter months, to see the blowhole sprouting water!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: A welcoming entrance with stairs flanked by lush greenery leading to a traditional Hawaiian-style building, an inviting bedroom with a view of palm trees, and a unique outdoor shower with natural stone walls.

This luxury resort has everything you need to have a dream vacation. The property is located on the Kona Coast and features stunning ocean views. Within its luxurious resort amenities, you can enjoy a spa center that comes with a hot tub, an onsite golf course, and a swimming pool. Literally one of the best Kona resorts!

Other accommodation options in Kailua-Kona

Mid-Range
Elegant bedroom with a four-poster bed, white and red bedding, and a large window with tropical garden view

This cute vacation rental offers rooms with a kitchenette and balconies. Located within walking distance to the beach

Budget
Elegant living room with dark rattan furniture, colorful cushions, and a variety of framed artwork

Located in front of the beach, this property offers rooms that host 2 guests. It comes with a pool and free parking.

Airbnb
Rustic off-grid cabin surrounded by greenery and fruit trees under a clear blue sky

This lovely cabin-style property is perfect for those looking to spend an idyllic vacation surrounded by nature!

Things to do in Kailua-Kona

  • Visit the historic Kaloko-Honokōhau National Park
  • Swim in the crystal clear water at the best beach on the Big Island: Kua Bay
  • See the Mokuaikaua Church and the historic landmark, Hulihe‘e Palace
  • Go for a walk at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area
  • Admire manta rays at Keauhou

2. Kohala Coast – where to stay on the Big Island for couples

Breathtaking aerial view of the Kohala Coast's clear waters, resort accommodations, and golf courses

Kohala Coast, also known as the Gold Coast, is located in the northwestern part of the island just above Kona and is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, historical landmarks, stunning golf courses, and the most luxurious hotels and resorts! 

Kohala Coast is one of the coolest places on the island. If you are going on a romantic trip, you will have fancy accommodations and unparalleled landscapes! For all golf lovers, one of the best in the area is Mauna Kea Golf Course! It is quite pricey, but it’s iconic for its views!

The largest and most acclaimed beach on Koala is Hapuna Beach! Just keep in mind travelers need to pay an entrance fee, but it is so worth it if you want to spend your day on the softest white sand beach! 

You cannot miss visiting Puʻukoholā Heiau in Kohala, one of the last Hawaiian temples built with lava rocks in the late 1700s. It was built in under a year, and it is believed the rocks were passed hand by hand and stacked onto each other! 

Apart from the most stunning nature, you can also visit a very cool mall, Queen’s Marketplace. It nestles nice clothing shops and delicious restaurants, AND they host events like Hula Shows and Ukulele lessons. You can check out the calendar here

By the way, Queen’s Market is one of the many pick-up points for the unique stargazing experience of Mauna Kea Summit Adventure! Absolutely recommendable!

PRO TIP: For top-rated restaurants, go to Waimea Town. It is just a 10-minute car drive away and has a little downtown area surrounded by greenery! Also, if you find accommodation in the area, book it without a doubt!

Below, you can find the best Big Island lodging in Kohala for a romantic getaway:

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: A bedroom showcasing a serene ocean view through large sliding doors, a spacious living area with coastal decor, and an expansive resort pool surrounded by tropical landscaping and lounge areas.

If you like luxury resorts, let me show you this incredible beach resort! It is located on Hapuna’s beachfront and comes with a private beach area. In its luxurious amenities, you can find an infinity pool, rental car services, and a relaxing spa center with a sauna! One of the best places to stay for couples!

Other accommodation options in Kohala

Mid-Range
Classic bedroom with a shell-themed comforter, wooden headboard, and a bedside lamp

Stay in a cozy bed and breakfast in the heart of Waimea. This romantic property features the most amazing views!

Budget
Cozy living room with navy blue sofas, wooden furniture, and tropical accents

Surrounded by beautiful trees, this hotel offers comfortable rooms with a coffee machine and easy access to beautiful beaches

Airbnb
Modern house with a solar panel roof and a small outdoor pool, surrounded by a patio and greenery

This Airbnb is the best housing option on the north side of the island with an epic ocean view and a private swimming pool

Things to do in Kohala

  • Go to Hapuna Beach State Park, Kohala
  • Visit the island’s historic sites at Pu’ukohola Heiau National Park
  • Go snorkeling at ​​Lapakahi State Historical Park
  • Check out the Big Island’s stunning view from Pololū Valley

3. Hilo – the best place to stay on the Big Island on a budget

Picturesque waterfall with a rainbow in the mist, surrounded by lush green tropical foliage

Hilo is located on the northeastern side of the Big Island and offers a tranquil local way of life. It is the second biggest city in Hawaii and nestles the most incredible lush rainforest, national parks, and black sand beaches!

The beautiful Hilo is home to Hilo International Airport, which is only a 10-minute drive to the downtown area.

PRO TIP: If you are staying on the Big Island for a short time and arriving at Hilo airport, it makes sense to stay on the east side. If you arrive in Kona, then any town around the west side is better. Otherwise, you will have to add an extra 2 hours to all your airport trips one way, which is a waste!

Hilo is only 45000 people, but it is the second largest city in Hawaii after Honolulu!

The weather on this side of the island is completely different; it rains most of the days. That is why it is less touristy, and accommodation prices are a bit lower. But honestly, it has so much to offer to travelers! 

One of the must-do outdoor activities is hiking around the iconic state parks in town: Akaka Falls State Park and Wailuku River, where you can see the unique Rainbow Falls! 

By the way, you cannot miss visiting the Hawai’i Tropical Bioreserve & Garden. Its beauty and history will sweep you off your feet! Don’t forget to look for the Onomea Arch and learn about its legend!

FUN FACT: Did you know Hilo exports Orchids? One of the main products the island produces and exports are Orchids and macadamia nuts!

Don’t forget to stop by Hilo Farmers Market to try delicious Hawaiian treats and the juiciest tropical fruit ever!

If you want to relax under the sun and walk around beautiful gardens simply, Liliʻuokalani Park is the perfect place for a wholesome picnic and a swim at Coconut Island!If you want to know more about Hilo neighborhoods, check out our comprehensive guide to where to stay in Hilo for more options!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: A cozy room with a minimalist design and natural light, a colorful and artistic lobby lounge with vibrant wall art, and a tranquil pool area with palm trees and lounge chairs inviting relaxation.

This hotel is one of the best places to stay on the east side of the island. SCP Hilo Hotel features spacious rooms, a lush swimming pool where you can enjoy getting a suntan on sunny days, a bar with a great selection of tropical cocktails, and a fitness center. The beach is just a few minutes walk from the hotel and the charming downtown, a short bike ride away.

Other accommodation options in Hilo

Mid-Range
White colonial-style house with a front porch, palm tree, and lush garden path

This hotel offers a pleasant stay in Hilo with its comfortable rooms, ocean views, good breakfast, and free airport shuttle

Budget
Vibrant green bedroom with large bed covered in a leaf-patterned bedspread, green walls, and a recessed shelf with pillows

This Hilo Bay hostel comes with shared rooms and private rooms with shared bathrooms. They even have Big Island tours!

Airbnb
Cozy nook with a daybed adorned with patterned cushions, a round blue mirror on a mustard yellow wall, and decorative plants

This Hilo Airbnb offers free parking, beautifully decorated rooms, a fully furnished kitchen, and easy access to the beaches

Things to do in Hilo

  • Take photos of the iconic Rainbow Falls
  • Go to the Imiloa Astronomy Center
  • Shop at the Hilo Farmers Market
  • Learn about the town’s history at Pacific Tsunami Museum
  • Discover the beaches of Coconut Island in Hilo at ​​Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens

4. Volcano – best area for volcano views (+black sand beaches!)

Mars-like volcanic landscape with panoramic views of clouds and mountainous horizons

If you want to be blown away by Hawaii’s nature, you need to stay in the Volcano Area. It is located on the southeastern side of the island, south of Hilo.

The area is super serene and rustic, with no luxury accommodation, but that is the charm! One of the most interesting things to see in the Hawaiian Islands is, for sure, the incredible volcanoes and lava fields. 

You cannot miss hiking around the unique Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during your stay. The town of Puna is located only 20 minutes away from its entrance! 

I recommend you do the Kilauea Iki Trail (map) when visiting the National Park! The hike can be tricky, but you will be walking on a solidified lava lake on a crater surrounded by lush greenery. And don’t forget to stop by Kīlauea Overlook for epic views (map)!

Depending on the time of the year, sometimes you can see the magma trails glowing on Kīlauea Overlook , which you can appreciate even better at night!! How insane is that!!

By the way, there is more to see at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. A great attraction is the Holei Sea Arch, forged on a lava cliff by the ocean. The other is Volcano Villa, a hidden artist community, which is super close to Fern Forest!

I recommend you spend time at Kehena Black Sand Beach, which was formed by the lava fields nearby. PRO TIP: Check out the Hot Springs in Pohoiki Bay for a unique and whole experience!

Lava Tree State Park is another must in the area, once a lush forest covered in lava. Now you can see the lava molds everywhere there and plants flourishing through it. Completely stunning!

South Ka’u is located only a 40-minute drive from Volcano, and it’s home to one of the most beautiful black sand beaches, Punaluʻu Beach (map), and it’s worth a visit! 

After a full day discovering Big Island treasures, have a delicious dinner in Pahoa downtown, and feel like a local! By the way, this side of the island gets COLD, so pack some jackets to be prepared!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: A rustic bedroom with a simple decor and a painting of a dancer, unique tiki-style huts with thatched roofs in a lush garden setting, and a traditional Hawaiian structure amidst sprawling greenery.

Volcano Eco Retreat is a great place to stay on the Big Island for those who want to have a wholesome experience. This hotel offers bungalow rooms with a lush garden, a spa, a dining area where you can make BBQ and a sun terrace surrounded by a lush forest. The Volcano National Park is located only a 30-minute drive.

Other accommodation options in Puna

Mid-Range
Bedroom with a queen-sized bed featuring a tropical palm leaf print comforter, wooden headboard, and table lamps on nightstands

Rainforest Eco Cabin offers easy access to the lava fields and has bungalow rooms with a nice garden

Budget
Open-plan living area with two beige sofas, a wooden coffee table, dining set, and kitchenette in the background

This hotel has comfortable rooms, free wifi, a large garden, and is close to black sand beaches

Airbnb
Quaint tropical cabin with a teal porch, surrounded by lush ferns and palms in a vibrant green setting

This Airbnb offers accommodation in beautiful gardens with spacious rooms and a fully furnished kitchen

Things to do in Puna

  • Explore the island’s incredible lava fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  • Visit the memorable Lava Tree State Park 
  • Go shopping at Maku’u Farmers’ Market
  • Take impressive photos at Kehena Black Sand Beach
  • See lava fields at Puʻu ʻŌʻō
  • Try delicious nuts at Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center
  • Go for a walk at MacKenzie State Recreation Area

5. Hamakua Coast Region – for scenic landscapes

Dramatic black sand beach with lush green cliffside and foamy waves under a vibrant blue sky with scattered clouds

Hamakua is a great area for all of those looking for a pacific vacation, surrounded by calmness and wholesome landscapes, as well as for those who want to learn Hawaiian history. Still, if you want to get adventurous, you can zipline across and over valleys and waterfalls!

One of the main attractions in the area is the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, which extends along the Hamakua Coast, starting in Hilo on the Hawaiʻi Belt Road. The corridor passes through the most beautiful landscapes with the best views and old plantations filled with history!

Do yourself a favor, and at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, check out the unique Waipio Valley Overlook (map) for breathtaking views of the sacred Waipio Valley!

Did you know Hamakua Coast was the main area where cane sugar grew during the 19th and 20th centuries?

Stop by Laupahoehoe Beach for the most dramatic cliff views and the beautiful Akaka Falls State Park on your way to the beautiful little town of Honokaa, and have a treat at Tex Drive-In.

I personally suggest you visit the Magical Creature Sanctuary, which rehabilitates farm animals and gives them a home. You can visit the place and give cute animals some love! Below, you can find the best hotels in the Hamakua Coast. If you want to visit other Hawaiian Islands. Here, you have the best 5-star hotels in Waikiki Beach!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: A country-style bedroom with floral bedding and a patio view of the rolling hills, a panoramic balcony offering breathtaking views of the landscape, and an aerial shot of a sprawling ranch-like property

This beautiful hotel comes with a modern Hawaiian vibe, luxury amenities! Enjoy a tranquil vacation with mountain or ocean views! The property offers suites and cottages with kitchenettes. Guests get access to private free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Other accommodation options in Hamakua Coast Region

Inviting living room with a vaulted ceiling, plush sofas, and large windows that bring in natural light

Ideal for big groups! This house is surrounded by lush forest, waterfalls, and mountains. Perfect place to admire Hawaiian Nature. 

Facade of a guesthouse showing the two-story building with balconies, surrounded by tropical plants under a clear blue sky

This cute little guesthouse offers private rooms with a shared bathroom and kitchen. A free breakfast is served every morning!

Romantic bedroom with a canopy bed, warm lighting, and a bonsai tree, creating a cozy retreat

You can get a fresh breakfast picking fruit from the trees in the garden! Perfect for a 2 week Hawaiian stay

Things to do in Hamakua Coast Region

6. Waikoloa – best area where to stay with families

Aerial view of a beachside resort with multiple swimming pools, palm trees, and clear blue waters along a rocky coastline

Waikoloa means “broad water” in Hawaiian!

Big Island is one of the, if not the best, Hawaii Island for families, and Waikiki is the reason why!

Waikoloa Village is located on the west coast next to Kona Town, and surrounded by the Kohala area. The area is quiet and heavenly, filled with nice resorts and beaches, making it great for families!

Start discovering Waikoloa Village by going to King’s Shops. They usually have a farmer’s market on Tuesday! 

I personally suggest you buy Hawaiian treats and fruit from the market and hit the beautiful ʻAnaehoʻomalu Beach (map) or Black Sand Beach 49 (map) to spend a wonderful day at the beach! These beaches are great for snorkeling and seeing marine animals, which adults and children will love the same! 

You can also check out the Mauna Lani Beach Club for beach family time. Here, you can find a natural preserve, Kalahuipua’a Fishponds, where you can spot the most stunning ocean creatures.

Another impressive landmark you shouldn’t miss is the Waikōloa Dry Forest Initiative. This is a great place to teach the kids about nature and the island’s diverse landscape. 

The entire family will love checking out Puakō Petroglyph Park. This archaeological site has trails where you can see rock carvings dating from the 1200s. 

Waikoloa Village is also popular for its golf clubs, so if you want to have some adult time while playing a round, you are in the right place! One of the best in the area is The Village Course.

There is a great selection of hotels with family-friendly facilities such as kids’ clubs and pools in town. Oh, and by the way, there is a FishPipe at Hilton Waikoloa Village near the Kona Pool area. It is one of the few in the world. Kids will have so much fun on the ride!

Luxury hotel
A collage of three hotel photos to stay in the Big Island: An aerial view of a luxury resort with a snaking pool and cabanas amidst tropical foliage, a modern bedroom with plush bedding and a balcony overlooking the ocean, and a sunset view from a beachfront hotel with palm trees silhouetted against the evening sky.

This gorgeous hotel has an amazing powdery private beach that you will want to spend hours on, family-friendly rooms, swimming pools, an upscale spa, and a fabulous fitness center. Every morning, you will enjoy a very good breakfast while watching the ocean views for a great start to your day!

Other accommodation options in Waikoloa

Mid-Range
Resort-style pool with palm trees, natural rock formations, and a waterfall, framed by a multi-story hotel building

Stay in a fantastic resort with an incredible pool with views. A fitness center and 2 restaurants for dining option

Budget
Spacious bedroom with a large bed, wooden headboard, and a sliding glass door opening to a golf course view

This hotel offers 2 swimming pools with incredible ocean views and spacious rooms with quality products

Airbnb
Comfortable outdoor seating area with two upholstered armchairs, throw pillows, and a side table on a house porch with greenery

Located right on the bay this Airbnb features deluxe rooms, private beach access, and a lush swimming pool

Things to do in Waikoloa

  • Go snorkeling at Black Sand Beach 49
  • See many kinds of beautiful trees at Waikōloa Dry Forest Initiative
  • Take golf lessons at The Village Course
  • Go shopping at Kings Shops Farmers Market
  • Make sandcastles and swim in the crystal clear water at Waikōloa Beach
👑 Luxury price:$350
💵 Mid-range hotel:$200
🛏️ Budget:$150
📍 Best area:Kona
🛎️ Best luxury hotel:Four Seasons Resort 
🧳 Best mid-range hotel:Big Island Retreat
👛 Best budget hotel:Kona Magic

FAQs about where to stay on Big Island

Close-up of a resting sea turtle on a black sand beach with blurry tourists and palm trees in the background

🌴 Where should I stay on Big Island, Hilo or Kona?

It depends! Kona is better for first-timers since it’s ideal for beaches, shopping, and Hilo is for lush landscapes and serene nature. I would recommend staying on both sides and renting a car to give you more flexibility during your trip!

🏖️ Which side of the Big Island has the best beaches?

The North Coast of the Big Island has the best beaches. Kohala Coast is one of the best areas to stay on the north coast, and some of the best hotels that I can recommend here are Four Seasons Resort and Kings’ Land Hilton

🤔 What should you not miss on the big island?

Some of the main landmarks you should not miss on the Big Islands are Volcano Village, Rainbow Waterfalls, Hamakua Coast, and Hapuna Beach.

👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 Which are the best places to stay on the Big Island for families?

Located on the east coast, Waikoloa Town offers the best hotels for families. Some of the best resorts here are Fairmont Orchid Resort and Paniolo Greens Resort.

🐠 Which are the best areas for snorkeling on Big Island?

Kohala and Kona coasts have the best spots for snorkeling on the Big Island.

🏠 Which are some unique places to stay on the Big Island?

Fairmont Orchid Resort, with its stunning white sand beaches and 32 acres of coastline on the west coast, is incredible! On the east side of the island, Volcano Eco Retreat is a vegan/vegetarian resort with interesting wooden hut-like buildings. 

⏳ How many days do you need in the Big Island?

I recommend staying for at least 7 days, so you can stay on both sides of the island. You can stay in Kona for 4 nights and then in the Hilo or Volcano area for 3 nights. Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will take you 2 days!

☀️ What is the best month to visit the Big Island of Hawaii?

If you are wondering when to stay on the Big Island, Hawaii, from April to September, the weather is warm, and there isn’t a lot of rain. During December, precipitation is higher, and so are prices! The price is at least 1,5 times higher in December!

👪 Which is a better destination for families, Kona vs Waikoloa?

Both Kona and Waikoloa offer great family experiences, but Kona is more lively and still offers a relaxing beach environment, while Waikoloa boasts luxurious resorts and a tranquil, stunning beach environment. So, it depends on your preferences!

Conclusion

Scenic view of a green sand beach with steep sandy cliffs, ocean waves, and people relaxing under a blue sky with clouds

That is all for today, my sweet angels! Those were the most unique areas where to stay on the Big Island! Kona is the best one, but there are other 5 superlative areas for all tastes and budgets!

  • Four Seasons Resort – This Four Seasons Hotel is one of the best oceanfront Big Island Resorts! Amenities are simply top-notch!
  • Big Island Retreat – I love the unique style and the area where it is located in Kona!

Keep in mind accommodation is quite limited on the Big Island. That is why you NEED to book in advance!

Which of these dreamy areas where to stay on the Big Island was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Have a lovely trip,

Daniela


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