Hawaii’s Big Island is the youngest, the most diverse and the grandest of all the Hawaiian islands.
Larger than all the other islands put together, it’s a land of amazing contrasts with lush rainforests, monolithic cliffs, spectacular ocean vistas, white, black and even green sand beaches, plunging waterfalls, deserts, plains and active volcanoes.
First discovered more than a millennium ago, the Big Island is where Polynesian mythology says Madame Pele, goddess of fire, dwells. She is said to live in the firepot of Halemaumau in Kilauea crater on the slopes of Mauna Loa, from where she actively pours new lava almost daily.
Hilo is the seat of government and near it are rainforests and black lava rocks hugging a serrated shoreline that is expanding thanks to Kilauea Volcano, the world’s most active volcano.
Volcanoes National Park is best accessed from Hilo. You can safely explore lava tubes and hiking trails around this amazing site. Nearby is Punaluu Beach Park with picturesque black sand beaches. North of Hilo the highway snakes between mountains and sea to Waipi`o Valley and Waimea through kilometres of fields where sugarcane once grew. Hidden amongst the mountains are a multitude of waterfalls including the impressive Akaka Falls.
A must is a visit to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden where you can see more than 2000 species of tropical plants. Across the island, near Kawaihae, is Heiau, built by King Kamehameha, which is now an historical site.
In Waimea, the Parker Ranch’s historic homes house a magnificent collection of Italian and French period pieces and more than a hundred original paintings by masters such as Renoir and Degas. In this region you can learn about a different side of Hawaii that is also home to paniolos, or Hawaiian cowboys. Lapakahi State Historical Park, north of Kawaihae, was once an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. A short drive from the park is King Kamehameha’s birthplace and Mookini Luakini Heiau believed to have been constructed about 480 AD.
The Kohala Coast is home to magnificent resorts with breathtaking views of lava flows. Anaehoomalu Bay, with its picture postcard beach, curves between the shallow bay and an ancient Hawaiian fishpond once used by royalty. Once home to Hawaiian royalty, Kailua-Kona is now a vibrant resort and shopping precinct with a rich cultural heritage. It is also a great base from which to explore Kona coffee country and the unique Painted Church where columns form the trunks of painted palm trees.
The Big Island produces 39 percent of the world’s macadamia nuts and Kona is the only place in the US where gourmet coffee is grown commercially. It also has the world’s largest anthurium and orchid flower industries. There are 20 golf courses on the Big Island, many with green fairways carved from ancient lava fields. Activities include fishing for marlin, a helicopter or small plane ride over red flowing lava and diving at night with giant manta rays.
Getting around the Big Island is convenient and easy. The most popular mode of transport for international visitors is to hire a car and explore the island at leisure. There are also bus tours, shuttles and taxis.
There are plenty of options when it comes to accommodation on the Big Island. From charming bed and breakfasts to hotels, condominiums, lodges and five-star resorts, there’s something to suit every traveller and budget.
Hawaii is famous for the Hawaii Regional Cuisine started by 12 of the best Hawaii chefs in 1991. It is a culinary exercise that blends the world’s cuisine with Hawaii’s varied, ethnic flavors. The hallmark of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine is the use of the most natural farm-bred ingredients. These include vegetables and fruits obtained through volcanic soil and cattle reared on the upland pastures. The region of Waimea features upcountry pasturelands where grass-fed lamb and beef are grown.
Hawaii Island offers a range of activities for the discerning traveller. The town of Hilo features the Merrie Monarch Festival, the world’s major hula event, held from March to April. Hilo also house several galleries and museums featuring the works of local sculptors, painters and musicians.
Liliuokalani Gardens has many Japanese bridges for kids as well as adults to run over. You can walk along the Kohala Coast to see ancient petroglyphs etched into stone at various sites. Family friendly beaches and parks offer a number of outdoor activities including snorkeling and diving. Learn about paniolo or Hawaiian cowboys and visit Kahua Ranch in Waimea for a wagon ride.
You can go sightseeing and window-shopping in Kailua-Kona, the art and coffee town of beautiful Kailua-Kona. Visit the Hamakua Heritage Corridor for a road journey or roam the streets of Downtown Hilo. On the Kohala Coast, you can tee off at one of the many breathtaking golf courses.