Last updated on January 31, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Hawaiian Islands

Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island

When it comes to diversity – from snow skiing to volcanoes to black beaches to tropical rainforest, the island of Hawaii has it all.

Which opens the question – Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island?

When deciding the best place to stay on the Big Island, you’ll want to think about both environment and travel time – as in driving time around the island.

That’s where the information below will serve you in determining the best places to stay in Hawaii Big Island.

We describe each of the key areas, some of the best activities and places to stay in each of these areas, and what suits best for family, couples, honeymooners, as well as the budget-conscious.

You can read also

For more information at your destination, I suggest checking out The Big Island Video News

Surfing in Waipio Valley
Surfing in Waipio Valley

Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island for families, couples and sport

  • 5 best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island: these are the areas of Waikoloa, Kona, Waikui, Kohala, Hilo. You can read more information about all of them below.
  • Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island for families: There are two areas that work great for families with kids. They are both on the west coast, where you will experience more likely sunny days all through your holiday. Waikoloa is the place to be if you are after a beautiful resort that will look after you and your family, more of a family package destination with plenty of pools and slides, besides kids clubs to give some time-off to the parents. Kona is instead the perfect area to be on the big island for families looking more for a village feel where you can have a walk along the waterfront, have ice cream and dinner in one of the many restaurants. Accommodation tends to be much cheaper here and it’s mostly based on serviced apartments. Read more below on a family trip. 
  • Best place to stay on the big island for couples: Waikui is a lovely part of the island, with a spectacular beach too. There are here a few amazing resorts that cater more to an adult clientele. The alternative is to stay in the town of Kona where you will find more economical hotels and a great choice of bars and restaurants. Read more below for a trip with your partner
  • Best places to stay in Hawaii Big Island for a honeymoon: the area of Kohala has one of the most exclusive resorts dedicated to honeymoon trips. The alternative is to stay in the West Hills above Kona for a more boutique stay, usually with a special view. Read more below for a honeymoon in Hawaii Big Island
  • Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island on a budget: the city of Hilo is the best bet, this is where also you will find most of the AirBnb properties. The South Eastern Shore is also another possibility, a great area to stay if you want to explore the volcano. Read more below for the best budget options
  • Coolest places to stay on the Big Island: if you are looking for a cool, bohemian and possibly a bit quirky place to stay then the Ma’ukele Lodge on the South Eastern Shore may be the solution. The hosts, Raven and Mark, are absolutely exceptional. The interior design is so romantic and authentic. The breakfast, all based on local products, is to die for. The fruit is handpicked from the own garden!
  • Unique places to stay on the Big Island: Waikui right in the West-North coast is a fantastic area to stay. You will get to enjoy the dry weather and you will have also easy access to the lush North Coast, one of the greenest parts of Hawaii. An absolutely unique experience.
  • Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island for the best view: There are many resorts with an amazing view of the ocean, mostly on the West Coast. However, the Holualoa Inn, up in the West Hills is something different (check the photos).
  • Best place to stay on the Big Island in December: with the start of the school holidays, this is a very popular month in all the Hawaii islands. However, the Big Island tends to be less busy. If you are looking for a sunny stay, possibly with a nice beach, then the west coast has to be. Waikoloa, Kohala and Waikui are all great places.
  • Which side of the Big Island is best to stay: All of them, they all have their own highlights. In short, the North Coast is very green, lush and spectacular, however, the weather tends to be a bit wet, with Hilo the wettest city in the USA. The South Coast is rough and more about trekking and experiencing the Kilauea volcano. The West Coast is quite dry and you will be very likely to experience mostly sunny days, here you find also the best beaches.
  • Where to stay close to the airport: there are two International Airports. The one in Kona is perfect if you are thinking to stay on the west coast for resorts and beaches. The one in Hilo is ideal if you are thinking to explore the lush North Coast and the South. A drive through the island between the two airports will take around 1.5 hours.
  • What kind of stay can I find in Big Island: there are the standard options available on either side of the island, with resorts, hotels and condominiums being the most common. There are also your Bed and Breakfast and single-family homes for rent. The resorts and hotels provide more inclusive services, whereas the condominiums offer more flexibility for fixing your own meals and dining on your lanais.
  • How long to stay on big island Hawaii: if you are interested to explore it then you need 5 to 7 days. Consider that driving from one side of the island to another will provide you with a choice of :
    • the upper roads through Hamakua and Waimea (2.5 hours) through valleys and pasture,
    • or the lower end drive (3.5 hours) through Puna and across rainforests and lava,
    • or the saddle (1.5 hours) that cuts across the middle between the two largest volcanoes on the island (Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea).

Each drive offers very different scenery, so with enough time, you’ll want to tour them all.  

  • Connection within the Hawaiian Islands: The Big Island is very well connected with all the main Hawaiian Islands as Maui, Kauai and Oahu with multiple daily flights at a very good price if booked well in advance. 
Best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island
Best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island

Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island with a family 

Waikoloa (resort-style holiday)

The beautiful resort town of Waikoloa comes family ready, fully engaging for the kids, and includes maximum sunshine with only a minimal, refreshing amount of rainfall.

This is a perfect spot to locate for an all-in relaxing stay along the western shores.

With plenty of beach, pools and waterslides, and plenty of family-oriented activities. The stretch of resorts also offers a wide selection of dining options.

The warm waters of Anaehoomalu Bay (A-Bay) are a delight for swimming, snorkeling or even windsurfing.

While the kids are getting their energy out and thrills in, the adults can find this to be a perfect spot to relax, sipping a tropical cocktail, soaking in the sun, and closing the day with a fabulous sunset.

And don’t forget to visit the petroglyph fields on the way to the beach.

There are a few resorts in this area, however, the Hilton Waikoloa Village is something different, almost a city in itself, and with a seemingly endless array of activities, for kids and adults. You will find the kid’s camp – Club Keiki – an excellent choice for the kids, 3 swimming pools, a saltwater lagoon and dolphins encounter.

Check availability at Hilton Waikoloa Village

Hilton Waikoloa Village
Hilton Waikoloa Village

Kona (beautiful on a budget)

Just below Waikoloa is the town of Kona, which is where the first king to rule the islands, Kamehameha the Great, chose to live.

Fit for a king, Kona offers some of the best beaches on the islands, and plenty of family fun.

Here you have more of a town feel, with restaurants, parks, playgrounds and supermarkets.

This area tends to have better prices than in other parts of the west coast, also because you can rent entire apartments and organize your holiday with more of a homely feeling.

Once in Kona you can take a submarine 100 feet down, take a day-long fishing charter, or head out to do some whale watching (December to March). 

The Kona Islander Inn Hotel is one of the most economical places on the Big Island. It’s clean and affordable, with a good size pool for kids. It’s also facing the sea, which is gorgeous. 

Check price at Kona Islander Inn

Kona Islander Inn Hotel
Kona Islander Inn Hotel

A good alternative is the Palani Condo, with a much bigger apartment.

Best places to stay in Hawaii Big Island for couples

Waikui (exclusive and unique resorts)

This area is a few km north of Waikoloa and it is such a secluded and romantic place to be, complete with enjoyable days and activities that you might find yourself in total couple-indulgence.

From days spent on the chilled beaches (Mauna Kea Beach) and parks (Hapuna Beach Park), to spending the evenings sipping cocktails and watching the sunsets, and in the evening experiencing a live Lua.

Spending time enjoying the days should certainly include opportunities such as a glass-bottom boat cruise, helicopter tour of the island, or a nighttime snorkel with the Manta Rays.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (Autograph Collection) is an amazing place to stay and remember for life, a hotel to indulge, to experience. Enjoy the sunset at the bar and take the opportunity to go and spot the manta rays at night, just a short walk away.

Check availability at Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Kona (village feeling with shops and restaurants)

Kona is an ideal spot for a couple to relax and explore, especially with the sun at your back and sand between the toes.

Once your energy is stored up, you can explore swimming with dolphins, find out what’s SUP, or get some underwater visual explosions of color with the bright coral and fish doing a snorkel or a scuba.

When it comes time for dinner, you’ll definitely enjoy one of the many Luau options, or a beautiful sunset dinner cruise.

The Holiday Inn Express & Suites is the ideal place for couples looking for new facilities including a pool, but still at an affordable price. The location is perfect, just meters from the waterfront, the shops and the restaurant areas. A great choice for couples.

Check price at Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Kailua-Kona
Holiday Inn Express and Suites Kailua-Kona

Talking of restaurants, make sure to book a dinner On the Rocks.

Expect an amazing view with possible dolphins playing right in front of your table (it’s not that unusual).

Add a very affordable happy hour for a sunset drink. And why not staying for dinner?

If you are planning a fancy night then Mi’s Waterfront Bistro is the place to book.

This is an Italian inspired restaurant with homemade pasta, which is a great plus. Lovely interior, great service.

Best places to stay in Hawaii Big Island for honeymoon

You’ve made a great choice for celebrating your new life in one of Hawaii’s most exotic locations, Hawaii Big Island.

You’ll want to start your romantic getaway with pure indulgence in the local beaches, parks, hideaways and restaurants.

Once settled, you’ll want to delve into some of the many romantic day-trips – frolicking in the exotic rainforests, exploring the volcanoes and lava fields, and embracing togetherness with the amazing views at places like Pololu Valley and Waipio Valley.

The best places to stay in Hawaii for a honeymoon are all on the west coast, the one with more sun 😉

Kohala (lux resorts)

An area known for its luxurious resorts, up on the northwest end of the island, you could find your entire honeymoon drenched in relaxation and luxury.

As an exclusive excursion to Kohala, you will want to look into the Fairmont Orchid, a luxury resort surrounded by waterfalls, lush tropical gardens, and an amazing lagoon fronted by an exquisite white sand beach. There is also a 10,000 sq. ft oceanfront pool with massage and spa facilities to elicit some true romance.

Check availability at Fairmont Orchid

Fairmont Orchid
Fairmont Orchid

The West Hills (view in boutique-style)

New boutique accommodations are opening on the hills above Kona.

This is an area with possibly the best coast view on the Big Island. 

The flora and fauna around is unique to the island as well as the experience you can have in this part of Hawaii

The Holualoa Inn is highly suggested for any honeymoon because of its lovely garden, incredible view from any room, fantastic service, spectacular hand made breakfast, peace and tranquillity. Possibly the closest thing to heaven.

Check availability at Holualoa Inn

Holualoa Inn
Holualoa Inn

Where to stay in Hawaii Big Island on a budget 

The east shore of Hawaii Big Island is the cheapest part of the island to book your accommodation.

Unfortunately, this is also the side of the island where you will be more likely to experience rain, year-round.

For the sun head to the west coast, however, expect also higher prices.

If on a budget, you may split your stay between the east coast (to keep as a base for trekking and volcano exploration) and the west coast (for some beach time).

Hilo (East Coast, great as a base for trekking)

Hilo offers plenty of opportunities for lush rainforest walks and exotic waterfalls.

It’s a great base to be based to explore one of the greenest parts of the world with some unique trekking.

You can easily spend some wonderful days touring the waterfalls up north and rainforest areas of Puna in the southeast.

From Hilo, you can also organize day trips to the Mauna Loa Volcano (a 1-hour drive) and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Alternatively, you can also plan an all-day, all-inclusive trip like the KapohoKine Adventures all-day tour of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The Hilotown Hale is a great accommodation, very clean, offering spacious rooms at a bargain price, considering you are in Hawaii. Patricia, the host, will make you feel at home in no time.

Check price at Hilotown Hale

Hilotown Hale
Hilotown Hale

South Eastern Shore (for volcano exploration)

Besides being the best area to stay in Hawaii Big Island on budget, the South Eastern Shore is the best side also to use for visiting the Kilauea volcano.

The latest volcano eruption in 2018 left a lava flow that stretches from the lower Puna (Leilani Estates) out to the southeastern tip of the island.

It’s definitely worth a visit to Issac Hale Beach Park and MacKenzie State Recreation Area to see nature’s latest remodelling efforts.

The Humble Home is a great spot to base yourself and it comes at a very nice price. The homestay is run by two amazing hosts, Ludyme and Ruebon, that make this place more of a home away from home than a b&b.

Check price at Humble Home

Humble Home in Hawaii
Humble Home in Hawaii

Cheap places to stay in Hawaii  (under $75)

Your best bet is settled into Hilo with the Big Island Hostel providing single beds in a 6-people dormitory room. It’s a very clean accommodation, with very friendly staff, really all you need for a memorable holiday.

Check price at Big Island Hostel

The Big Island Hostel
The Big Island Hostel

A great alternative, in the middle of nature and lots of birds, is this Holiday House offering simple, however clean, bedrooms with shared bathroom and facilities. All at a bargain price, sometimes even lower than $50/night.

Check the lowest price in Big Island

Beach in Kailua-Kona
Beach in Kailua-Kona

Best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most diverse islands in the Hawaiian Island chain.

Not to be confused, the island of Hawaii is one of the islands in the state of Hawaii, like the city of New York is one of the cities in the state of New York.

The locals refer to it as “The Big Island” simply because it is, in fact, the largest of the seven Hawaiian Islands.

The top of Mauna Kea
The top of Mauna Kea

Each direction has its own unique setting, from north to west to south to east.

Where the sun shines and settles in the west, the rain falls in the east and provides an endless run of waterfalls.

The serene north has rolling hills and pastures, while the south is alive with volcanoes and black sand beaches.

This is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands and the most alive. With regular lava flows, and rapid changes in the landscape, each time you visit you could find something else anew.

Many people become surprised by the actual size of the island once they arrive.

A drive around the island will clock over 220 miles (320 km) on your car, and take the better part of a day – especially considering stops.

If you plan to have a short stay, you’re best to keep to one side of the island.

If you are able to spend more time, it would be good to consider spreading your accommodations across different parts of the island.

Here below a map, later I quickly answer a few questions I usually get. Finally, I go more into the details for each area, based on your type of trip (family, couple, budget etc).

Best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island
Best areas to stay in Hawaii Big Island

Hilo and the South Eastern Shore (for rainforest and lava walks)

When you fly into the Big Island you will be arriving in either Hilo on the eastern side or Kona on the western side.

Hilo is an area of locals, with plenty of local shopping opportunities.

Lava Flow in Kalapana (South Eastern Shore)
Lava Flow in Kalapana (South Eastern Shore)

It is your best bet to stock up on some holiday items, from beach chairs to suntan lotion, and do any grocery buying.

The Waiakea Center on Hwy 11 has everything you’ll need, including the local Walmart, Walgreens, and food shopping. Hilo Hattie is a good spot to pick up some aloha wear.

For your best bet on buying healthy, be sure to check out Island Naturals Deli in the Hilo Shopping Center.

From Hilo and all along the eastern coast is an area of lush greenery and rainforest brilliance prompted by a seemingly continuous flow of rain or drizzle.

With annual rainfall typically over 100 inches, Hilo is also the wettest city in the U.S.

Being centrally located on the eastern side of the island, Hilo is the logical spot for excursions to the southeast town of Pahoa and the Puna Reserve, which sport vast stretches of lush rainforests and black sand beaches.

West Shore (for the sun and excellent locally grown Kona coffee)

With the rains to the east, the sun is left alone in the west.

Sunshine and dry conditions make the west coast one of the most popular areas to visit in Hawaii.

Anaeho'omalu Beach in Waikoloa
Anaeho’omalu Beach in Waikoloa

The main town of Kona does provide its name to some of the most exclusive coffee in the world, given its unique growing grounds on the hillsides of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanos.

The west is undoubtedly the most visited side of the island, particularly from Kohala (northwest) down to Kona.

Since this is the leeward (upwind) side of the island, it also provides the calmest waters, and the best beaches on the island – and even the best beaches in all of the U.S.

If your focus is on water sports, from SUP to scuba, or just swimming and snorkeling, your best bet is on this side of Hawaii.

North Coast (for the lush ranchland, forests, and rugged coast)

The northern part of the island has the oldest volcano (Kohala) and the largest ranch (Parker Ranch).

This area of the island has some lush forest areas, as well as some spectacular beaches.

Pololu Valley on the North Shore
Pololu Valley on the North Shore

Driving along Hwy 250, you will go from sea level to 3,500 feet (~1,100m) and back down.

You’ll find yourself driving through a beautiful fern and low-lying cloud forest.

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Photo credits on a few photos in this post
This post was written with the great help of our local expert, Charlie Rice

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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