The beaches on the Big Island aren't the long sweeps of sand found on some of the neighboring islands; they tend to be more cove-like. Nonetheless, the Kona and Kohala coasts have sun-drenched shores and calm waters perfect for swimming and water sports.
The Big Island is not as exceptional for surfing as are Oahu, Kauai, and Maui, but Honolii Cove near Hilo, Kahaluu Beach in Keauhou, and Banyans near White Sands Beach are popular among enthusiasts of the sport. People also go to White Sands Beach for boogie-boarding and bodysurfing. Windsurfers ride the tamer waves at Anaehoomalu Bay in Waikoloa.
The Big Island has good diving and snorkeling on the Kona and Kohala coasts. Kealakekua Bay, Kaiwai Point, and Red Hill are popular for diving. The island's best snorkeling spots include Place of Refuge and Kahaluu Beach. Many diving operators charter boats for diving and snorkeling excursions.
The waters off the Big Island are a prime fishing area and the island has been called the blue marlin capital of the world. Though any time is good for sportfishing here, many locals say the best time for marlin falls between January and September. You don't need a fishing license; just hook up with one of the island's many charter companies. If you want to see the monsters of the day's catch, take a stroll along Honokohau Harbor between 11am and noon or 3:30 and 5pm to watch the daily weigh-in.
Several of the island's best courses are constructed on lava flows, offering golf aficionados some of the world's most unique play. All in all, there are many fabulous golf courses on the island. The best greens include the course at Waikoloa Beach Resort, the Waikoloa Kings' Golf Course, the courses at the Mauna Lani Resort, the Mauna Kea Golf Course, and the course at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. The Big Island provides phone numbers and rates for all of the island's courses.
The Big Island is the only tropical resort in the world that offers snow skiing. While the ski season is unpredictable, Mauna Kea, the island's tallest mountain, usually receives a fair share of snow starting January and running for several months. There are no ski lifts or ski lodges here--this is the stuff of real adventurers. If you are serious about giving it a try, you will need a guide or a permit to ski the runs, which occupy 100 square miles and are five miles long.
Several companies on the Big Island run trail rides. Kohala Naalapa offers rides through the pastures of Kahua Ranch with spectacular views of the coast. Paniolo Riding Adventures and Chalon International also offer excursions in the Kohala area. For a cattle round-up adventure, try Dahana Ranch Roughriders near Waimea. Waipio on Horseback and Waipio Naalapa Trail Rides have guided tours of Waipio Valley.
The city of Hilo and the resort areas on the Kona Coast are home to a wide variety of souvenir shops. Ubiquitous island mementos include colorful floral-print clothing and T-shirts; traditional arts and crafts, such as jewelry made from coral, enamel, and precious metals; feather and flower leis; and a host of take-home foods, which include everything from exotic fruits to coffee, macadamia nuts to Maui potato chips.