By Beth Whitman, on May 22, 2013

The Big Island, solo

The Big Island of Hawai’i is great for couples and families, but it also is an excellent destination for the solo traveler.


Because I know a thing or three about traveling on my own, I thought I’d share some activities that can be enjoyed on Hawai’i Island if you’re flying solo.


Mauna Kea at night

At nearly 13,800 feet, Mauna Kea is the highest point in Hawai’i and one of its most sacred peaks in the state. Its altitude and stable weather also make it one of the best places in the world for observing the stars. In the world.

Viewfinder Tip: The Big Island is big; consider splitting up your trip and staying on two parts of the island to minimize drive time between activities.

It IS possible to visit this mountain on your own (you must have a car that can handle the poor roads – such as a 4WD vehicle – and permission from your rental car company) or you might consider taking a commercial tour to the top. I love joining day tours when I’m traveling on my own because I get to meet people that way.


High elevation will make walking (and even breathing) difficult. And it’s cold up there. Bring plenty of cold weather clothes.


Visit the town of Hilo

This little town on the island’s east coast, is a throwback to old-school Hawai’i. You won’t find super-expensive chain hotels or restaurants, but you will find unique restaurants (try Café Pesto) and coffee shops, and a laid-back lifestyle. Spend some time meandering the streets of downtown, or walk, run, or bike the stretch of promenade that goes from the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel to downtown (about one mile total). I love this stretch of walkway because it’s right next to the ocean.


Be sure to also visit the market (every Wednesday and Saturday) where farmers and craftspeople set up shop for both locals and tourists.

  • Day at the beach on the Kohala Coast

  • Pineapple and shrimp appetizer on Hawai’i Island

  • Cream malasada at Tex Drive-In

  • Coffee beans at Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation

  • Tofu and veggie lunch at Cafe Pesto, Hilo


Kona Coffee Tour

Though there are hundreds of coffee farms of varying sizes on the island, only some give public tours. Try Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation and learn about how they grow and roast their pure Kona coffee.


This particular bean, grown in north and south Kona, is considered one of the best-quality coffees in the world. The beans ain’t cheap, but be sure to buy yourself a small bag to savor at home.



This town on the north shore of the island has everything you’d need in terms of retail outlets, but I go for the food. Village Burger is near and dear to my heart with its unique burgers (including the Waipio Taro Burger), delicious fries and, amazing milkshakes.


Head about 15 miles east of Waimea and you’ll find Tex Drive-In in Honokaa for the best malasadas on the island. Get plain or cream-filled and accept that it’s hard to stop at just one. Think of it this way: Because you’re on your own, no one will ever know!.

The author, at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park


Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Rent a car and take a trip to this national park in the state’s southeast corner. During a half-day visit, you can cover quite a bit of the park. Circle the summit caldera, watch smoke rise from the caldera floor, or take a hike among the many wilderness trails.


If you’re lucky, you might be there when there’s lava flow activity (which, in my opinion, is best viewed at night). I was able to see some from a distance but unfortunately, this isn’t something that can be planned for.


Stand up paddle boarding

If you’re looking for a bit of exercise, take a stand up paddle boarding class at The Fairmont Orchid. The Hui Holokai Beach Club offers two-hour lessons by appointment. I was a bit nervous in trying this out my first time, but the lessons are given in a protected lagoon and you only have to venture out into the ocean if you want to (I did, and ended up loving it!).


What are your favorite activities on Hawai’i, the Big Island?