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Hawaii, often crowded with resorts along shorelines and wealthy vacationing mainlanders, is much more than just its tourist traffic. Honolulu is a bustling city, the islands are the guardians of biodiversity, and the people celebrate a truly unique culture. While an undeniably picturesque and diverse destination, Hawaii can seem like an unachievable spot to explore for backpackers. Sure, some places are going to cater prices to ‘haoles’ (a Hawaiian word usually referring to mainlanders and/or foreigners to the island) but depending on the island and the work any traveler is willing to put in, affordable hostels, experiences, and meals can be found. A favorite island to give the backpacking life a shot is Hawaii, also known as The Big Island.

By Michael Warwick

The Big Island has recently experienced a two-month-long crisis. Hawaii’s largest volcano, Kilauea, one of the most active in the world, opened a fissure in the earth and was spewing lava since May 2018. However, the eruption has now paused and the park is open — at least partially — as there is no molten lava. More info can be found on the park website and via the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website. Below is a list of a few must-do things on Hawaii that are waiting to say ‘Aloha’ to backpackers.

By Kuznetcov_Konstantin

Places to Stay

Hawaii, just like the majority of the other islands in the state, isn’t exempt from large resorts. And hey, the all-inclusive luau and private beach isn’t a bad way to vacation, but for those craving a little more adventure check out these spots.

Pineapple Park Kona

Complete with an upstairs deck overlooking the Pacific, Pineapple Park is an affordable option going for as little as $40 per night.

By Hostelworld

Holualoa Hostel

Located on the island’s west coast, Holualoa is in the heart of Kona coffee country.

By Airbnb

The Big Island Boutique Hostel

Northeast of famed state parks and wildlife refuges, The Big Island Boutique Hostel is a cozy accommodation for a great price.

By Hostelworld

Hilo Bay Hostel

Located in a historic building in downtown Hilo, Hilo Bay is a charming accommodation with easy access to beaches.


Things to Do

Camp in Waimanu Valley

This camping area on the far north coast offers some of the best hiking in the state. While the hike in is difficult, campers are rewarded with a rarely visited beach and a lush stretch of tropical land. A traditional camping permit is not required but visitors will need to make a reservation in advance.

By Mavrick

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

While currently inaccessible, as mentioned before, a trip to The Big Island would be incomplete without paying respects to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, wind, and volcanoes. The park is truly one of the most diverse National Parks in the world as large lava plains lead to tropical rainforests.

By George Burba

Mauna Kea

Standing at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, Hawaii’s tallest peak takes visitors by surprise as few expect to see a promontory standing so high above a Hawaiian island. On the right day, it may even be snow-capped. When measured from the sea floor, Mauna Kea is 33,000 feet tall making it the tallest mountain on earth. Stay after dark, as the area is renowned as potentially the greatest place on Earth to see stars and the Milky Way.

By Sundry Photography

Have a Taste

Loco Moco

While there are healthier and more colorful options, like poke or shaved ice, to eat like a local, visitors must try a loco moco. A hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and a thick, smile-inducing, and artery-clogging, brown gravy, and served with white rice, the loco moco is a delicious culmination of Hawaiian cuisine.

By Leigh Anne Meeks

Kona Brewing Company

Hawaii’s most famous beer, Kona Brewing has their headquarters in Kona and welcomes guests for tours and tastings. With plenty of beer to go around and grub on hand, it’s a great spot to kick back and enjoy their huge backyard.

By LunaseeStudios

Getting Around

Kona and Hilo Airports both cater to commercial flights, although Kona more so, and while they are pretty convenient for their namesake towns, visitors must keep in mind The Big Island is, believe it or not, big. The Big Island is twice the size of all other Hawaiian islands combined, so when planning a trip, it’s a good idea to keep transportation in mind. There is public transport in the form of buses but in the name of convenience and exploration, renting a car is probably the best option for backpackers. Hawaii Car Rental is a straightforward and hassle-free option when it comes to reserving a car in Hawaii. They have over 30 years in the business, have tons of helpful information on potential activities, and rent out everything from fuel efficient cars to off-roading jeeps and SUV’s.

By Victor Wong
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