The Island of Hawaii is the youngest, the most diverse and the grandest of all the Hawaiian islands.
Aptly nicknamed “The Big Island” it is 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 Island of Hawaii 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 Island of Hawaii 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 Island of Hawaii 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 Island of Hawaii. From charming bed and breakfasts to hotels, condominiums, lodges and five-star resorts, there’s something to suit every traveller and budget.