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The Big Island Of Hawai'i


Find Out What Only The Local's Know: Discover What Tours, Hotels And Attractions To Patronize And The One's To Stay Clear Of While Vacationing Here.... How To Have Local Vendor's Lining Up Begging For Your Business Instead...

From: Hawaiian Joe
Re: The Big Island Of Hawai'i

Hawaii's Big Island Background History

The color for Hawaii's Big Island is red, and its flower is the red ohia lehua blossom.

The Island of Hawaii is called "Hawaii's Big Island" for one simple reason - it's the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands. It is the largest island in the United States and the 76th largest island in the world. In fact, its area is larger than all the other islands put together. The Big Island name is used frequently to differentiate Hawaii, the island and county, from Hawaii, the state. Hawaii's Big Island is dominated by mountains and volcanoes, and has relatively few good beaches. It's a study in contrasts, with lush, green lands in the north and east, and dry areas in the west and south.

Everyone calls Hawai'i Island "Hawaii's Big Island" to avoid confusion with the name of the entire chain. And it really is big. It's so large that all the other islands could fit in it, with room left over. Covering 4,038 square miles and offering 266 miles of coastline, it's the youngster of the group, having broken the surface of the Pacific Ocean less than a million years ago.

The human history of the Hawaiian Islands begins with the discovery of Hawaii's Big Island, sometime between AD 400 and AD 800. It's believed that the first discoverers, traveling in double-hulled canoes, sailed from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. Using the stars, the currents and the "feel" of the ocean as their guide.

The voyagers' first landfall on these islands was probably near Ka Lae, at the southern tip of Hawaii's Big Island. These first Hawaiians lived in isolation for 500 or 600 years before Polynesians from Tahiti began arriving to this place they referred to as Havaii or ancient homeland.

Over the centuries, the Polynesians introduced plants and animals: dogs, pigs, chickens, breadfruit, bananas, sugarcane, yams, taro, coconuts, gourds, ti and other "canoe plants."

Hawaiian life was regulated under laws of kapu, a variation of the Tahitian word tapu, or taboo. Society was feudal and defined by island, often with two or three chiefs vying for control. Beneath the chiefs were other alii (noblemen) and kahuna (priests, healers). Next came the kanaka wale (craftsmen, artists, hula dancers, fishermen). The maka ainana (commoners) worked the land. At the bottom were the social outcasts or slaves, called the kauwa-maoli.

In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook stumbled upon the Hawaiian Islands after seeking the fabled Northwest Passage across North America. His first landfall was on the Island of Kaua'i. He dubbed these the Sandwich Islands after his friend and patron, the Earl of Sandwich.

In January 1779, Cook returned to Hawai'i to refit and re-provision. His two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, anchored in Kealakekua Bay on the southwest coast of Hawaii's Big Island. His arrival happened at the time of the annual makahiki celebration, a time of tribute to the God Lono.

The Hawaiians saw Cook's arrival as Lono's return, and he received a great welcome. After two weeks, Cook and his ships set sail towards Maui, but came limping back just days later with storm damage to the Resolution. Now, the makahiki festival was over, and the Hawaiians were surprised to see Lono return, having sustained such damage. Their greeting was not as generous now. Thefts of nails and other pieces of iron from the ships increased.

When a cutter was found missing, Cook took a chief hostage until the boat was returned. A skirmish broke out between Cook's men and the Hawaiians, leading to Cook's death in the shore-break of Kealakekua Bay. Today, a monument marks the spot where Cook died. This monument stands officially on British soil.

During this time, there was a young warrior, Kamehameha, born in Kohala at the north tip of Hawaii's Big Island, who had a vision to unite all the islands under one rule. Kamehameha fought a 10-year war to dominate Hawaii's Big Island, then conquered Maui, Moloka'i, Lana'i and finally O'ahu. In 1796, his invasion of Kaua'i was disrupted by a storm and it took another 14 years before Kaua'i came under his control.

Having united all the islands under his rule, King Kamehameha ("Kamehameha the Great") gave the name of Hawaii's Big Island to the name of his kingdom. He ruled from his home in Kailua-Kona until his death at Kamaka Honu, or "Eye of the Turtle," today found on the grounds of King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. He was about 63 years old.

Soon after the death of Kamehameha I in 1819, his son and successor, Liholiho, heavily influenced by Kamehameha's favorite wife, the powerful Kaahumanu, decided the old kapu system should be abolished. This was a ripe moment for American Christian missionaries to arrive. Kaahumanu was one of the first converts, and the numbers steadily grew, though there were strong cultural clashes.

Besides missionaries, Hawai'i was flooded with traders, whalers and other foreigners. They established footholds and gained power and influence. By the early 1840s, the Kingdom of Hawai'i was recognized by the United States, France and Great Britain.

Sugar, which was first grown commercially in Hawai'i in 1835, became the principal industry. Much-needed laborers from China, Japan, Portugal, Korea and The Philippines were soon arriving in droves. Immigration continued into the early 1900s. From these mixed ethnic groups evolved Hawaii's identity as a cosmopolitan melting pot.

Adding to the mix were the paniolo, the Mexican cowboys who first arrived on Hawaii's Big Island during the 1830s to help with the growing cattle industry spreading out from Parker Ranch. The paniolo (the word comes from Espanol, i.e., Spanish) brought with them a small guitar that has evolved into the instrument that is today a symbol of Hawaii: the ukulele.

About the same time, another Hawaii Island (Big Island) agricultural industry was taking root. The lower slopes of Mauna Loa above the Kona Coast proved to be ideal for growing coffee. Now Kona coffee is world famous.

As more and more foreigners came to Hawai'i during the 19th century, the native Hawaiian population declined. They had numbered around 600,000 at the time of Captain Cook's arrival, but by 1850 there were about 85,000, and by 1890 about 40,000. The main reason was the introduction of Western diseases for which the Hawaiians had no immunity. The rapid introduction of Western culture was also a factor.

The Hawaiian monarchy remained until 1893, when a group of American businessmen overthrew Queen Liliuokalani. It was a sad time for the people as a provisional government headed by Sanford B. Dole took control. In August 1898, the Hawaiian Islands were annexed as a territory of the United States.

The early 1900s were years of relative peace and quiet development. Then, on December 7, 1941, Hawai'i was thrust onto the world stage with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the Island of O'ahu. Hawai'i played a principal role in World War II in the Pacific as an American military base. The postwar years saw tremendous growth and economic development. In 1959, Hawai'i was admitted to the Union as the 50th State.

Hawaii's Big Island Districts

Hawaii's Big Island is a volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean and the largest of the eight major islands of the State of Hawai'i, with an area of more than 4,000 square miles. It's dominated by two of the tallest mountains in the United States - Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa - that run along the center of the island from north to south. Measured from its base on the sea floor to its highest peak, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, even taller than Mount Everest.

The island is built from five separate volcanoes that erupted somewhat sequentially, one overlapping the other. Kohala was the first and is extinct, followed by Mauna Kea and Hualalai that are considered dormant. Mauna Loa followed and is considered active. Kilauea is the most recently developed volcano and has been spewing lava steadily for nearly 25 years.

Because Mauna Loa and Kilauea are still active, Hawaii's Big Island is still growing. Since 1983, nearly 1,000 acres of land have been added to the island by Kilauea's lava, extending the island into the sea. Several small towns, including the home of the famous black-sand beach, have been destroyed by Kilauea.

Hawai'i is the only U.S. State that's still growing! Hawaii's Big Island is expanding by over 42 acres per year, thanks to Kilauea volcano.

Hawai'i Big Island is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, and contains the southernmost point in the United States - Ka Lae. Eighteen miles off The Big Island's southeast coast, another volcano, Loihi, is erupting and will become the newest Hawaiian Island and eventually attach itself onto Kilauea - but not for tens of thousands of years.

Hawaii's Big Island is divided into six districts:

  • Kohala: in the northwest
  • Hamakua: along the north shore and south to include Maunakea
  • Hilo: along the north shore, west of Hamakua
  • Puna: in the northeast corner, east of Hilo
  • Kau: in the southeast, including the southern tip of the island
  • Kona: covering most of the west shoreline south of Kohala


Did you ever park in a parking lot with steam coming out of it? You will when you visit the vast, fuming caldera of Kilauea Volcano, on the Big Island of Hawai'i. But don't worry - it's safe!


The first island to be visited by ancient Polynesians, Hawaii's Big Island offers you an interesting blend of rainforests on one side and lava on the other, with almost every geological feature in between. A rural atmosphere and ancient tradition blend with luxury resorts here to create a special place.


During the winter it can snow on Mauna Kea. Hawaii's Big Island is one of the few places in the world where you can snorkel and ski on the same day.


Hawaii's Big Island, like all the Hawaiian Islands, is the product of volcanoes. Standing tall among them on the northern half of the island is Mauna Kea, the world's loftiest mountain (if measured from the ocean floor). Rising 13,796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea sometimes has snow at its top during winter months, and offers the unique experience of skiing on a tropical island.


Kilauea, almost 5,000 feet high and currently erupting, is the most active volcano in the world. Located on the slope of Mauna Loa, its lava flow, pouring continuously toward the ocean since 1983, provides you with the kind of spectacle that led to the formation of all the islands so long ago.


In one week, Kilauea volcano produces enough lava to fill the Rose Bowl.


Only a select few ancient Polynesians were permitted to climb one of the big volcanoes. Therefore, most ancient Hawaiians never experienced cold in their lifetimes.


Also on the eastern side of the island is the picturesque town of Hilo. Gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This bay-front town allows you to take a step back in time to the nostalgic days of old Hawai'i. Hilo offers cultural and historical attractions, as well as tropical beauty that is second to none.


A drive along the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Corridor allows you to discover hidden waterfalls, ancient valleys and plantation history, and is home to the Waipio Valley, nicknamed "Valley of the Kings."


Beginning seven miles north of Kona International Airport, the Kona-Kohala Coast boasts white-sand beaches, luxury resorts, spectacular golf courses and near-perfect weather.


Farther south, Kailua-Kona, once a royal seaside village, offers a quaint shopping district and historic Hulihee Palace. Some of the world's best snorkeling and deep-sea fishing are found along this coast.


Sugar cane was the backbone of The Big Island's economy for more than 100 years. In the middle of the 20th century, sugar plantations began to downsize and in 1996 the last sugar plantation shut down.

Like in almost all of the major islands of the state, tourism is the number one industry on Hawaii's Big Island, with the North Kona and South Kohala districts leading the rest of the island.

Diversified agriculture is a growing sector of the economy. Lush tropical gardens near Hilo in the northeast feature beautiful Hawaiian orchids and have earned another nickname for the island: The Orchid Isle. Other crops include macadamia nuts, flowers, papaya, temperate and tropical vegetables and coffee. Kona coffee is known throughout the world for its unique, robust flavor.

Hawaii's Big Island is home to the Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranches in the country. It's located on 175,000 acres of land in and around Kamuela.

Astronomy is also significant on Hawaii's Big Island. Numerous telescopes are situated on the slopes of Mauna Kea, taking advantage of the clear air and lack of light pollution.


First came the Polynesian voyagers, then European and American explorers, missionaries, whalers, traders, ranchers and entrepreneurs, then waves of laborers from Japan, China and The Philippines. Now Hawai'i is home to all of them, plus other immigrants from Southeast Asia and around the Pacific Basin.

With each people has come their culture - their food, religion, language, music and sense of family. And let us say again: their food. Poi and imu (earth-oven) roasted pig from Polynesia, saimin from Japan, won ton from China, kim chee from Korea, curries from Thailand, fish sauces from Vietnam, soup and sausages from Portugal - don't get me started.

As you drive around The Big Island you'll come across countless eateries, ranging from holes-in-the-wall serving local-style piled-high plate lunches to restaurants famous for Hawai'i Regional Cuisine.

The Islands' incredibly rich tapestry of cultures also presents itself in the performing arts. Hawaiian hula and slack-key guitar, the ukulele with its Portuguese roots, Caribbean-influenced "Jawaiian" pop music, Japanese obon folk dancing and taiko drumming, Tahitian dance, Italian opera, Russian ballet, African drums - on Hawaii's Big Island you can see all of these, whether you're at a street party or a world-class theater.

Considering that, geographically, Hawai'i is the most isolated place on the planet, it may seem surprising that it has come to be such a rich multi-cultural community. But it's really not surprising at all that Hawai'i has become home to so many people from so many cultures. It all springs from the teachings of the first stewards of these islands - the spirit of aloha.

The total population of Hawaii's Big Island in 2004 was nearly 163,000. It's the second most populated island in the state.

Hawaii's Big Island's Climate and Seasons

The Hawaiian Islands have a moderate tropical climate, with gentle northeasterly tradewinds and warm Pacific waters almost year-round. Temperatures vary little from place to place, except at higher elevations (see "mountain conditions," below). The average annual temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius) fluctuates only a few degrees from summer (May through October) to winter (November through April). The highest and lowest recorded temperatures in the State have both occurred in Hawaii's Big Island: 12 degrees F (-11.1 degrees C) near the summit of Mauna Kea in 1979 to 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) at Pahala in 1931.

Hawaii's Big Island is like two different destinations with respect to rainfall. The Hilo, Puna and Kau Districts are on the windward side of the island and are lush and green. Tropical rainforest conditions are ideal for the growth of orchids, an important part of the island's economy. Average rainfall at Hilo Airport is 128 inches per year.

Rainfall in Hawaii generally moves from east to west. As the clouds approach Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, they lose almost all of their moisture, and very little is left to fall on the leeward side along the western shore. Only 10 inches of rain fall each year near Kona Airport. The sunny, dry climate has helped Kona develop into a major resort area.

Many different climatic conditions are found here. In the winter, it snows on Mauna Kea and you can literally go skiing and surfing on the same day - not to mention walking to England, if you so desire.

Getting To and Around Hawaii's Big Island

Air Travel

You can fly to Hawaii's Big Island easily on daily direct flights into Kona International Airport. Major air carriers from Canada, the U.S. and Japan fly directly into Kona, and ATA also flies into Hilo. Most of the direct flights are from the U.S. West Coast - mainly Los Angeles and San Francisco - plus Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Chicago, and internationally from Tokyo. Some seasonal carriers also make the trip with charters.

If you fly into Honolulu International Airport, you can connect to flights to Kona and Hilo, a short hop via one of the inter-island carriers: Aloha, Island Air, Hawaiian, Mokulele and Go Airlines serve both Hilo and Kona airports. Service to and from other Hawaiian Islands is also available.

Because Hawaii's Big Island is so big, I would recommend that you arrive on one side of the island and depart from the other side. For example, you might fly into Kona, explore that side of the island awhile, then drive to the Hilo side and explore for awhile longer before flying out from the Hilo Airport. Or vice-versa. (Be sure to ask car rental companies about drop-off charges.)

Visitor Information booths are located at both the Kona and Hilo airports, and have personnel on hand to answer questions.

Ground Transportation

Rental car companies are located just a short distance from both inter-island terminals. Taxis and other ground transportation are available curbside.

Though Hawaii's Big Island really is big, you will find getting around is extremely easy. There are just a few major highways, and most points of interest and adventure are well marked. I would recommend a rental car for flexibility and ease if you are traveling independently. I would strongly suggest booking before you arrive - sometimes cars aren't immediately available without a reservation. All the major rental companies are found on Hawaii's Big Island, with locations at some resorts, as well as both airports.

For those who'd rather let someone else do the driving, there are guided tours of every type, from bus tours to friendly taxi drivers, to scheduled shuttles, and even private limos.

Mass Transit - Hele On Bus

Hawaii County (Big Island) offers free mass transit via the Hele On (pidgin for "Let's Go") Bus. There are stops all around Hawaii's Big Island, with service between Kona and Hilo offered Monday through Saturday. All buses are wheelchair accessible. For more information about transportation for people with special needs, call the Hawai'i Mass-Transit Agency at (808) 961-8744.

Shuttle Services

Hawaii's Big Island has a number of shuttle service providers. Reservations are recommended to validate definite pick-up and drop-off requests. Rates vary according to the number of passengers and the destination.


Cruising has become an extremely popular way to visit the State of Hawai'i, and both Kona and Hilo are ports of call on most itineraries. Ships anchor off Kona and passengers come ashore on tenders. Hilo is a commercial port, and docking facilities are provided for cruise ships. Most ships spend 6 to 10 hours in each port.

Several cruise lines sail from West Coast mainland ports to Hawai'i, cruise among the islands and return to the West Coast. A full voyage is usually about 15 days. Some cruise lines operate 10-day itineraries, permitting your customers to fly in one direction to or from Honolulu and cruise in the other direction. Several cruise lines make occasional stops during voyages to or from the South Pacific and Asia.

If you are cruising among the Hawaiian Islands, you won't be able to see or do as much as you could if you were staying for three or four days. However, you'll have enough time to enjoy the stark contrasts of Hawaii's Big Island, get a whiff of its flavor and visit the major attractions, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. When sailing around the island, cruise ships often linger along the southeast coast after dark to view flowing molten lava. You will never forget the experience.

Where You Can Stay On Hawaii's Big island

Hawaii's Big Island has two resort accommodation regions: the East and West sides. Kailua-Kona to the west, seven miles south of Kona International Airport, offers a shopping area along Ali’i Drive and many varied lodging choices.


The Kona-Kohala Coast, north of Kona International Airport, includes eight luxury hotels on four world-class resort areas.


Waimea, farther north, is the home of the Parker Ranch.


Hilo, a picturesque town on the eastern side of the island, also offers some lodging choices and is closer to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Known as both the orchid and hula capital of the world, Hilo is a nostalgic return to the earlier days of Hawai’i.


The Hilo-Hamakua Corridor to the north is dotted with former mill towns and plantation villages.

In Hilo, on Hawaii's Big Island, you can see the Naha Stone. Estimated at 7,000 pounds, legend says it was moved by 14 year-old Kamehameha. Legend also stated that whoever moved the stone would be the first king of all the islands, and King Kamehameha proved that legend correct.

Hawaii's Big Island is a land of diversity and many choices, and that includes accommodations. There's a home-away-from-home that will satisfy every taste and price range, from world-class resorts and beautiful bed & breakfasts, to condos of all kinds, private home rentals, rustic cabins and campgrounds. Your room (or tent) may overlook the ocean, or be nestled in a lush rainforest, or sit high in a mountain meadow or next to a historic lava flow.

How about an ocean-view presidential suite in a 5-star resort? No problem. A charming bed & breakfast cottage nestled in a rainforest? A family-style resort with pools, waterslides and great restaurants? A very comfy condo with a complete kitchen and cooking facilities? A budget apartment where they can keep their surfboards by the door? A campsite on the sand with green sea turtles for neighbors? It's all on Hawaii's Big Island.

As previously stated, the major hotel areas are found in the Kona, Kohala and Hilo Districts. Deluxe hotels with championship golf courses and the best beaches on the island are located along the Kohala Coast in the northwest.

Condominiums are concentrated in Kohala and Kona, although there are a few in the Hilo District.

Bed & breakfast accommodations are scattered throughout the island, many in secluded spots in tropical settings.

Rental homes, cottages and camping cabins are also available throughout Hawaii's Big Island.

Hawaii's Big Island Attractions

Hawaii's Big Island offers you as broad a variety of activities as can be found anywhere. From the relaxed to the most active, there are surely many things you'll want to do. Here are some of them:

Air Tours

A number of helicopter tours of Hawaii's Big Island are available. Most focus on the sights within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Seeing an active volcano up close from the air is an experience you will never forget.

Land Activities

For those of you who don't want to drive, bus and van tours are available to almost all of the major attractions on the island. Driving, of course, provides full flexibility.


Trails range from easy to challenging; all boast incredible views. Hikers take their pick of trails in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and along the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Permits are required for some trails.

Dining and Food

The variety and quality of Hawaii's Big Island eateries, cafes and restaurants will definitely give you an appetite. Choices range from true local-style comfort food served from lunch wagons, to superb, fresh Hawai'i regional cuisine in dining rooms from formal to ocean side.

In the last hundred years, cuisines from around the world have migrated to Hawaii's Big Island. The best of these influences, especially from Asia and the Pacific, have yielded the now-famous Hawai'i Regional Cuisine, which blends the freshest locally grown vegetables, fruits, herbs and meats into innovative creations. You will find a broad range of flavors, prices, decor and scenery, including lots of dining experiences children will enjoy.

Spa and Wellness

The Big Island of Hawai'i is also known as the Healing Island - a place where a strong tradition of wellness combines with the aloha spirit to nurture the soul. You can focus on your own well-being in a thousand ways: pampering yourself with a massage or herbal body scrub, taking a retreat with a spiritual healer, exploring the power of the planet on eco-adventures, or stretching body and mind in yoga classes. From spa resorts to secluded sacred sites, you can find many ways to banish stress and take a few steps along the paths to self-discovery.

Attractions in the Hilo and Northeast Areas

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The number one attraction in the State of Hawai'i and one of the unique sightseeing opportunities in the entire world, this remarkable place - with its fire and brimstone, red-hot lava and scent of sulfur - helps you envision the creation of Hawai'i itself. This 500-square-mile park encompasses the currently erupting area of the Big Island. Within the park you can stop at the Visitor Center to see a video presentation and get your bearings. Then you can take driving roads or hiking trails to a variety of interesting sights.


While a drive through the park can give you a glimpse of what's there, to fully explore the park takes time. The park's several unusual lava tubes were created when the lava hardened on the outside and drained from the inside (you can walk through one).


The Devastation Trail takes you through lava fields right next to a rainforest, while the Kau Desert Trail leads to where the footprints of ancient Hawaiians who were caught by the oozing lava can still be seen.


There are two basic kinds of lava found on Hawai'i: the rough, chunky type is called aa (ah-ah), and the smooth swirly stuff is known as pahoehoe (pa-ho-ay-ho-ay).


The park's most imposing spectacle is famed Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. Erupting continuously since 1983, this two-mile-wide caldera is currently the source of all lava activity. You should be advised to see the lava flow, if possible, both during the day and at night, when the red glow from the eruptions and lava seems particularly unworldly and beautiful. To get an eruption update on where the lava is flowing, contact Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Hilo Town

The biggest city on Hawaii's Big Island and the gateway to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hilo (hee-loh), is the county seat. A funky mix of old and new, it's an ideal place for ferns, orchids and anthuriums. Hilo is noted for its ability to make things grow.

Liliuokalani Gardens is the largest Japanese garden this side of Tokyo, and Hilo's flower nurseries are remarkable for their diversity.


There's a lot for you to see in this quaint town, including the Farmer's Market, museums and art galleries. Nearby, two spectacular waterfalls await: Rainbow Falls, which tumbles 80 feet into a large pool and throws up mists which create rainbows, and Akaka Falls, 420-feet high and located in the midst of a tropical rainforest. Both are beautiful examples of tropical splendor.


The paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboys, on Hawaii's ranches learned to herd cattle from Spanish vaqueros who were imported to teach them. The Hawaiian word "paniolo" was derived from "Espanol."

Hilo, like many of the world's celebrated tourist destinations, would rather be understated than over hyped. But don't mistake discretion for nothing to do. Hilo is located within arm's reach of some of the most astounding natural attractions in the world. It's home to several unique cultural institutions and is the location of the world's premiere hula competition. The Merrie Monarch Festival, which opens its week-long run each year on Easter Sunday, has been attracting capacity crowds for more than 40 years. Hilo contains many "Old West" style historical buildings.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Garden, a spectacular garden in a valley along the ocean, is 8.5 miles north of Hilo on the four-mile Scenic Route at Onomea Bay. Nature trails meander through a tropical rainforest, crossing streams, passing several waterfalls and the ocean vistas along the rugged Pacific Coast. Palms, heliconias, gingers, bromeliads and hundreds of other rare and exotic plants from all parts of the tropical world are among an ever-growing collection. This nonprofit nature preserve provides a study center and a living seed bank to perpetuate the environment of Onomea Bay.

Hilo Tropical Gardens

Established in 1948 on land owned by the estate of one of Hawaii's last princesses, Hilo Tropical Gardens is one of the island's oldest visitor gardens and is within walking distance of beaches. Orchids, anthuriums, the giant hala tree and other exotics star here, along with Hilo Homemade Ice Cream, filled with native fruit.

Lava Tree State Monument

Lava Tree State Monument stands to preserve the site where a lava flow burned through an ohia forest in 1790. The lava, flowing quickly, surrounded the trees and cooled, forming molds of burned tree trunks. Picnic facilities, restrooms and a hiking trail are at this site, although drinking water is not available.

Lyman Mission House Museum

Located in Hilo, this restored missionary house, along with an adjacent building, houses artifacts and ethnic memorabilia from the different Hawaiian cultural groups.

Historic Hawaiian relics are on display at this missionary home dating to 1839. As one of only four accredited museums in the state, the Lyman Museum began as the Lyman Mission House, built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman. In 1931, their descendants established the museum.

The Mission House has been fully restored, and is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Daily guided tours start frequently. The Lyman Museum building next door to the Mission House contains artifacts, fine art and natural history specimens, as well as archives and library, special exhibitions and a gift shop. You can see life as it was 150 years ago, along with new exhibits on Hawaiian natural history and culture.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center

A really big nut awaits visitors outside the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation, inviting them to witness the growing, harvesting and processing of Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts into assorted products. Apart from the giant welcoming nut, hundreds of rows of macadamia nut trees line Macadamia Road leading to the visitor center. Mauna Loa harvests some 35 million pounds of macadamias each year for cooking, confections and for sale at the visitor center gift shop. Mature macadamia nut trees create wonderful shade, with their dark green foliage and white blossoms in winter and spring. The main harvest is in summer and fall.

Nani Mau Gardens

Nani Mau Gardens has evolved into a treasure of the Islands, with 20 acres of many-splendored tropical flowers and trees, pools and waterfalls along pathways. Orchids, anthuriums and native Hawaiian plants are plentiful. The Gardens are a focal point for community events, weddings and other celebrations.

Pacific Tsunami Museum

The Pacific Basin has a long, dramatic history of devastation from hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes. Yet tsunamis have taken more lives in Hawai'i than all the other natural disasters combined. The Pacific Tsunami Museum serves as a living memorial and a reminder for a generation yet to experience such fright. Tsunamis - Japanese for "harbor waves" - are a fact of life in Hawai'i, especially Hilo. On April 1, 1946, and May 23, 1960, Hilo suffered devastating tsunamis that reshaped its social and economic structure. The last major Pacific-wide tsunami was in 1964. Little tsunami activity has occurred since then, while Hawai'i has undergone extensive development in potential inundation areas.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

No admission is charged at Panaewa Zoo, the only zoo in the U.S. situated in a tropical rainforest. This is a playground for exotic birds and animals, including a white Bengal tiger and pygmy hippos.

Attractions along the Hamakua Coast

Laupahoehoe Train Museum

Marked by rail crossing signs on the front lawn, the museum features photographs, railroad artifacts and memorabilia from when trains transported sugar from fields of the Hamakua Coast. Many museum volunteers are lifelong community residents who are delighted to "talk story" with visitors. Grounds are planted with ornamentals and tropical fruit trees, and are ideal for strolling or picnics.

Waipio Valley

A visit to the "Valley of the Kings" is like going back in time. Once Kamehameha's boyhood playground, this lush valley, with 2,000-foot bordering cliffs, is difficult to get to but well worth the effort.

This cliff-enclosed valley, on the northeastern coast, beckons with taro farming and a black-sand beach. Waipio, a mile wide at the coast and almost six miles deep, is the largest and southernmost of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. On either side of the valley are cliffs reaching almost 2,000 feet, with cascading waterfalls.

In ancient Hawai'i, taro (or kalo) was one of the favorite island foods, with more than 350 varieties. Now there are a dozen or so grown, including dry land taro (dark purple in color, with thick white roots) and wet land taro, which can be grown on wet or dry land.

Attractions on the Kohala Coast and Inland (Waimea / Kamuela)

Anaehoomalu Beach

Called "A-Bay" by locals, this span of white sand attracts windsurfers and sailboarders. It's the first beach after nearly 30 miles of coastline mostly characterized by the jet black of Kohala's lava flows. A-Bay has a lagoon, freshwater springs and stands of palm trees, along with restrooms and showers that make it all the more welcoming.

Dolphin Quest

The Hilton Waikoloa Resort's special pool allows guests to swim with the dolphin. Guided by Dolphin Quest marine mammal experts, participants can come face to face with one of the ocean's most intelligent creatures, learning about dolphin abilities and gaining appreciation for preserving the world's oceans and its inhabitants.

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Beach activities here include swimming during calm seas, bodysurfing, sunbathing and picnics. Lifeguards are stationed here and rip currents prevail during periods of high surf.

Mauna Kea Summit & Visitors Center

You can drive the paved road to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy and reach the 13 observatories (including the Keck telescope) on the peak of lofty Mauna Kea. The road also winds by Moon Valley, where astronauts practiced their moon landings.

Hawaii's tallest volcano (13,796 feet) hosts the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, University of Hawai'i Observatory and an international astronomical observatory complex. Low temperatures, snow and severe weather occur in winter, and the summit is accessible only by four-wheel-drive. In winter, you can ski Mauna Kea.

Parker Ranch Visitors Center

To the north lies the 225,000-acre Parker Ranch. Surrounding the town of Waimea, this ranch is one of the oldest and biggest in the country. It offers a visitor's center, historic homes open for touring and hands-on learning about the life and history of the Paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys).


Near Waimea is the Kamuela Museum, a quirky collection of Hawaiian artifacts and other memorabilia.

The Parker Ranch, Hawaii's largest private cattle ranch, is located inland at Waimea / Kamuela. The ranch covers 175,000 acres. The visitors center highlights the Paniolo and Parker family history with tours of two historic homes, Puuopelu and Mana Hale.

John Parker's home, Mana Hale ("house of the spirit"), was once the ranch nerve center, and later was known for the lavish hospitality of John Parker's grandson Sam and his wife Panana. On view are native koa wood interiors, handmade furniture and Hawaiian quilts.

Also unfolding is the story of John Palmer Parker, who befriended King Kamehameha, married a Hawaiian princess and built Hawaii's cattle kingdom. Between 1942 and 1945, Parker Ranch played a key role assisting Camp Tarawa in sheltering 50,000 Marines of the 2nd and 5th Marine Divisions and the V Amphibious Corps as they prepared for the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. A monument to Marines training here stands along the highway near the Ranch Historic Homes attraction.

Kona Coast Attractions


Kailua-Kona is the largest town on the western "Kona" Coast ("Kona" means "leeward" in Hawaiian). Its real name is simply Kailua, but everyone tacks on Kona at the end in order not to confuse it with two other Kailuas: the large city on O'ahu and a little town along the road to Hana, on Maui. Being on the leeward side of Hawaii's Big Island, it gets lots of sun.


Kailua-Kona used to be a fishing village, and some of the world's best marlin fishing is still found in the coastal waters here. The majority of visitors who come here stroll along two-mile Ali’i Drive, with its shops and restaurants.


Also located here is Hulihee Palace. Built in 1838 as a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty, it's now a museum displaying various artifacts from early Hawai'i. Also located on Ali’i Drive is the old Mokuaikaua Church, which was built in 1820 and was the first Christian church in Hawaii.


Near here also is Kealakekua Bay, a mile-wide marine reserve that's abundant with fish, sea turtles and spinner dolphins. It's easy to get to and great for diving and snorkeling. It was here that Captain Cook died, and a monument marks the site.


In Kealakekua Bay there is a 5,682-square-foot area that was deeded to England for a monument to Capt. James Cook. So you can literally swim from Hawai'i to England in Kealakekua Bay!

Captain Cook Monument

Viewed from pali (cliffs) along Highway 11, about 15 miles south of Kailua-Kona, this monument salutes British Captain James Cook, who landed in 1778 with his ships Resolution and Discovery, and is considered the first European to arrive in Hawai'i. The white monolith, along the shore of Kealakekua Bay, commemorates Cook's 1779 death when he and his crew got into a fracas with Polynesian islanders during their annual makahiki ("Thanksgiving" festival).

Coffee Plantations / Farms

Mauka (up the mountain) from Kailua-Kona lies coffee country. This lush, green and cool area produces about two million pounds of world-class Kona coffee each year. The roadsides are dotted with farms and mills.

Kona coffee is known the world over as a robust, rich-tasting beverage. The term Kona blend is often applied to coffee blends using as little as 10% Kona coffee. You can drive through the hills overlooking the Kona Coast and see growing beans and coffee processing.

The Green Flash

On clear evenings, as the sun slips out of sight, a green flash sometimes seems to jump out of the water to light the horizon. Visibility occurs only with a clear line of sight to the sunset and an unbroken horizon.

Prime viewing spots include the seawall on Alii Drive in downtown Kailua-Kona, Kona Coast State Park, the side of the road on Manalahoa Highway in upcountry Holualoa, and under the coconut trees at Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park.

Hulihee Palace

One of three royal palaces in the State, the Victorian-style structure was used by Hawaiian monarchs until 1916. Memorabilia centers on items owned and used by the royal families. A gift shop, filled with items from local crafters, is a stroll from the palace, overlooking the ocean on Kailua Bay.

Holoholokai Beach Park & Puako Petroglyph Preserve

This small, well-manicured beach park near the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, has parking, restrooms, showers and barbecue grills. Although not a sandy beach, it's a beautiful place for you to explore tide-pools, look for shells and go snorkeling.

A short walk away is the extraordinary Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, where hundreds of ancient carvings in the lava rock open a window into yesterday.

Kohala Coast Petroglyphs

These lava rock carvings, hundreds of years old, can be seen in various places along the Kohala Coast. Of Hawaii's 135 known petroglyph sites, most are found on Hawaii's Big Island.


Hawaiian people believed that Kamehameha the Great had the gods on his side. During a battle on Hawaii's Big Island, Kilauea unexpectedly erupted. Many of his enemies were killed by falling chunks of burning lava. It was obvious to early Hawaiians that the fire goddess Pele, who is said to make her home on Hawaii's Big Island, had come to the support of Kamehameha.

Kailua Bay Beach

Ideal for children and snorkelers, this white-sand beach is located on Kailua Bay across from the King Kamehameha Hotel.

Kailua-Kona Town

This is the commercial center of the west side of Hawaii's Big Island, and an excellent place for you to stroll, shop for souvenirs and enjoy a variety of restaurants, from fast food to fine service.

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge)

Also located on the Kona side, this was a place of refuge and forgiveness for defeated warriors fleeing enemies or for Hawaiians who broke a kapu (law). It was a forbidding temple of fierce idols enclosed by a great rock wall 1,000 feet long, 10 feet high and 17 feet thick. Those who made it here before being caught were pardoned by the priest and eventually free to go, no strings attached. Completely restored, the 180-acre site offers self-guided tours of the grounds.


Here you can experience temple ruins, fish ponds, burial sites and petroglyphs. There's also a portion of an ancient village, where artisans and craftspeople help make this a great introduction for you to see what Hawai'i was like before Captain Cook's arrival.

Offering an in-depth look at ancient Hawaiian life and royalty, this restored site is a heiau (place of worship) and offers insight into ancient Hawaiian life and royalty. It was formerly called the City of Refuge because, during the early years of the monarchy, Hawaiians who violated the laws of kapu (taboo) who escaped capture and fled to this location could be absolved of their transgressions.

The first sacrifice at Puukohola Heiau was that of Kamehameha's arch rival.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Measuring 224 feet by 100 feet, this is the largest restored heiau in Hawai'i. It was the last major religious structure of the ancient Hawaiians, built in 1790-91 by Kamehameha I. A prophet told Kamehameha that he would conquer and unite the islands if he would build this temple and dedicate it to his war God. He built it, and four years later he conquered the islands as predicted.


Abandoned in 1819, the 77-acre site includes shrines and a submerged shrine offshore dedicated to the shark gods.

Southeast Attractions

Green Sands of Papakolea Beach

Not easily accessible, the sand's green hue is from crushed olivine, a semi-precious mineral found in volcanic rock. A 12-mile stretch of unpaved road and a hike down a steep slope leads to the beach.

Naalehu Town

Capitalizing on its status as the southernmost town in the U.S., this tiny town features shops, eateries and memorabilia. Ka Lae, the southernmost tip of Hawai'i and the southernmost point in the U.S., is considered the first place Polynesian explorers set foot in Hawai'i. The area is a neat rest stop for you who may be driving between Hilo and Kona via the southern route.

Ka Lae (South Point)

This is the place where the early Polynesians probably first set foot on Hawai'i. It's also the southernmost part of the United States. Here is were you’ll find the Green Sand Beach if you’re willing to hefty hike along the shoreline. Or, you may try it with a four wheel drive. I was just there in May 2007 and believe me when I tell you that it's a rough trip even for a four-wheel-drive Jeep; the erosion and pot-holes makes is somewhat risky for a four-wheel-drive.


My son, Kevin, described it as the most beautiful place he had ever seen. This photo of the Green Sand Beach belongs to him - so I'd say it's well worth the walk out to the Green Sand Beach. South Point is approximately 15 miles off the main highway on the southern tip of the Big Island.

Water Activities


While not as numerous as on other Hawaiian Islands, The Big Island boasts white-sand beaches (of course) and also black sand and a beach with green sand made from olivine crystals. Some of the beaches are finely manicured and packed with activities, backed by world-class resorts. Others are beautifully wild and remote.

Every beach in Hawai'i is open to the public, and Big Island State and County beach parks are highly rated by national travel magazines.

Hawaii Surf Spots

Surfing used to be a sport reserved only for the alii. Fortunately, that's no longer true. Whether you are already an expert at shredding waves or have never been on a board, there are lots of surfing opportunities around Hawaii's Big Island. You can take your own boards, rent one to go off the beaten path or sign up with an instructor at popular spots.


Snorkeling from shore or boarding an excursion boat for a dive cruise - both are sure to please you. The Big Island's waters are teeming with brightly colored tropical fish. Marine mammals are protected and shouldn't be approached by boat or swimmers.

However, no one has told the dolphins and turtles, and it's perfectly all right if these sometimes-curious creatures decide to approach humans. Most of the best snorkeling is on the island's west side.

Scuba Diving

Dive shops on Hawaii's Big Island offer rentals for offshore scuba diving into Hawaii's clear waters. You can explore sea caves or enjoy the coral belt that surrounds the island with all the colorful sea life that dwells there. Introductory "resort courses" will qualify you for an introductory scuba dive in hours. As with snorkeling, most of the best places for divers are on the west side of the island between South Kona and North Kohala.

Sport Fishing

Sport fishing is big on Hawaii's Big Island. Although the island is famous for marlin, fishermen also regularly hook mahi mahi, ono and ahi. Most charter fishing boats sail from Honokohau Harbor outside Kailua-Kona. You can also fish from piers, jetties and shore, or along streams.

Whale Watching

The humpback whales migrate to Hawaii's waters every winter (usually from about November through April) to give birth and mate, and the sight of these amazing animals - the largest mammals on Earth - never gets old. Other whale species - pilot, sperm, false killer, orcas, melon headed, dolphins - live in Hawaiian waters year-round, which is why you can tour any time of the year.

The Hawaiian word for the humpback is "kohola." The best way to get up close and personal (within the limits of federal laws that protect this endangered species) is to take a whale-watching cruise out of Kailua-Kona.

Submarines, Catamarans, Other Boats

Hawaii's Big Island takes on a whole new perspective for you when they gaze upon it from the deck of a boat offshore. Bobbing on a catamaran while munching fruit and sipping a cold drink, still wet from snorkeling off the side - that also provides a new perspective. And gazing out the big window of a tour submarine? Wow!

Kayaking, Paddling and Canoes

Outrigger canoes were the first boats to come ashore in Hawai'i, and they're still commonly used for sport and recreation. A number of outrigger excursions around the island offer you the chance to paddle in a six-person canoe, cruising the coast and riding a wave into shore.

You can paddle at your own pace along the shores in Hilo Bay or the numerous coves that dot the Kohala Coast. You can rent a kayak or canoe and head off independently, or take lessons and a guided tour with someone who knows the best views along the coast.

The Uniqueness Of Hawaii's Big Island

Much of the uniqueness of Hawaii's Big Island is relatively obvious, not subtle. First of all

It Is The Big Island!

More than twice the area of all other Hawaiian Islands combined.

It has the only continuously active volcano - Kilauea.

It's like being on two different islands - the lush, rainy, tropical east, and the dry, sunny west.

You can fly over an active volcano in a helicopter.

If you cruise you can view flowing lava at night from the ocean.

Unlike the other Hawaiian Islands, you can drive completely around the island.

Hilo hosts the largest hula festival - the Merrie Monarch Festival.

In winter, you can go skiing on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

You can find both green and black sand beaches (although not good for swimming).

Hawaii's Big Island is home to the 175,000-acre cattle ranch.


This is

Hawaiian Joe

Hawaii's Rolls-Royce Destination Consultant & Network Copywriter

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