Where to stay in the Big Island first time: 4 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in the Big Island of Hawaii as a first-timer can be a headache. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in the Big Island for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in the Big Island for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map. I’ll also share where I stayed in the Big Island and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is officially known as the Island of Hawaii. It is known for its diverse geography, featuring active volcanoes, lava fields, lush rainforests, waterfalls, and beautiful beaches.

The island is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, making it one of the most studied volcanoes on Earth.

Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. Its summit is often snow-capped during the winter months.

The Big Island has two main cities: Hilo, located on the eastern side, and Kailua-Kona, located on the western side. The west side tends to be drier, the east side tends to receive more rain, and the east side doesn’t have as many upscale resorts as the west side.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park showcases the volcanic landscapes and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park preserves a site of great significance in Hawaiian history.

The Big Island has 11 out of the 13 global climate zones, spanning from lush tropical rainforests to dry arid deserts. This variety creates opportunities for a diverse array of outdoor activities and experiences.

The Big Island is also known for its agriculture, including coffee farms in the Kona region, macadamia nut orchards, and tropical fruit plantations.

The most common way to reach the Big Island is by flying into Hilo International Airport or Kona International Airport. These airports offer both domestic and international flights. 

Is the Big Island of Hawaii safe to visit?

Yes, The Big Island, like most of Hawaii, is generally safe to visit. Factors like natural disasters (volcanic activity, earthquakes, hurricanes) or localized incidents are common problems. So, stay informed about weather forecasts, follow any warnings issued by local authorities, and be prepared for emergencies.

There is also the risk of pickpocketing and rental car break-ins, so it is essential to take care of your belongings, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid leaving valuables visible inside your vehicle.

If you go hiking, stick to well-known trails and popular hiking spots during daylight hours. When swimming, pay attention to lifeguard warnings and signage at the beaches. Some beaches may have strong currents, powerful waves, or dangerous shore breaks. 

Where to stay on the Big Island for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in the Big Island for first-timers and tourists are Kailua-Kona, Hilo, Waikoloa, and Volcano. Remember that crime rates on the Big Island are relatively low compared to many mainland U.S. cities, but it’s always wise to take standard safety precautions. 

Kailua-Kona is a popular destination on the west side of the island with a lively atmosphere. It has a range of shops, restaurants, and attractions. It’s a good base for water activities like snorkeling and diving. You’ll also find historical sites like Hulihe’e Palace.

Hilo is on the east side and is known for its lush landscapes and rainforests. It’s close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is home to Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. Hilo also has botanical gardens, waterfalls, and a more laid-back atmosphere.

Waikoloa is on the west side and offers a more resort-oriented experience. It has beautiful beaches, golf courses, and upscale accommodations. The area is known for its luxury resorts and proximity to the Kohala Coast’s beautiful coastline.

If you’re interested in exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park extensively, staying near Volcano Village is convenient. You can experience the unique landscape of the park, including active volcanic areas.

During my trip to the Big Island, I stayed at the beautiful Fairmont Orchid. It is conveniently located in the beachfront area in Waikoloa, on the Kohala Coast, 40 mins drive from Kailua-Kona. The private beach was very nice with clean and clear water.  Room was spacious  with a nice sea view and felt luxurious .

Below is a map of the popular areas in the Big Island for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in the Big Island first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in the Big Island first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in the Big Island, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in the Big Island have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in the Big Island for first-timers and tourists:

1. Kailua-Kona

Kailua-Kona is one of the most popular areas to stay on the Big Island for first-time visitors. Kailua-Kona is a bustling town with shops, restaurants, and historical sites. It’s a great base for exploring the Kona coast, snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay, and experiencing the lively atmosphere of Ali’i Drive.

Some other popular points of interest in this area include the daily Kona Farmers Market, Kailua Pier, Hulihee Palace (a former royal vacation home), Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Magic Sands Beach Park, Kahaluu Beach Park, and Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.

The west coast of the Big Island is known for stunning sunsets, and Kailua-Kona provides a great vantage point to enjoy these breathtaking views over the ocean.

The west side is also known for its clear waters, making it an excellent location for water activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing. There are also opportunities for manta ray night dives.

Best places to stay in Big Island in Kailua-Kona for first-timers:

Luxury ($$$): Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, 5-star good value for money hotel located on the Kona-Kohala coast of Hawaii Island, featuring an onsite Jack Nicklaus signature Hualalai Golf Course, modern guest rooms, a saltwater pool, and fitness amenities. 

Mid-range ($$): Aston Kona By The Sea, 4-star beachfront hotel in Kailua-Kona, a short drive away from Kaloko-Honokohau Historical Park, Kona Coast Shopping Center and the Kona Country & Golf Club . The hotel has a private beach, an oceanfront pool, barbecue facilities, free parking, and accommodations with a well-equipped kitchen.

Budget ($): Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort, 3-star hotel, great base in Kailua-Kona for a group of friends and family, offering two-bedroom apartments that can accommodate up to 6 people. The resort has two outdoor pools with a children’s pool, a picnic area, laundry services, and fitness facilities.

Budget ($): Kona Coast Resort, 3-star accommodation located on Alii Drive, Kona Coast, close to Kahaluu Beach and Kona Country Club golf course. It offers villas with a fully-equipped kitchen, multiple pools, hot tubs, and free parking. Great base, easy to get to the airport, and other parts of the island.

Budget ($): Kona Magic Honu Room, good value for money beachfront homestay in a great location,  right across from Magic beach park. It has free private parking, a pool, on-site bar, and a garden with barbecue facilities.


2. Hilo

Hilo is one of the best places to stay in the Big Island for first-time visitors.  It’s an excellent base for exploring the eastern part of the island, including the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is easily accessible from Hilo Airport, and has more affordable accommodations compared to the Kona Coast.

Just a short drive from downtown Hilo, Rainbow Falls is a scenic waterfall with lush surroundings. The falls are easily accessible, and you can often see rainbows in the mist, especially during sunny mornings.

About a 30-minute drive north of Hilo, you can visit Akaka Falls State Park, which is home to two beautiful Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls. A short loop trail takes you through lush tropical vegetation with breathtaking views of the falls.

You can experience the local culture and taste Hawaiian specialties at the daily Hilo Farmers Market. It is a vibrant marketplace featuring fresh produce, local crafts, flowers, and food vendors.

Liliuokalani Japanese-style garden is located along Hilo Bay and is named after Queen Liliuokalani. It’s a peaceful place to stroll, featuring ponds, bridges, pagodas, and traditional Japanese landscaping.

Hilo has a history of being affected by tsunamis, and the Pacific Tsunami Museum provides insight into the devastating events that have occurred. 

Other local points of interest include the Imiloa Astronomy Center, Wailoa River State Recreation Area, Mokupapapa Discovery Center for Northwestern Hawaii, and family-friendly  Richardson’s Beach Park.

Best places to stay in the Big Island in Hilo for first-timers:

Mid-range ($$): SCP Hilo Hotel, 4-star hotel in Hilo, short distance from  Rainbow/ Akaka Falls, Hilo airport, and Hawaii National Volcanoes Park. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, complimentary bicycles, and a fitness center. . Close to so many good restaurants.

Mid-range ($$): Hilo Bay Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast, great 3-star accommodation that offers free airport shuttle services, Exceptional breakfast, and free parking. Close to numerous attractions like The Pacific Tsunami Museum and Mauna Loa Observatory.

Mid-range ($$): Hawaiian Ohana Home, good value for money accommodation, conveniently located on  Haihai Street, Hilo. It is a short drive from Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and University of Hawaii. They have lots of parking space, and a kitchen is a good place if you want to make your own meal.

Budget ($): Old Hawaiian Bed and Breakfast, 3-star good value for money guest house in a great location, close to rainbow fall, Boiling Pots and Mauna Kea. They have lovely grounds with a large backyard with jackfruit trees.

Hostel ($): The Big Island Hostel, great backpacker accommodation located in the Hilo side of the Big Island, close to Coconut Island Beach and Reeds Bay Beach. It has a tour desk,  a garden, and a shared lounge. Nearby you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, snorkeling and cycling.


3. Waikoloa

Waikoloa is an excellent destination for those seeking a luxurious experience. It is a resort area located on the Kohala Coast on the west side of the Big Island and is known for its luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches, and world-class golf courses. 

Best places to stay in the Big Island in Waikoloa:

Luxury ($$$): Fairmont Orchid, 5-star oceanfront hotel in an amazing location in Waikoloa on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. The resort has a white sandy beach  with a lot of different types of fishes and turtles around. It also featured landscaped gardens, waterfalls, lots of restaurants and bars.

Luxury ($$$): Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, 5-star beachfront hotel with a private beach, located on Mauna Lani Drive,  on the Kohala Coast, 40 mins drive from Kailua-Kona. You can enjoy  amazing sunset views from the restaurant’s canoe house.

Mid-range ($$): Hilton Grand Vacations Club Kohala Suites Waikoloa, 3-star hotel on Waikoloa Beach Drive, adjacent to championship golf course, 15 mins drive from Waikoloa Village. It has family rooms, a children’s playground, and free parking.

Budget ($): Paniolo Greens Resort, great 3-star accommodation on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, very close to Hapuna Beach Park. It has fully furnished villas, a pool, a fitness center, and recreational activities, like Hula lessons and lei making.


4. Volcano

Volcano Village is a great base if you want to be near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This area provides a unique opportunity to explore the park at different times of the day, including evenings when the lava glow is visible.

Best places to stay in the Big Island in Volcano:

Budget ($): Kilauea House, 3-star good value for money bed and breakfast, located on Painiu Loop, Volcano, offering free private parking, luggage storage, and rooms with a fully equipped kitchenette. An excellent location for visiting the Volcanoes National Park.

Budget ($): Alii Kane Cottages with Loft, 4-star good value for money self-catering accommodation on Alii Kane Street, 15 mins drive by car from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You will have a comfortable bed and nice kitchen area with a fridge and various amenities. 

Mid-range ($$): Aloha Junction Guest House, great B&B located on Olapalapa Road, 5 mins from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Rooms are spacious and bright, and are equipped with beautiful furniture. It is a home away from home getaway into the jungle.


In conclusion, Kailua-Kona, Hilo, Waikoloa, and Volcano are the best places to stay on the Big Island for first-timers and tourists. These are safe and popular destinations on the Big Island for visitors to book their accommodations and explore the island.

You can continue reading about Hawaii in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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