A vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii does not have to be expensive if you plan carefully. In fact, some of the most breathtakingly beautiful natural wonders and intriguing historical and cultural landmarks there are completely free. Exploring the many free things to do on the Big Island is the start to an affordable vacation in paradise.
Explore a National Park
Visit a variety of national parks during your stay on the Big Island, many of which are free. Lapakahi State Historical Park sits just over 12 miles north of Kawaihae on Highway 270. Here visitors can take a self-guided tour of an outdoor museum housing the remains of a traditional Hawaiian fishing community. Several house sites are available to explore. Guests can participate in hands-on games in the game area, including spear throwing, disc rolling and checkers.
While Lapakahi is an archaeological marvel, Lava Tree State Park is a natural wonder. In 1790 lava from a nearby volcano erupted and buried the entire area that now houses the park. The Ohi'a trees that grew there were either turned instantly to ash or preserved in lava molds. Today, guests can drive or walk through 17.1 acres of native plants and trees that have grown in the fissures created by the lava, while keeping their eyes open for lava tree molds.
The Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve is another national park that is not to be missed. Here over 3,000 petroglyphs, drawings carved into the stone by ancient civilizations, are being carefully preserved and studied. Over 1,000 of them can be seen on the self-guided hike through the preserve.
See a Waterfall
Waterfalls are abundant on the Big Island. The best time to see one is after a heavy rainfall. Rainbow Falls State Park has one of the most popular waterfalls, and the best time to grab a picture is in the morning when the spray creates rainbows. Those who see the falls at sunrise often see a rainbow stretch across the entire lagoon where the water pools.
Akaka Falls State Park has two stunning waterfalls, Akaka and Kahuna Falls. The first, Kahuna Falls, drops an amazing 400 feet into a pool surrounded by lush vegetation. The even more majestic Akaka Falls sends water plummeting 442 feet. Keep your camera ready when you visit this park, as you will get photographs to rival any postcard.
Relax on Black Sand Beaches
The Big Island is one of the few places in the world where you can play on a black sand beach. You can soak up some sun on the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, which is one of the easiest to access on the island. This beach is famous for the large sea turtles that nest there, and the contrast between the dark sand and sparkling water is something you should not miss.
Visitors in the mood for more adventure can hike to the black sand beaches of Waipio Valley. The hike starts at the Waipio Valley Lookout. From there you can descend into the valley, where mountains, rainforests and wild horses will surround you. A black sand beach waits on the coast once you reach the valley floor.