Where to Stay on The Big Island of Hawaii: The Ultimate Guide

Aloha,

When you go to a new place, it’s hard to know where the best places are to stay.

We’ve been on the Big Island of Hawaii several times and have stayed at some great hotels, vacation rentals, and Airbnb rentals. There is so much variety that we felt like writing our own guide for people looking for a place to stay on the Big Island.

This is a tough decision because there are so many options! I am sure you have heard of the Royal Kona Resort, the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and many other hotels in Hawaii. Which one should you pick?

In this blog post, I will give you my recommendations for where I think are the best places to stay on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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Let’s start with an overview of the Big Island

The Big Island in a Nutshell

The Big Island of Hawaii is separated into six main areas and is the biggest island in Hawaii. It’s also the youngest, geologically speaking.

There are still active volcanoes here! It’s home to the biggest and most active volcano in the world (Mauna Loa). Mauna Loa and Kilauea are two of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since measurements have been kept, including twice in the 20th century. That’s an average of about once every five years!

There are also two massive rift zones that represent a failed attempt at separating the island into two islands. The result is a collection of unique micro-climates and one of the best-preserved coral reefs in Hawaii.

Visiting the Waipio Valley lookout on the Big Island

The Big Island has it all: beaches, volcanoes, you name it. For example, the Kona Coast on the west side of the island has some of Hawaii’s best beaches for snorkeling and diving. Be sure to check out two step beach snorkeling at Honaunau Bay for some good snorkeling. Also, don’t forget to do the hike to Makalawena Beach if you want to see a secluded beach with white sand.

The slopes of Mauna Loa are home to beautiful waterfalls like Hi’ilawe Falls. Hamakua Coast is home to spectacular Waipi’o Valley. On the east side of the island, there are fantastic black sand beaches like Kehena Beach and some of the best waterfalls on the Big Island.

We will cover the six main areas in this article: Kona, Hilo, Kohala, Puna, Hamakua, and Ka’u.

Kona in a Nutshell

With its dry and hot climate, the west side of the Big Island is known as Kona.

It has moderate rainfall throughout the year, while the east side of the island gets more rain. As a result, there are vastly different ecosystems on each side of the island.

Kona is home to some of the best beaches on the island, including Spencer Beach Park and Anaeho’omalu Bay.

We went to Hapuna beach while staying in Kona
Hapuna Beach in Kona

The Kona coast also has one of the best-preserved coral reefs in Hawaii. Because of that, it’s an excellent place for snorkeling and diving. If you need additional recommendations on the best things to do in Kona, be sure to check out the above article.

As far as accommodations go, there are several places to stay in Kona. More on this later on in the article.

Hilo in a Nutshell

Hilo is the capital and largest city on Hawaii Island. It’s located on the east side of the island, which is wetter than the west side.

The town used to be known for its sugar plantations and being a university town, but tourism has since become important as well.

Hilo is surrounded by waterfalls, and two of the most well-known are Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls.

If you can’t decide which one to see, then go to both! They’re only a short distance away from each other.

We visited the  Rainbow Falls Waterfalls While staying in Hilo on the Big Island

As far as accommodations go, there are several places to stay in Hilo. More on this later on in the article.

The Kohala Coast in a Nutshell

This part of the island goes from the northwestern tip down to Kona. Many of Hawaii’s most expensive and luxurious resorts are along this stretch of road.

Hawaii’s best snorkeling beaches can be found along this coast as well.

Puna in a Nutshell

Puna is a district of Hawaii on the Big Island. It’s located on the southeast side of the island and is mainly covered by lava flows from Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

There aren’t many resorts in Puna, but there are some nice places to stay.

We took a trip to see Mauna Loa while staying in the Puna district on the Big Island

Puna is home to the historic Kalapana Gardens Estate, which was destroyed by lava flow in 1990.

The Hamakua Coast in a Nutshell

The Hamakua Coast runs along the northeast part of the island. It’s a stunning part of the Big Island with one famous black sand beach after another.

Ka’u in a Nutshell

Ka’u is an unincorporated district on the southernmost tip of the island. It’s still rural, but has some fantastic places to go, like the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Punaluu Black Sand Beach.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach is clsoe to Ka'u on the Big Island
Punaluu Black Sand Beach.

Ka’u is not as crowded as some other parts, and it has lots of great places to explore, from lava tubes to volcanoes and waterfalls.

Where to Stay in Kona

Here are my top recommendations on the top hotels in Kona:

Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa (Formerly Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa)

If you’re looking for a resort right on the beach, then the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa is one of your best options. It’s located near Kailua-Kona and features restaurants, spas, and pools.

They have two pools on the property, one for adults only and a family pool. Both are amazing. The family pool area has a water slide which is great for kids.

This resort also has some amazing grounds to explore. There is so much to see, from the spectacular plant life to the historical ruins.

One thing to mention is that the rooms at this resort are a little outdated, and I have read multiple reviews about this. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I thought I should mention it in this article.

The rooms were clean and fine to sleep in, so I wouldn’t consider this a deal-breaker.

Where to Stay in Kailua-Kona

Club Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort

The Wyndham Kona Resort is one of the few resorts in the town of Kailua-Kona. It’s located very close to downtown Kona and within walking distance to shops and restaurants. The resort offers two pools, a hot tub, and a spa.

This hotel is right on the water with great views of the ocean. There are several restaurants at the resort where you can enjoy a meal in good weather.

The Wyndham also features two tennis courts, a fitness center, and a conference room.

All rooms come with a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, so you can save some money by cooking your own meals.

Royal Kona Resort

The Royal Kona Resort is designed in a classy, elegant style which makes it a popular choice. It is located on Alii Drive, a road that goes along the most popular part of Kona. It’s close to shopping and restaurants, yet it stills feels quiet and relaxing.

This resort gives the vibe of authentic island style, and the grounds are beautifully landscaped.

All rooms have a balcony or patio with stunning views of the ocean.

Rooms come with either one king bed or two queen beds. The poolside restaurant serves food and drinks, and has excellent views of the ocean.

The Royal Kona Resort has an onsite fitness center and offers spa services like massages, facials, and waxing for a fee.

The rooms are nice, but I have seen some reviews of people saying they are a little outdated. Again, this doesn’t bother me as much because the rooms are very clean.

Where to stay on the Kohala Coast (North Kona)

Fairmont Orchid Hawaii

The Fairmont Orchid is located at the tip of the Kohala Coast and right on a gorgeous beach. It’s within walking distance to shops and restaurants, yet it feels private and secluded.

The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii has two pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, and three restaurants.

The hotel and grounds are very well maintained. The property is very well decorated, with amazing tropical flowers and waterfalls throughout.

The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii offers a wide range of amenities to make your vacation one to remember.

Some rooms have access to the beach, while others are located in the garden area facing the ocean. There are several spacious luxury suites at this resort.

Some rooms also feature furnished lanais, so you can enjoy your morning coffee or evening cocktails while listening to the waves crashing on the beach.

This resort also offers one of the best places on the Big Island to watch a sunset. Be sure to catch at least one or two while staying here.

Although this resort is a bit pricey, it is absolutely incredible and one of the best on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Hilton Waikoloa Village is located on the Kohala Coast and right on a white sand beach. It features multiple pools, including an exclusive adults-only pool, a fitness center, and a full-service spa.

The Hilton is one of the best places to stay on the island. It features several restaurants (both offer great ocean views), shops, and pools. This resort is located in a great area where there are also many shops nearby.

The hotel is nicely decorated with lush gardens, waterfalls, and koi ponds throughout. It feels secluded, yet it’s close to shops and restaurants.

On Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, you can enjoy the Legends of Hawaii Luau.

If you are looking for a Luau to attend on the Big Island, be sure to check out the above article on the 9 Big Island Luau shows.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is one of the most luxurious in Hawaii, and it’s on the pricier side. There are several fine dining restaurants on-site, along with pools and spas. The location can’t be beat either since it overlooks a gorgeous white sand beach.

The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel has several different types of rooms available to meet your needs. There are standard queen rooms that feature either partial or unobstructed ocean views.

There are four different types of suites available. The standard suite allows you to enjoy partial ocean views, while the two-room Mauna Kea Beach Suites features either garden or pool views (or even partial ocean views).

These rooms feature a full kitchen, dining area, and huge bathroom. There is also an outdoor patio/lanai for enjoying the warmth of the sun.

This resort is very well kept and surrounded by lush gardens throughout. There is a trail at the end of the beach that goes along the coast. This trail will lead you to some of the most spectacular views.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, you can enjoy the Mauna Kea Luau. Check out their website to read about all of the different shows available.

The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort

The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort features an amazing white sand beach with views of the Kohala Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

There are plenty of water activities available such as snorkeling.

It features several pools, including a kids pool and a quiet pool with an adults-only section. There is also a full-service spa on-site with signature Westin services.

This resort is one of the nicest I’ve stayed at on the Big Island. The rooms are very well kept, spacious, and have luxurious bedding with plush mattresses (definitely worth upgrading).

This resort is great for those who want a luxurious experience near some fantastic beaches. In addition to these features, there are restaurants and bars on-site as well.

Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection

The Mauna Lani is located on a white sand beach and features several different pools and a spa. There are also two golf courses on-site if you want to work on your swing while in Hawaii.

There are also some fantastic hiking trails local to this resort if you like getting out in nature.

There are several restaurants on-site with delicious food ranging from American to Asian cuisine.

This is a very high-end resort, but it’s worth the money if you’re looking for a very luxurious experience.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa

The Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa is one of the best resorts in Waikoloa. It’s definitely on the expensive side, but it’s perfect for those that want a luxurious experience in Hawaii.

The Marriott features several pools, including an adults-only pool and a spa. There are many activities available to guests, such as snorkeling, kayaking, and much more.

As far as the resort itself, it was huge and well kept. The rooms were very nice with a lot of space and features such as microwaves and mini-fridges.

There are restaurants on-site. The location can’t be beat either, since it’s near several white sand beaches and popular attractions.

The Marriott features one of the best full-service spas on the Big Island, and it’s open to non-guests at a fee.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, you can enjoy the Sunset Luau.

Where to Stay in Waimea on the Big Island

Kamuela Inn

Kamuela Inn is a much more affordable option, but it’s also very good quality. It’s a charming boutique 30-room hotel located near several popular things to do.

The hotel has gorgeous views of Mauna Kea and is about a 1 hour 12-minute drive to the Mauna Kea summit.

The Kamuela Inn features suites that are well kept with excellent amenities such as cable TV and a fully equipped kitchenette (in select rooms).

The resort is located right across the street from Waimea town, which has several restaurants, bars, and shops.

There are two pools on-site and a fitness center. It’s perfect if you want to stay in Waimea while also near the Kohala Coast and Mauna Kea resorts.

Where to Stay in Hilo Hawaii

Grand Naniloa Hotel

Grand Naniloa Hotel is located in the heart of Hilo, and it’s right across the street from Hilo Bay. For those who love watching the sunrise, Hilo Bay is one of the best places on the Big Island to watch a sunrise.

Hilo offers great things to see, such as Rainbow Falls, Akaka Falls, and some of the best black sand beaches on the Big Island.

This hotel offers elegant rooms and has a pool on-site, as well as restaurants and shops nearby. There are many activities that guests can enjoy here, such as a fitness center and snorkeling.

Where to stay on the Southeastern Shore

Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club

If you’re looking for a luxurious resort with many amenities, the Marriot’s Waikoloa Ocean Club is a great choice. There are two pools, a spa, a golf course, and restaurants on-site.

The resort is located near several white sand beaches, and it’s also near the Waikoloa Village, which has many shops, restaurants, and other attractions.

This resort offers rooms with balconies that overlook the ocean. There are also several good places to eat here located right on the ocean.

There are several types of rooms, including 1 or 2 bedroom suites. Their suites offer a separate living room with a sofa bed, dining area, and kitchenette.

Everything here is designed to make the guest feel pampered and relaxed.

Hilo Seaside Hotel

If you’re looking for a more affordable hotel in Hilo, then Hilo Seaside is a good choice. It’s located downtown and within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and a nice view of Hilo Bay.

It has a pool on-site, and guests can enjoy nearby restaurants, shops, and bars.

This small hotel offers rooms that are clean and simple with cable TV and air conditioning. There are no frills here, but it’s well kept, and guests can even enjoy complimentary breakfast in the morning.

Where to Stay Close to a Volcano on The Big Island

Volcano House

If you’re planning to visit volcanoes, then the Volcano House is a perfect choice. This is a historic inn located right at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This hotel features “33 guest rooms, 10 cabins, and 16 campsites”, and a restaurant on-site.

It offers all the comforts of home, including cable TV, microwaves, and mini-fridges in most rooms. There is complimentary breakfast and a warm fireplace in the lobby.

The Volcano House is an eco-friendly hotel that not only made Green Globe Certification, but was also named one of the top ten eco-hotels in Hawai’i by National Geographic.

There are no pools here, but there are plenty of relaxing places such as the front porch or the lava rock garden just outside the hotel.

This is definitely one of the best places to stay when visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Where to Stay in Kilauea

Kilauea Lodge

If you’re planning on staying in Kilauea, the Kilauea Lodge is one of the best places. This historic lodge is located within walking distance of shops and restaurants in Kilauea.

Many people who visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park like to stay at this hotel because it is close to the park entrance. It offers clean and affordable rooms.

The hotel is well-maintained and has friendly staff. This hotel features multiple room options. There is also a small restaurant at this resort.

Where to Stay on the Big Island for a Honeymoon?

Four Seasons Hualalai

The Four Seasons Hualalai is one of the most luxurious resorts in Hawaii. It’s located on the beautiful Hualalai volcano, which has many historical sites to visit, along with natural beauty.

If you’re looking for the best honeymoon resorts on the Big Island of Hawaii, this is it.

Fairmont Orchid

The Fairmont Orchid is one of the best places to stay while on your honeymoon. This resort is located on the beautiful Kohala Coast and close to many popular attractions.

Luxury Resorts on the Big Island

Hilton Waikoloa Village

If you’re looking for the best luxury resorts on the Big Island of Hawaii, look no further. The Hilton Waikoloa Village features many luxury accommodations.

As mentioned before, the Hilton Waikoloa Village offers multiple pools, including an adult-only pool with whirlpool spas and so much more!

Fairmont Orchid

The Fairmont Orchid features beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s located on one of the best beaches in Waikoloa.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is one of the best places to stay in Hawaii. This luxury resort features fancy villas with private pools.

If you’re staying at this resort, you might want to take advantage of their world-class spa services as well.

The Best Big Island Resorts for Families

Sheraton Kona Resort

If you’re looking for the best resorts on the Big Island of Hawaii that are family-friendly, then look no further. The Sheraton Kona Resort has been rated one of the top resorts in the world by major travel publications.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

The Hilton Waikoloa Village has a large swimming pool and caters well to families. It’s located on the beautiful Kohala Coast and offers clean and spacious rooms.

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort

Waikoloa Beach Marriott offers family packages that include complimentary breakfast, live music, and an island luau show on Saturdays.

Budget-Friendly Places to Stay on the Big Island

If you are on a budget, I recommend looking into Airbnb on either side of the island.

I rented an Airbnb on both the Kona and Hilo sides, and I paid about $85.00 per night for a one-bedroom apartment in 2021.

Below are some budget-friendly hotels I recommend:

SCP Hilo Hotel

The SCP Hilo Hotel is very affordable, with rates starting at $150 per night for standard rooms.
The hotel is located close to the downtown area. The rooms are also very clean, and their staff is terrific.

Hilo Hawaiian Hotel

The Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is a great budget-friendly option. Be sure to check them out if you want to travel on a budget.

Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel

Located in Kailua-Kona, Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel is located near downtown and is perfect if you are looking for budget-friendly places to stay on the Big Island.

The rooms are clean at an affordable rate, but keep in mind this is a 3.5-star hotel. Do not expect 5-star resort amenities.

In my opinion, the hotel was perfectly fine. After all, all I need is a clean bed and clean shower, and I am good to go.

Best Places to Stay Close to the Beach

If you are a beach-lover, I highly recommend staying in Kona or the Kohala coast. Kona has some of the best white sand beaches I have ever seen. Also, it doesn’t rain as much in Kona as it does in Hilo.

The Kohala coast and Hamakua have some fantastic beaches. Any of these areas are sure to please.

The City of refuge is close if you are staying on the Kona side

If you love black sand beaches and want to spend most of your time on one, stay in Hilo. Otherwise, a two-day trip to Hilo while staying in Kona should give you the black sand experience.

If you want a thorough article on Hilo vs Kona, be sure to check out my other article.

Best Places for Sightseeing on the Big Island

The Kohala Coast, Hilo, Puna, and Hamakua offer unique attractions. There are many natural wonders to explore, including black sand beaches, green sand beaches, rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, and more.

Staying in Hilo on the Big Island gave us easy access to Kehena Black Sand Beach

Frequently Asked Questions

Safest Areas on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is relatively safe, and all of the areas mentioned in this article are safe.

With that being said, please take precautions and use good judgment before embarking on risky activities and situations.

Which Side of the Big Island is the Best?

I think that each side of the Big Island has its own unique characteristics. It all comes down to what you want from your vacation.

Are you the type that loves white sand beaches and sunny weather all the time? If so, then Kona is for you.

We saw some Hawaiian sea turtles at two steps while staying in Kona

If you are the type that loves waterfalls, don’t mind the rain, and are a bit adventurous, then Hilo is where you need to spend most of your time.

Which side of the Big Island is close to the airport?

There are two main airports on the Big Island of Hawaii. Depending on which side you decide to stay on, you can use the Hilo or the Kona airports.

Hilo International Airport is on the east side of the Big Island. Kona International Airport is on the island’s west side.

How long should I stay on the Big Island?

I would recommend staying at least ten days on the Big Island of Hawaii. There are so many things to do and see that you’ll never get bored.

Whether you’re the type who loves the beach or would prefer spending most of your time out exploring, the Big Island has the right accommodations for you.

The Wrap Up: Where Should I Stay on the Big Island?

Hawaii is known for its many beautiful beaches, but there are also plenty of great accommodations available. Whether you want a budget-friendly hotel or a luxurious vacation home, the Big Island has something for everyone.

Consider your needs and how much time you have before deciding which side of Hawaii will be best suited to fulfill them!

Until next time, Aloha!