The Big Island, otherwise known as the Island of Hawaii, teems with activities that can take your vacation to the next level. Experience the thrill of an active volcano at Kilauea, go for a horseback ride in the rolling hills of Waimea or go snorkeling in the sparkling waters off the Kona coast. Whether you’re looking for days of sunbathing or challenging waterfall hikes, the Big Island has it all. For the easiest access to the island’s greatest spots, look for Big Island vacation rentals in these lovely communities.

1. Hilo

beach water
Source: Flickr / Melissa Emmons Photography

Experience the comforts of the city and the relaxed Hawaiian vibe in Hilo. While you’re in town, check out the IMAX theater at the Imiloa Astronomy Center, and head to the Hilo Farmers market to stock your vacation rental kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. See one of Hawaii’s legendary waterfalls at Wailuku River State Park, which lies a short drive from the city. Hilo is also a great jumping-off point for the thrilling Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

2. Kua Bay

man seating at the seashore
Source: Flickr / sota

If your idea of the perfect Big Island vacation involves long days of snorkeling and sunbathing, look for vacation rentals near Kua Bay. This lovely area features white-sand beaches, lava rocks, and postcard-perfect blue water. For the easiest access to the ocean, check out the area around Manini’owali Beach, which provides calm waters and kid-friendly conditions. Rentals in this area also place you within an easy drive of the idyllic Kikaua Point Beach.

3. Kau

beautiful mountain at the lakeside
Source: Flickr / Les Williams

Get into the history of Hawaii in Kau, a region that’s situated in the southernmost region of the island. Choose a rental in the hills, and wake up to panoramic views of the ocean and the lush tropical vegetation. Bask in the sun at the popular Punaluu black sand beach, and keep an eye out for sea turtles. The surrounding coast provides excellent hikes and endless swimming opportunities. Don’t miss the historic Ka Lae, or South Point, the farthest southern point in the United States.

4. Hawi

peeping sun beneath the clouds
Source: Flickr / Josh Schwartzman

If you’re dreaming of towering cliffs and wild coastal hikes, head straight for Hawi. Vacation rentals in this charming town all sit within striking distance of the Pololu Valley Lookout, where you can embark on stunning cliffside climbs overlooking the ocean. After a day of exploring, head back to town to browse through the many downtown art galleries. If you’re visiting in October, you can watch world-class cyclists pass through town as part of the Ironman World Championship race.

5. Waimea

grassland
Source: Flickr / Justin Dolske

Check out Hawaiian cowboy culture in the lovely valleys of Waimea. Here, verdant green valleys are home to cows and paniolo, the island version of a western cowboy. Leave your car at your vacation rental; the best way to see this stunning country is on horseback. Join a tour and get up close and personal with the rolling green hills and plentiful wildlife.

6. Kailua-Kona

palm tree silhouette
Source: Flickr / mightykenny

If you have a limited time on the Big Island, Kailua-Kona is a great location for a vacation rental. The Kona airport is nearby, so you can be settled in and ready to explore in no time. Explore the historic downtown area to learn about the area’s most famous historic inhabitant, King Kamehameha. Then, wander down to the shore to enjoy peaceful walks and spectacular ocean views. After dark, the restaurants along the water come alive with music and dancing, all with a relaxed island vibe.

7. Holualoa

coffee fruits
Source: Flickr / Selbe Lynn

Explore the art of the Big Island with a vacation rental in Holualoa, a charming town known for its thriving artisan culture. This small village sits on the slopes of the Hualalai Volcano, placing you in easy reach of local coffee plantations. Tour an orchard to learn about the coffee life cycle, or simply enjoy a local roast at one of the city’s many cafes. In November, don’t miss the Holualoa Village Coffee and Art Stroll.

8. Kona Coast

sunset view
Source: Flickr / Steve Jurvetson

Spend your vacation exploring some of Hawaii’s loveliest beaches on the Kona Coast. Opt for a rental near the ocean for quick access to white-sand beaches dotted with spectacular rocky outcroppings. If you’re visiting with kids, check out the beautiful Magic Sands Beach Park. If you’re after a classic tropical paradise, the top-rated Hapuna Beach is a great choice. To get active, rent a kayak to explore the rocky coast at the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park.

9. Pahoa

water splashing on the rocks
Source: Flickr / Howard Ignatius

With its convenient location southeast of Hilo, Pahoa makes an excellent base for exploring the Big Island’s beautiful Puna region. This small town, which is affectionately known for its hippie population, exudes a relaxed, vacation-friendly vibe that’s welcoming for the whole family. Start your trip with a visit to Lava Trees State Park, where you can wander through towering lava-covered stumps. At Kapoho Bay, hike down the coast and kick back in one of the coastal hot ponds, which are naturally heated by geothermal energy.

10. Honomu

high water falls
Source: Flickr / A. Strakey

Check out the wild northeastern part of the Big Island with a vacation rental in Honomu. Akaka Falls State Park is a must see; here, you can enjoy a beautiful hike to Kahuna Falls and the enormous Akaka Falls. Then, rent a car and drive north to explore the tiny villages and charming towns along the Hamakua Coast. Bring a picnic to Laupahoehoe Point Park, where rich black lava rocks contrast with the wild sea.

11. Kukuihaele

deep water
Source: Flickr / Rob Lee

If you’re looking to get away from it all, head straight for vacation rentals in Kukuihaele. Here, you can enjoy privacy and some of the most dramatic shoreline views on the Big Island. Visit the Waipio Valley Overlook for panoramic views of the ocean and the valley. Then, book an ATV tour to explore the valley, which was once the home of King Kamehameha. Don’t miss the Hialawi Falls, which drop more than 1200 feet, and enjoy perfect photo opportunities at the seaside Kaluahine Waterfalls.