It actually is a big island (the rest of the Hawaiian islands combined could fit inside its borders), and that means there’s no shortage of sights in this geological wonderland.


Everyone does Volcanoes National Park, but everyone read Gone Girl too, and that doesn’t make it bad. Assuming you’re staying on the West Side, start your day at Tex Drive-In, a roadside stop just past Waimea, for a world-famous Portuguese doughnut. As for the volcano, take a hike: the Kilauea Iki is a great one for feeling the heat and smelling the sulphur. You’ll be glad you did.The waves at Hapuna Beach are awesome, and you should arrive with a heavy dose of respect for them. But if you’re suitably cautious and follow the locals’ lead, it’s a great body boarding and body surfing beach. If its half-mile-long stretch is too crowded, as it is on weekends and during holidays, head to Kuki’o Beach, which, although it’s on private property, is required by Hawaiian law to grant the public access to all oceanfront. Simply pull up to the gate, indicate you want to head to the beach, and you’ll be given a pass and directions. The beach itself is tame—great for young kids—but the houses here are the draw.


Finding a restaurant the locals frequent (but not one so local that tourists aren’t welcome) is the holy grail of any Hawaii trip. That place is Da Poke Shack. For about $12, you get a scoop of white rice and a quarter pound of ultra-fresh tuna poke and a side. And if you’re in pricey Waikoloa, the deli at the Foodland Farms grocery store keeps it amazingly real on the prices.Peter Merriman pretty much brought locavorism to the Islands back in the late ’80s, and it was Merriman’s original space in upcountry Waimea that secured the chef’s place in the firmament. (He now has a seven-restaurant empire throughout the Islands.) This out-of-the-way address is a tropical Chez Panisse: an obligatory culinary pilgrimage that still yields one of the best meals around. Lunch, with dishes like a locally sourced nicoise salad (with large chunks of tuna), is the hidden deal—here, twice the quality and half the price of most resort options.


The cavernous Kona Bay Books is a tropical Powell’s, holding everything from vintage design tomes to Japanese cocktail guides—there’s even an entire section devoted to books about fondue. And if you like Stephen King or Jilly Cooper, they have about a million copies of those, too.

READ MOREHawaii Travel Guide: Kauai


Trip Advisor says the Four Seasons Hualalai is the number-one hotel in the world, which basically means we all say it’s the number-one hotel in the world, doesn’t it? It is in fact a near perfect hotel: equal parts relaxed and silently efficient. There’s golf, there’s the ocean, there’s an enormous man-made lagoon (the King’s Pond) that you can swim with the tropical sea life in. It’s not for everyone…just those who want the very best.

Photo Op: Ranching in HI

In its heyday (circa 1913), the Parker Ranch sprawled over 500,000 acres, making it one of the biggest in the world. (It still clocks in at an enormous 250,000.) It’s been mostly broken up now, and while you can visit the store, you’re better off heading up to North Kona via the beautiful Kohala Mountain Road to get a feel of what it was like when cattle were king here.

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