Big Island Accommodations overview: Where should you stay? (2023)

It’s common to think of accommodation as “just a place to lay your head.” As long as you’re in beautiful Hawaii, what could possibly go wrong? But you will spend almost half of your time on the island at your chosen place of accommodation, meaning that this choice will be crucial in ensuring a pleasant and relaxing holiday.

In this article we outline the pros and cons of all your options, and help you choose the best accommodations for your group.

Table of contents

  1. Accommodations summary
  2. Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals: which one is better?
    • Cost
    • Size
    • Privacy
    • Dining
    • Cleaning
    • COVID-19 (new sanitation protocols and how to best minimize contact with other guests / hosts)
  3. Extra luxury: resorts
  4. Accommodations FAQ
Table of Contents
  1. Accommodations summary
  2. Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals: which one is better?
    • Cost
    • Size
    • Privacy
    • Dining
    • Cleaning
    • COVID-19 (new sanitation protocols and how to best minimize contact with other guests / hosts)
  3. Extra luxury: resorts
  4. Accommodations FAQ

Accommodation summary:

The two most popular options for spending the night in Hawaiʻi are hotels and vacation rentals. There is also the middle-of-the-road option of spending time at a bed and breakfast, though these are slightly less common on the island, and tend to be more pricey. If you are looking for accommodation options in a specific area of the Big Island, you can jump through to the following pages:

(Video) Where to Stay on Hawaii (Big Island) | the best resorts, hotels, & areas to stay for Hawaii

  • Accommodation in Hilo
  • Accommodation in Kona
  • Accommodation in Volcano Village
  • Accommodation in Waimea

Editor note: on the Big Island, apartments, condominiums and homes are eligible to be operated as vacation rentals if they are located in areas zoned for such use or they have obtained the required authorization(s) from the State & County of Hawaii. We recommended that you confirm with the owner or manager that the property is operating in compliance with all applicable laws before booking.

Accommodation options on the other islands

We also have published accommodation overviews for our neighboring islands in which we shortly describe all regions of the islands and give recommendations for where to stay for families, beach-goers, backpackers, luxury seekers, etc. Interested? Check out our following guides:

Comparison between hotels and vacation rentals in Hawaii

We compare the benefits of staying in a hotel versus staying in a vacation rental based on the following points:

  1. Cost
  2. Size
  3. Privacy
  4. Dining
  5. Cleaning
  6. Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Cost: which one is better value?

Renting a vacation rental or a hotel room for two people will cost you anywhere between $100 and $300 per night. For the same price, vacation rentals offer much more space and practical comforts such as a kitchen, laundry facilities, private lounging areas, etc. If you are with a larger group, especially, you’ll really start to notice how much further your money goes when staying at a vacation rental.

Most vacation rentals are fully self-catered, potentially saving you hundred of dollars in food costs during your stay, and another perk of choosing a short-term rental is the lack of hidden costs you will find at a resort. Parking fees, internet fees, destination fees- what does that even mean?

(Video) Where to Stay on the Big Island Hawai'i 2023 (Big Island Resorts and Hotels)

Size: where do you get more space?

Vacation rentals are several times larger than hotel rooms, offering much more self-sufficiency and privacy. However, most hotels feature on-site entertainment, a pool, bar, gift shops and several other areas to socialize. Then again, many vacation rentals will also include a full kitchen, entertainment areas, a garden or other outdoor space, and sometimes even a private hot-tub! The choice comes down to how much space you need or want and how you plan to use it.

Privacy: which one is more private?

Naturally, vacation rentals offer far more privacy. You won’t have to listen to your neighbors through the thin walls of your room and, especially in the more rural areas, it’s common for vacation rentals to feature a private garden or outdoor dining space for you to enjoy exclusively.

Dining: what are your dinner options?

Hotels often offer the convenience of a buffet for breakfast and a restaurant for dinner, whereas vacation rentals are equipped with their own facilities to store and prepare your food. You also have the luxury of ordering take-out to have a romantic dinner in the garden, the choice of enjoying breakfast in your bathrobe, or plundering your fridge for a midnight snack.

Leftover malasadas anyone?

Cleaning: who cleans your place and what does it cost?

In a hotel you can leave your room in a state of utter chaos, and return to a beautifully cleaned space every day of your stay. Most vacation rentals, on the other hand, do not offer the luxury of a daily in-house cleaning service. Hotels also don’t charge a cleaning fee to prepare your room for the next occupant after your stay, though these costs are certainly worked in as other items on your final bill.

(Video) 21 Things to Do Around the Big Island, Hawaii | Two residents share their favorite things to do

In contrast, vacation rentals often do charge a cleaning fee to clean and prepare the house for each stay, and this fee generally runs between $50 to $100, depending on the size of the rental and (sometimes) the number in your party. In most vacation rentals on the island, this fee includes the cost of fresh linens and towels, paper products, simply toiletries and sometimes complimentary items such as coffee, tea, or fresh fruit.

Social distancing: how to best minimize your contacts with other people (Coronavirus // COVID-19)

Both hotels and short term vacation rentals are redesigning their cleaning and sanitation protocols to make sure their visitors will be able to stay in a safe and clean space. This will most likely lead to a (slightly?) higher cleaning fee for vacation rentals, while hotels might choose to absorb the extra costs in their nightly rates or resort fees.

Vacation rentals have the BIG advantage of letting visitors control their environment better than other vacation options such as hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and resorts. Guests can bring in groceries and supplies and then just prepare their own meals and have a self-contained experience. You also have your own space and bare able to crowded spaces such as the hotel lobby and/or restaurant.

Self check-in procedures at most vacation rentals further minimize contact with staff offering a safer and more self-sustained experience.

Resorts in Hawaii

Staying in a resort is the most luxurious accommodation option on the Big Island and takes almost all the chores of planning your vacation out of your hands. We recommend staying in a resort if you want an ultimately relaxing vacation and don’t mind paying the premium for it.

(Video) Top 10 Best Hotels and Resorts in Big Island, Hawaii

Find out more about resorts on the Kona coast.

Bed and Breakfasts in Hawaii

Bed & Breakfasts are a wonderful way to get to know the island. With a more intimate setting, yet many of the same perks of a resort or hotel, they also offer some of the advantages of vacation rentals, such as atmosphere and the feeling of being a local. Breakfasts included in the price are also very convenient.

Most, however, still lack the larger spaces and privacy of vacation rental options. Though if a more tailored, romantic experience is what you are seeking, they may be the perfect option for you. See the following sections of out website for B&Bs on the Big Island:

Frequently Asked Questions about Accommodations:

This FAQ answers some of the most often asked questions about finding accommodation on the Big Island:

The average daily rate for hotel rooms on the Big Island was $267 in 2019 (source). For the other Hawaiian islands this was $399 (Maui), $241 (O‘ahu), and $283 (Kaua‘i). The cost of accommodations varies mostly based on the type of property, hostels being the cheapest and luxury resorts the most expensive. Vacation rentals (our favorite option!) are available over the whole price range.

(Video) 11 Things to do Big Island Hawai'i | Where to Stay + What to Expect in 2023


Where do most people stay on the Big Island? ›

At all budget levels, probably 90% of accommodations on the Big Island are on the Kona side. The town of Kona is mostly older hotels and condos and a lot of vacation rentals while the nicer (and bigger/more spread out resorts and condo complexes) stretch along the coast north of Kona in areas like Waikoloa and Kohala.

Where is the best home base on the Big Island? ›

The four best places to use as home base for your Big Island adventures are: Hilo (the capital), Kailua Kona (outdoors!), Waimea (beaches and valleys) and Volcano Village (Jungle and volcanoes).

What area of Kona should I stay in? ›

We suggest splitting your stay between Kailua-Kona on the west side and Hilo (or Volcano) on the east side during your trip. This will ease a lot of extra driving and allow you to experience both sides of the island.

Is it better to stay in Kona or Hilo? ›

Kona offers better weather, the best beaches and snorkeling, newer resorts, more vacation rentals, and more nightlife compared to Hilo Town. Hilo is worth a visit but may not be worth staying for more than a night.

What is the prettiest part of the Big Island? ›

Kailua Bay is among the prettiest places on the leeward side of Big Island, from where you can catch charming sunsets. This small bay in the Kailua-Kona area has only tiny stretches of golden sand with most of its coastline covered in dark lava rocks giving it an exotic, photogenic appeal.

Which side of the Big Island has better beaches? ›

The most popular area to stay is the Kohala Coast. This area is home to the nicest resorts, the most beautiful weather and the best beaches.

Should I stay on both sides of the Big Island? ›

Aside from the cultural differences between the two major cities, Kailua-Kona and Hilo, both sides of the island have their own must see attractions for a memorable vacation and you won't have the full experience unless you venture to both. Kona Has the Beaches. Hilo Has the Waterfalls.

What is the best beach for body boarding on the Big Island? ›

Hapuna Beach, the largest sandy beach on the Big Island, is one of Hawaii's best boogie boarding and body surfing beaches.

What is the nicest area of Kona? ›

Kailua Bay is the best neighborhood in Kona close to everything simply because it's on the beach. After all, why would you travel to Hawaii at all if you didn't want to enjoy the famous coastlines and water adventures!

How many days should I spend in Kona? ›

At least five days. As the largest Hawaiian island, you'll definitely want time for beaches and snorkeling on the Kona side and waterfalls and rain forest on the Hilo side with a stop at Volcanos National Park.

How long does it take to drive around the entire island of Kona? ›

What to make a road trip part of your Big Island vacation? Driving around the island takes about six hours – and that's without stopping or running into any traffic. If you're looking to break up your trip a bit, try taking a self-guided tour like the one Action Tour Guide offers.

Is it cheaper to stay in Maui or Big Island? ›

The Big Island is the third most visited in Hawaii and offers accommodation for all budgets. It tends to be cheaper than Maui and it has two very different sides: Kona (west side) and Hilo (east side). In Kona there are many resorts and hotels with prices usually a bit higher than in Hilo.

Is it worth driving from Kona to Hilo? ›

Trust us, taking the long way to Hilo via Hawaii Belt Road and Mamalahoa Highway is worth the drive. It's pretty hard to have a proper road trip in Hawaii. Driving from Oahu's central city of Honolulu to the North Shore, for example, takes less than an hour (without traffic).

Is it safe to drive from Hilo to Kona? ›

If it's during daylight that you'll be driving to Kona, I'd recommend the northern route. You'll pass through many small, lush valleys ("gulches") with waterfalls, as well as having some lovely ocean views. Others would say that if it's night, you should drive this route, too, because it's the safest.

How many days in Big Island is enough? ›

If you really want to enjoy even a fraction of what the Big Island has to offer, you should plan on staying at least 7 days. However, we understand that reality often does not allow such a lengthy stay in Hawaii.

What month is best for Big Island? ›

The best times to visit the Big Island of Hawaii, taking into consideration the weather, how crowded, or not, the island is, and demand for accommodations are the month(s) of April, May, August, September, and October. Some call these Hawaii Island's 'off-season periods' or the 'shoulder months.

How many days are ideal on Big Island? ›

Ideally, you should plan to spend at least a week on the Big Island to give you plenty of time to visit some of the major spots while also building time into your schedule to relax. Depending on the pace of your vacation and how much you want to see and do, you might want to consider adding more time (if possible!).

What is the #1 thing to do Big Island Hawaii? ›

#1 Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This is easily the #1 MUST DO on the Big Island, and it brings a lot of visitors to the island. Nature enthusiasts, National Park junkies, volcano lovers, etc.

Is Maui prettier than Big Island? ›

There's no contest here. Maui's shores have some of the best beaches in the entire state, and the Big Island's young, rocky, volcanic shores offer very little in the way of soft white sand. If it's the beaches you crave, Maui is the clear choice.

What is safest town on Big Island Hawaii? ›

Kalaoa is definitely one of the safest cities in Hawaii located on the Big Island. This one is loved by tourists, and it is the center of activity in the eastern part of the island. Dozens of beaches can be found on the city's coast, as well as an international airport, probably the main reason the city is so popular.

Where is the bluest water in Big Island Hawaii? ›

The 8 Beaches On This One Coastline Have The Absolute Bluest Water In Hawaii
  • Kalama Beach. Beautifulcataya/Flickr. ...
  • Kailua Beach. M.Ezzeddine/Flickr. ...
  • Lanikai Beach. Ollie O/TripAdvisor. ...
  • Bellows Field Beach Park. プロックスマテリアル株式会社/Google Local. ...
  • Sherwoods Beach. Richard/TripAdvisor. ...
  • Waimanalo Beach. ...
  • Kaupo Beach. ...
  • Makapu'u Beach.
Jul 18, 2022

Are beaches in Kona swimmable? ›

Located on Kua Bay in Kona, Maniniʻōwali Beach is sometimes called “The Caribbean of Hawaiʻi,” thanks in part to its fine white-sand beaches that gently slope toward the crystal-clear water. The crescent-shaped beach is one of the best places for swimming when the water is calm, usually during the morning hours.

Which side of the Big Island is rainy? ›

The windward/east side of the island (Hilo) receives by far the most rain. As you can see on the map below, Hilo gets between 10 and 40 times as much rain as the driest parts of the Big Island.

How easy is it to get around the Big Island without a car? ›

The public (Hele-on) bus service is an alternative if you have plenty of time and want to avoid renting a car. The cheapest way to get around the Big Island after walking yourself is the public bus (Hele-on-Bus). This bus will get you to most places on the island, but transit times are long and connections infrequent.

Do you need a 4 by 4 on the Big Island? ›

A 4WD vehicle is a must for this Big Island adventure! 4WD is the only way you'll be able to access all the best “off the grid” spots. Besides taking a day for Hawaii Volcanoes National park or a few in Kona/Kohala, here are some of our other favorite places to go, with Volcano Village as your home base…

Which side of the Big Island has the best weather? ›


The driest and sunniest area of the Island is found on the Kohala Coast. Home to the Kohala Resort Area, the sunny Kohala Coast gets an average of just 10 inches of rainfall per year, making it the most popular part of the Island for vacationers!

What is the least crowded beach on the Big Island? ›

Waipio Valley Beach, Big Island

Of all the beaches on the Big Island, the unspoiled crescent of black sand at the base of Waipio Valley is easily the most secluded: It's sheltered by 2,000-foot cliffs, and it's a grueling three-mile hike down.

What is the dress code for Big Island? ›

Hawaii is casual period. Shorts, nice shirt and sandals or flip flops are welcome everywhere I have been.

What is the calmest beach on the Big Island? ›

Hapuna State Beach

The Big Island's most popular beach is located on the Kohala Coast on the northwestern shore of the island. This half-mile stretch of white sand is loved by many for its calm swimming conditions that are perfect for families with younger kids, as well as great for bodyboarding and snorkeling.

What is the difference between Kailua-Kona and Kona? ›

Kailua-Kona is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Hawaii County, Hawaii, United States. It is also known as Kailua (a name it shares with a community located on the windward side of Oʻahu), as Kona (a name it shares with the district to which it belongs) and as Kona Town.

Is Kona walkable? ›

Kona is a walkable seaside village, so allocate the early hours to exploring every inch of the town on foot. There's plenty of shopping opportunities, an excellent farmer's market and key attractions such as Mokuʻaikaua Church, the oldest Christian church in the Hawaiian Islands.

What is the best month to go to Kona? ›

The best time to visit Hawaii is between March and September. This is when the islands see the highest temperatures and the lowest amount of rain. It's the perfect time to enjoy the beach or the water.

Do you need a car when visiting Kona? ›

Kona Town can be explored from My Hawaii Hostel without a car. We are located about 3 miles from town center, and nearby by several beautiful beaches. Many people enjoy walking along scenic Ali'i Drive which hugs the coast. We rent bikes for $5 per day.

What month has the best weather in Kona? ›

Monthly average Kailua-Kona weather: temperature, rainfall and cloud cover. Average temperatures in Kailua-Kona are between 70°F and 80°F (21 and 27°c). August is the warmest month, and January the coolest. However, and especially for those visitors from the US mainland, temperatures here are always pleasant.

How far is the drive from Kona to the volcano? ›

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is located on the island of Hawai'i. From Kailua-Kona: 95 miles southeast on Highway 11 (2 to 2.5 hour drive), or 125 miles through Waimea and Hilo via highways 19 and 11 (2.5 to 3 hours).

Is Hilo worth a visit? ›

Hilo is not your typical tourist town but very easy to fall in love with. It is rainy and charming, tropical and laid back. People are friendly, and time here seems to run just a bit slower than on the Kona side of the island. Hilo is our favorite city on the Big Island.

Is driving in Big Island difficult? ›

Narrow and winding roads is one of the biggest dangers of driving on the Big Island. Narrow and winding roads can actually be found throughout the state. These roads can be challenging to navigate, particularly for those who are not use to driving on roads with sharp turns and steep inclines.

What is the most populated city on the Big Island? ›

1 Hilo — The largest city of the Big Island.

Why are there so few people on Big Island? ›

Because the big island was the most recently formed, it is the only island in which their are still active volcanoes, thus why this Hawaiian island is less populated than some of the smaller islands.

What are the major towns on the Big Island? ›

10 Best Hawaii Big Island Towns and Resorts
  • Kailua-Kona.
  • Hilo Town.
  • Waikoloa.
  • Puako and Kawaihae, South Kohala.
  • Volcano.
  • Hamakua Coast.
  • Puna.
  • Kapaau.

Does anyone famous live on the Big Island? ›

Surfer and musician Jack Johnson was born on Oahu and still lives there today. It is easy to imagine how his laid-back sounds have been shaped by his island home. Comedienne Roseanne Barr purchased a macadamia farm on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Why is the Big Island so expensive? ›

There are many other factors that affect the cost of living in Hawaii. But these three issues — high taxes, excessive land-use and zoning regulations, and the federal Jones Act — are some of the most important in explaining why Hawaii's cost of living is so high.

What is the richest neighborhood on the Big Island? ›

Carved into the lava of the Big Island's Kona coast, Kukio is Hawaii's most exclusive neighborhood.

Does the Big Island have a homeless problem? ›

With a rate of 44.9 homeless people per 10,000 people, Hawaii now has the second highest per capita rate of homelessness. New York leads the nation.

What are issues on the Big Island? ›

Hawaii faces a number of pressing problems in the near future, including a rapidly changing climate, corrupt government reputation, poor business climate, along with homelessness, drug use, and poverty. When polling residents, they said the worst issues the Big Island faced were homelessness, drugs and traffic.

Why is the Big Island so cheap? ›

The cost of living is the lowest on Big Island – around 25 % lower than the Hawaiian average. Big Island is relatively affordable due to its large size, lack of infrastructure, and the risks posed by volcanic activity.

What time of year is best for Big Island? ›

The best times to visit the Big Island of Hawaii, taking into consideration the weather, how crowded, or not, the island is, and demand for accommodations are the month(s) of April, May, August, September, and October. Some call these Hawaii Island's 'off-season periods' or the 'shoulder months.

What is the best town to stay on the Big Island? ›

The two best areas to stay on the Big Island are near Kailua-Kona or Waikoloa. We have discussed why the Kona side (west side) is by far the best place to stay on the Big Island, and these two areas provide the most options for accommodation, stores, and restaurants, and are within the closest proximity to beaches.

How long does it take to drive around the Big Island? ›

What to make a road trip part of your Big Island vacation? Driving around the island takes about six hours – and that's without stopping or running into any traffic. If you're looking to break up your trip a bit, try taking a self-guided tour like the one Action Tour Guide offers.


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