There are 11 different climate zones on Hawaii, the Big Island, making it the perfect place to discover Hawaii's famed natural beauty.
Where to Stay
My Island Bed & Breakfast Inn
This bed and breakfast on the edge of Volcanoes National Park features historic rooms, garden units, cottages and houses. The beautiful floral grounds are iconic Hawaii and it's been family run for almost 40 years. As such, My Island is one of the oldest B&Bs in the state and the perfect home base for exploring the waterfalls, lava flows and black sands of Volcanoes Park.
Lucky Farm B&B
This affordable and comfortable eco-resort features a breakfast of celebrated Kona coffee and fresh fruit -- all grown on the premises. Accommodations include an inexpensive room in the old farmhouse; 2 rooms in the Greenhouse wing featuring large windows and private entrances; and the old coffee barn, a rustic room for 2 with a queen-size bed, outdoor shower and a common kitchen. This century-old working macadamia nut and Kona coffee farm is surrounded by native birds, tropical fruit and exotic flowers -- giving you an authentic Hawaiian experience that no big resort can offer.
The Cliff House
If you've come to Hawaii's Big Island on a romantic getaway, there's no better place to stay than The Cliff House, a 2-bedroom house perched above the ocean. Soak in the views from the house's large deck, relax in the immaculately decorated bedrooms (the owner also owns Waipio Valley Artworks) and prepare fresh fare in the well-equipped kitchen. Located in the famous and lush Valley of the Kings, cabin fever can be kept at bay by driving 15 minutes to the shops and restaurants in Honoka'a.
Where to Eat
This culinary gem is hidden in the Keahou Shopping Center and offers Pacific Rim fusion and a full sushi bar. The appetizer menu is tantalizing, featuring ginger-marinated squid, blackened tuna and fresh lobster summer rolls. If you like duck, make sure to order Kenichi's duck confit -- a Chinese 5-spice-cured duck leg with celeriac puree, ali'i mushrooms, red pepper coulis and a balsamic reduction.
The Lotus Cafe
The menu at The Lotus Cafe features locally grown fruits and vegetables and everything served is made from scratch -- there are no artificial flavors or preservatives in their dishes. The Pan Asian fare has a reputation as being the best on Big Island, and locals appreciate that this cafe is 100% solar-powered. Their alternative energy and traditionally good fare is worth it every time.
Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill
This restaurant is a clone of the popular Oahu location, offering favorites like Szechuan baby back ribs, blackened island ahi, and hibachi-style salmon. The service is friendly and prompt and the chef's exploration of local ingredients packs this restaurant nightly. Make reservations to ensure a table offering a view of the golf course and 10-acre lake.
What to See & Do
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
What is now a peaceful sanctuary for vegetation and wildlife, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park was once the home of Hawaii's royal chiefs and a safe haven for women, children and noncombatants during times of war. The main temple is surrounded by carved wooden figures; they are haunting idols that tell the story of the temple's past. Pamphlets are available for an educated self-discovery of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. Make sure to see Hale o Keawe Heiau; located on the wall's north end, this small temple holds the bones of 23 Hawaiian chiefs.
Akaka Falls and Hilo Farmers Market
One of Hawaii's most scenic waterfalls, Akaka Falls can be seen via an easy 1-mile paved loop through the rainforest. From the observation point, you'll have a perfect view of the 442-foot falls. Be camera-ready and watch for rainbows.
On the way to Akaka Falls, stop at the Hilo Farmers Market where over 200 local farmers and artisans sell produce, tropical flowers and handmade gifts. A wonderful spot for some souvenir shopping, the market is located on the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue and is open year-round, Wednesday and Saturday.
Capt. Dan McSweeney's Whale-Watching Adventures
Capt. Dan McSweeney is the perfect man to show you Hawaii's most impressive visitors -- the 45-foot humpback whales that return to the waters off Kona every winter. He's been a whale researcher for over 25 years, and his experience and professionalism show. He'll drop an underwater microphone and video camera into the water so you can hear the whales' songs and experience an up-close and personal visit with these majestic mammals.
Hawaii's Big Island is known more for its natural beauty than its happening nightlife, however, while here you can enjoy an authentic luau banquet. The Aha'aina at the Kona Village Resort, offered Wednesday and Friday nights, is award-winning and includes a pig-roast, traditional ceremony, buffet and a Polynesian revue.
For dinner and dancing, head to the elegant Honu Bar at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows. Tasty Appetizers, imported cigars and fine cognacs make this the spot to be seen on the Kohala Coast.
Travel Channel Insider's Tip:
Enjoy a budget-friendly feature of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau: free beachside barbecue grills. Bring some charcoal and fresh ingredients from Hilo Farmers Market to fire up your own Hawaiian feast.