Hawaii’s largest island is big on inspiration. Putting the power of nature on display, it’s the perfect backdrop and place to celebrate the power of love in your life. The warm weather and warm people draw millions, but the alluring landscapes of The Big Island also allow for a memorable, intimate, and relaxing getaway.
During our trip, one local emphasized that The Big Island has “big” in the name for a reason. Every other Hawaiian island could fit within the Big Island. We were awed by the scale of the island and the many things to do on land and in the sea. Here’s a short list of some of the best things to do in Hawaii on a couples trip built from our recent getaway.
Where We Stayed and How We Organized Our Trip
During our Big Island escape, we split our stay between a resort and a condo. We spent three nights in an Airbnb in Kailua-Kona and two nights at The Fairmont Orchid, about 40 minutes north of the airport.
These two accommodations gave us access to multiple sides of the large island. Looking back, we may have also considered staying in Hilo or on the edge of the Volcano National Park to experience that part of the island with less driving.
1. A Luxury Resort Escape
We had to dive into the perceived most romantic thing to do in Hawaii— the classic luxury resort escape. The Fairmont Orchid is set along 32 oceanfront acres on the Kohala Coast and invited us to their indulgent resort for a two-night stay. True to the Fairmont brand, the hotel offers activities for all ages but has a particularly lovely set of amenities for couples.
Things to Do at The Fairmont Orchid
My girlfriend and I enjoyed lounging by the pool and watching the ocean waves. There was an 18+ lounge chair and pool area perfect for couples. The pool and hot tub were open around the clock, a surprising new amenity for a resort.
Though we discussed it, we never made it for a swim after dinner. From pickleball to yoga classes to a gym and even an award-winning on-site golf course, the hotel has excellent options for those looking to maintain their fitness on vacation.
In the mornings, we enjoyed breakfast at The Orchid Court, a full breakfast buffet that includes all the American favorites like a custom-made-to-order omelet bar and Asian favorites like fried rice and dim sum. In addition, the buffet was inspired by the Hawaiian Islands, with tons of fresh fruit and toppings for each dish. I loved the fresh pastries featuring ube and macadamia nuts.
The hotel also offers a luau experience highlighting traditional Hawaiian food, dance, and songs. The luau is smaller than others that I have experienced on the islands, and during our visit, it was offered once a week. The smaller scale allowed for a raucous moment recognizing couples in the audience and a more intimate experience.
The Fairmont Orchid was a romantic highlight of our couple’s trip.
2. Lomi Lomi Massage
Experiencing a full-body massage is a great way to unwind and relax. We scheduled our massage for our trip’s second to last day and immensely enjoyed the relaxation after driving and exploring the island. We experienced a full body lomi lomi massage at the Spa Without Walls at The Fairmont Orchid where the atmosphere was relaxing and comfortable.
Conducted in small huts scattered throughout a serene garden that surrounds a waterfall on the pool grounds or along the oceanfront, the massages are uber-relaxing with the tropical breeze drifting through the air. The masseuse applied my comments about which areas of my body to hit with the massage well.
Before arriving, we were sent a survey asking for our preferences and medical history. We have to pick specific goals for the massage – reenergizing, distressing, or overall balance.
3. Oceanfront Sunset Dining
A stunning sunset is a must-do when in Hawaii. We were lucky to enjoy several sunsets, but the one at our wonderful oceanfront dinner took the cake.
Located within The Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection, CanoeHouse is a classic restaurant with an updated menu featuring fresh island food. To get to the restaurant, we wandered through the recently refurbished hotel. We took in the wonderful indoor-outdoor spaces that bring the elegance of the Auberge collection to the beachfront property.
A staple on the Big Island since 1989, CanoeHouse has fully evolved to feature locally caught and produced fare. The menu and variety blew us away.
Our CanoeHouse Dinner
We sat down about 20 minutes before sunset. There isn’t a better moment of the day in Hawaii than the time leading up to and immediately after sunset. As the sun set, a Hawaiian warrior from the resort ran up and lit the tiki torches in front of the hotel. To use Disney parlance, it was a magical moment.
Turning to the food, we were faced with difficult decisions. So we ordered the six-course tasting menu for one and added a couple of top picks at the restaurant. Splitting these items is my top recommendation for any couple’s dinner here.
The staff at CanoeHouse was very attentive as we navigated through our six courses. They artfully paired the main menu items with our tasting menu to deliver the best dining experience. Our waiter knew the menu forward and back.
The restaurant was very careful with allergies and swapped items to ensure we could enjoy the tasting menu. Some of our meal highlights include the Kahuku Corn ‘Ribs,’ Warayaki hay-smoked wagyu beef, and Kauai shrimp. The delicious panna cotta dessert was the cherry on top of the night.
4. Enjoying Upscale Farm to Table Cuisine
The Big Island contains most of the Islands’ farming, so make sure to experience its bounty on your next trip. And there’s no better place to enjoy it than at a restaurant from the pioneer of Hawaii regional cuisine, Chef Peter Merriman, a loud champion of Hawaii’s farmers.
About an hour’s drive from Kona is Merriman’s, the first farm-to-table restaurant in Hawaii. Opened in 1988, the restaurant focuses on cuisine from the islands on land and the sea. Before Merriman’s opened, restaurants in Hawaii relied on food shipped from the mainland thousands of miles away.
What Is It Like to Dine There?
Merriman’s restaurant setting feels more like a farmhouse than one of the top-rated restaurants on the Island of Hawaii, but the food sets this restaurant apart from others.
We were blown away by the variety of dishes we enjoyed during our hosted meal. Their “Duo” option is perfect for couples to split two key entrees. This allowed us to enjoy a splendid sampler of the menu.
Our top picks were the Curried Hamuakua Macadamia Nut Crusted Fish, Diver Sea Scallops that come with Hillbilly Cornbread, and the Kahua Ranch Lamb. It was a culinary highlight, and I recommend this restaurant for your next Hawaii vacation.
5. Reconnect on Road Trips
On your next Hawaii getaway, take the chance to reconnect not just with each other but with nature on The Big Island. Together, drive to the snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, and black sand beaches. We made several road trips and enjoyed the drives because they gave us time to connect and talk. It was just the two of us away from our busy lives at home.
While driving to the volcano, we stopped at the southernmost bakery in the United States, the Punalu’u Bake Shop, and picked up a sandwich and pastries. The Hawaiian bread is even better than it looks. On the way back, we stopped at the famous black sand beaches.
Yes, Hawaii Has National Parks
When we arrived at the Volcano National Park, my girlfriend purchased the America the Beautiful Pass, which gives you access to all US national parks for a year. We hope it inspires future trips to more national parks this year.
Within the park, we embarked on a mix of three trails. Starting at the visitor’s center, we walked out along the Crater Rim Trail to the Thurston Lava Tubes. It was surreal to be in the lava tubes where 500 years ago, 2000 degrees Fahrenheit lava coursed. It’s a quick walk-through that a flashlight is recommended; however, two iPhone lights sufficed. We then walked back within the crater on the Kilauea Crater Trail. It was about a six-mile round trip combining all of these.
Slow Down and Talk Story With Locals
As we were looping back to the visitor’s center, we fell into step with a retired park ranger who shared stories of living next to the volcano. She reminisced when there were level-five magnitude earthquakes every day for over fifty days. We were astonished by how calm she was residing within the volcano.
We encountered another local during a day in Hilo who shared that everyone living in Hawaii accepts that they are on an active volcano. Pele, the goddess of that volcano, is in final control of everyone’s destiny. Connecting with these two locals was a highlight and something I hope everyone remains open to when in Hawaii.
Essential Road Trip Stops
While driving to the Hilo side of the island, we stopped at Akaka and Kahuna Falls. These are both located along the same walkway from the parking lot. Parking within the lot costs $10, but you can park outside of the lot and only pay for individual admission (an additional $5 per person). The walk here takes only a little bit of time, and the path is paved. In Hilo, we stopped for lunch at a stand next to the historic farmers market that served poke, acai bowls, and shaved ice.
Also, on our Hilo driving day, we stopped at the Waipio Valley Lookout to see the beautiful green valley where King Kamehameha spent his boyhood a couple hundred years ago.
6. Snorkel Where the Locals Do
One of my highlights of any Hawaii trip is snorkeling. The Big Island boasts some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling, and we went to a top local spot. Though we had wanted to snorkel at Kealakekua Bay in front of the Captain Cook Monument, the swells were too big, and there was a high surf advisory.
Thankfully, we found out about the high swells impacting the snorkeling when we called a local surf shop, Kona Boys, to rent a wetsuit top for my girlfriend to be in the water longer snorkeling. While talking to them, they gave us great advice about the best day to snorkel and where to go instead of Kealakekua Bay. They also offer snorkeling tours. We were also surprised at the low price for the wetsuit top rental.
A Sacred Snorkeling Spot
They directed us to Honaunau Bay, also known as Two Step Bay. Also located next to Two Step Bay is a historic site called Puʻuhonua, or place of refuge, that is part of the National Parks Service. We used our America the Beautiful pass to access and enjoyed walking through this historic site. The site is a sacred place where fallen warriors and those who broke the sacred laws could seek forgiveness. It was also home to royal residences at one point. This was one of the most peaceful spots we experienced during our trip.
Which one of these will you add to your Big Island itinerary?
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