Travel Like a Local: The Big Island

Hoku’s Insider Guide to Hawaii

We strive to inspire our guests every day—to travel deeper, to seek the extraordinary, and to discover new, singular, and meaningful experiences. We want our travelers to connect with our destinations on every level, from cultural traditions and adventures to local food and hidden gems.

We asked our Big Island resident curator, Hoku, to share insider insights on how to explore the island like a local. From Kona’s best sunset viewpoints to Hawaiian lifestyle tips, you’ll feel less like a tourist and more like a seasoned island expert on your next trip to Hawaii.

MEET HOKU
Raised by traveling Polynesian entertainers, Hoku Lai was born and raised on Hawaii. She’s been practicing authentic hula dancing since the age of three and loves exploring the Hawaiian islands, cooking, and creating lasting memories for our Cuvée guests!

Off the Beaten Path Sights

One of my favorite views is at Green Sand Beach near the southern tip of the island. It’s about a 2.5-mile hike to get to, but the beach is incredible once you see the green crystals covering the cove of Mauna Loa.

Waipio Valley was known as the home to old Hawaiian kings and it’s a must-see. You need a 4WD or it’s a steep hike to get down into the valley, but once you’re there you can wander through paths lined with banana trees to cascading waterfalls, then head towards the ocean and you’ll find the black sand beach.


Hideaway Beaches

Makalawena Beach is part of the Kakaha Kai State Park that you can drive or hike to, since it’s not as easily accessible, there’s no crowds and you can enjoy the powder white sand to yourself!

It’s a trek to get to Pueo Bay Beach, but it’s definitely worth it. The black sands are beautiful with only a single palm tree standing on the beach, if you keep walking the trail you can see golden algae pools and ancient ruins.

Unforgettable Sunsets

Sunsets on Mauna Kea Summit are truly special. When you get to the top, you’re practically above the clouds looking at the sun dip below with the surface bursting with color.

 Mahai’ula Beach is a large crescent shape with calm water that’s rarely crowded. I like to bring an evening picnic setup and enjoy the secluded beach! I also like Kua Bay for sunsets because there’s unobstructed views and sometimes you can spot turtles or dolphins moving along the coast.


Scenic Hiking Trails

Hiking around Pololu Valley is filled with scenic views, here you can see stunning sea cliffs above the shoreline and even humpback whales in the winter months. You can also hike down to the black sand beach and roam the Kohala Ditch that flows through the valley.

 The Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay is another favorite because once you pass the lava fields and arrive at the monument, you’re surrounded by turquoise water. It’s one of the best spots on the island to snorkel around!

The Best Cocktails and Mai Tai

At the Four Seasons Hualalai, Beach Tree Bar has delicious tropical drinks to enjoy oceanside, but the best local Mai Tais are created by yours truly, Hoku!

 Lava Lava Beach Club has a very laidback atmosphere serving island-style cocktails, my friends and I like to relax in the beach lounge chairs with our feet in the sand.

 A Kona staple, Huggo’s has been around for 50 years. Their “Classic Mai Tai” is made from scratch with plenty of fresh cocktails on their drink list, every weekend they have live music so get there before 7:30 to grab a good seat overlooking the water!


Local Food Favorites

Our fish is incredibly fresh here, coming straight off the boats and directly into the stores or restaurants. Since I love seafood, I recommend trying different types of Poke from local markets in Kona.

Poi and LauLau are two native dishes to Hawaii, both use plants harvested on the island to create these traditional plates. You can’t leave the Big Island without trying them!

 

Hoku’s Top Island Activities

Having grown up on the island, I practice the traditional Hula which I love teaching our guests during their stays! Being out on the water is like second nature to me; I like to fish along the coast, throw net, or snorkel along the reef. I spend a lot of time outside horseback riding with my friends and family or hiking trails through forest. I try to explore different areas of the island to find the best views!


Where to Buy Authentic Hawaiian Mementos

Authentic gifts from Hawaii can be bought along Alii Drive in Kailua Kona or the Kings & Queen shops in Waikoloa. Hilo’s Farmer’s Market has many local products but only open Wednesdays and Saturdays.

I recommend taking home some delicious Kona coffee or island macadamia nuts. If you’re looking for handcrafted mementos choose ukuleles or various wood carvings but ask shop where they were made!


Aloha, Hawaii

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