Hawai’i Island (also known as The Big Island) is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
With 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones in one place, there is so much to explore and experience from lush jungles and waterfalls, to dry desert land and beaches, to vast expanses of lava rock.
It’s the size of all the Hawaiian Islands combined or roughly the size of Vermont. Because it is so large, with so much to take in, it can be daunting to find where to stay on the Big Island.
In this post, I’ll share different accommodation options and a unique, curated list of some of my favorite places to stay on the Big Island.
Find what you’re looking for quick:
- Is it better to stay in Kona or Hilo?
- Unique Vacation Rentals on the Big Island
- Big Island Bed & Breakfasts
- Awesome Campsites on the Big Island
- Best Hotels & Resorts on the Big Island
IS KONA OR HILO BETTER?
One of the most common things people wonder is which side of the Big Island is best to stay on? This is a personal preference based on what you enjoy as both Kona and Hilo are beautiful.
Hilo is more historic and feels less touristy than the Kona side. Hilo is where you’ll find lush jungle, beautiful hiking and plenty of waterfalls as they get a lot more rain than Kona side. If you’re looking for a private getaway that feels slow, secluded and sacred – this may be your spot.
Kona is the ‘dry’ side of the island and better known for beaches. We still get rain, especially up on the mountain (up mauka), but you’ll find a more arid landscape on this side of the Big Island.
The main airport is located on Kona side and all up the coast there are different pockets of accommodations, restaurants and beaches near Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa.
OTHER PARTS OF THE ISLAND
Something that a lot of people don’t talk about is staying in off-the-beaten path places to stay on the Big Island. If you want a traditional vacation of staying at a resort, going out to eat, etc. – keep scrolling – but if you enjoy a more unique travel experience you can always look into staying in South Kona, Volcano, Hawi, Waimea or Honoka’a. These areas are more populated with locals but can be a great way to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in life here.
Depending on the length of your stay, you might want to split your stay on both the Kona side (west side) and Hilo (or Volcano) on the east side during your trip. By doing so, you will alleviate a lot of extra driving and still be able to experience both sides of the island.
As I mentioned, there is so much to explore and experience on the Big Island. If you want to read more about things to do on the Big Island, you can read more here.
When staying on the Big Island, for those who are budget conscious, we recommend staying in a small inn or vacation rental. If budget isn’t as much of a concern, there are some incredible options of accommodations available including upscale luxury resorts.
UNIQUE BIG ISLAND AIRBNBS
If you prefer to feel like you’re staying in a home away from home, I wanted to make sure to mention the Airbnb and VRBO accommodations on the island.
There are some spectacular, off the beaten path places to stay on The Big island with high style and lots of character.
These listings and availability can change often but I try to keep this list updated!
Beautifully lived in open-air home walking distance from the sea. Wood rafter ceilings, wing back rattan chairs, curated art, and tropical plants pepper the space with style. You can rent the entire home or the upstairs & downstairs as separate units.
THE KOI HOUSE
If you’re up for shared accommodations, you can stay in this stunning, multiple-unit open air home in your own private room just 10 minutes to the beach and downtown. You will enter this unique home by a stone bridge over the koi pond before enjoying a beautiful pool, ocean views from the lanai, and laid back Hawaii living.
THE OHANA HOUSE
For those that love a little adventure, try this unique, off-grid tiny home at the foot of the world’s most active volcano.
THE BIG ISLAND TREEHOUSE
Dreamy tropical treehouse near Volcano National Park. With a gorgeous airy bedroom and swinging outdoor lounge area, this is a very unique stay in the middle of the Hawaiian forest.
ECO-FRIENDLY TINY HOUSES
Up for trying out tiny living while on vacation? These hosts have three tiny houses and are located above Kona and just below the Kaloko Cloud Forest on three beautiful acres. They offer eco friendly accommodations that are high tech and high style with all the amenities and comforts you need for an awesome getaway vacation. They have a gorgeous community area for bonfires and BBQs. Rent a single home or all three for large gatherings!
Having an email that screams YOU as soon as your ideal client opens it is HUGE and Flodesk makes this very easy.
TINY TROPICAL TREE HOUSE IN VOLCANO RAIN FOREST
If you’re looking to unplug and be out in nature, this tropical home among lush greenery offers the simplicity of off-grid living together with homey comforts. Soak in your own private hot tub while being serenaded by the sweet chirping of Coqui frogs.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING A VACATION RENTAL IN HAWAII:
Choose legal Airbnbs where the owners live in Hawai’i and are paying taxes here. There is a huge problem with housing affordability and availability throughout the islands which is mainly due to neighborhoods being bought out by foreign buyers leaving completely empty neighborhoods and rising housing costs.
If the owner doesn’t live here in Hawai’i and the property is not taxed as a vacation rental, all of the money leaves the state and is pocketed by someone who does not live in or contribute to the community. Do a little research to make sure the owner is legitimate or stay at an eco-friendly hotel instead.
BIG ISLAND BED & BREAKFASTS
Luxury bed and breakfast on a 30 acre coffee estate in the artist village of Holualoa.
A historic ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii offering 4 beautifully restored plantation era cottages.
THE INN AT KULANIAPIA FALLS
The Inn sits on twenty two acres of lush land, surrounding Hawaii’s largest privately accessible waterfall. The Kulaniapia experience is phenomenal, just minutes from town, but completely secluded.
HALE KUKUI ORCHARD + RETREAT
Beautiful bed + breakfast that overlooks Waipio valley, welcoming guests for a retreat or to host events + weddings.
HAWAI’I ISLAND RETREAT
A beautiful, tucked away eco-boutique hotel and wellness spa on the north Kohala coast. You can relax and unwind on 50 acres of sacred land covered in gardens, wild groves, and ancient valley trails. They offer elegant accommodations in harmony with nature.
THE FALLS AT REED’S ISLAND
This stellar retreat is nestled in a rainforest just blocks from downtown Hilo. It’s eye level to one of Hawaii’s most beautiful waterfalls and is flanked by both the Wailuku River and rainforest. Such a special and unique place to stay when visiting!
CAMPSITES ON THE BIG ISLAND
The west and north sides of the island is home to some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches I’ve ever laid eyes on. All different and contrasting.
You can check out this site to see if any of the camping sites are available for your stay!
Many campsites book out in advance and have kind of wonky schedules so keep that in mind. This is opportune for the budget-friendly traveler.
BEST RESORTS ON THE BIG ISLAND
FOUR SEASONS HUALALAI
The ultimate luxury resort in paradise. Luxury price tag but incredible property.
KONA SHERATON AT KEAUHOU BAY
We used to live in Keauhou + LOVE the area. It’s quieter than staying right in the heart of town and there are incredible views from the property!
MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL
Gorgeous oceanfront property residing along the beautiful Kohala Coast where all of the most beautiful, big beaches are located. Luxurious and welcoming with a beautiful golf course!
THE WESTIN HAPUNA HOTEL
Near Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, this upscale resort also overlooks the beach on the Kohala Coast. We frequent the beach here often and love the feel of the resort!
GRAND NANILOA HOTEL IN HILO
This newly renovated property is a great choice if you are staying over in Hilo.
These are, in my humble opinion, some of my favorite places to stay on the Big Island of Hawai’i. I’ve been traveling here for the past decade and living here for the past five years.
I am a beach baby so I tend to stay more on the west side, occasionally venturing to the north or south shores but there truly is something different for each traveler no matter where you venture.
Hawai’i is such a sacred, incredible place and it’s my pleasure to share ways to experience fully, tread lightly and honor the space in which you’re exploring.
Get The Complete Big Island Travel Guide
If you want all of my Big Island recommendations all in one convenient, organized place, you can check out our Big Island Travel Guide! You can easily access it on your smartphone, computer or iPad which is perfect for while you’re out exploring.
The guide includes:
- The best places to eat & sip coffee, grouped by area: Kona, Waikoloa, Waimea, Honoka’a & Hilo
- Our favorite beaches, adventures & places to explore
- More in-depth information on where to stay, ways to be a mindful traveler & experiences not to miss
Filled with over 100 of our all-time favorite island stays, restaurants, cafes, beaches, places to shop & tips for traveling this beautiful, big island – this is the only guide you’ll need to get off the beaten path and ENJOY your time.