Big Island

Nicknamed "The Big Island," Hawaii Island is a microcosm of Hawaii the state. From long white-sand beaches and crystal-clear bays to rain forests, waterfalls, valleys, exotic flowers, and birds, all things quintessentially Hawaii are well represented here.

An assortment of happy surprises also distinguishes the Big Island from the rest of Hawaii—an active volcano (Kilauea) oozing red lava and creating new earth every day, the clearest place in the world to view stars in the night sky (Maunakea), and some seriously good coffee from the famous Kona district, and also from neighboring Kau.

Home to eight of the world’s 13 sub-climate zones, this is the land of fire (thanks to active Kilauea volcano) and ice (compliments of not-so-active Maunakea, topped with snow and expensive telescopes). At just under a million years old, Hawaii is the youngest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Three of its five volcanoes are considered active: Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kilauea. The Southeast Rift Zone of Kilauea has been spewing lava regularly since January 3, 1983; another eruption began at Kilauea's summit caldera in March 2008, the first since 1982. Back in 1984, Mauna Loa's eruptions crept almost to Hilo, and it could fire up again any minute—or not for years. Hualalai last erupted in 1801, and geologists say it will definitely do so again within 100 years. Maunakea is currently considered dormant but may very well erupt again. Kohala, which last erupted some 120,000 years ago, is inactive, but on volatile Hawaii Island, you can never be sure.

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  • 1. Akaka Falls State Park

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    A paved, 10-minute loop trail (approximately ½ mile) takes you to the best spots to see the spectacular cascades of Akaka. The majestic upper...Read More

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  • 2. Waipio Valley

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    Bounded by 2,000-foot cliffs, the "Valley of the Kings" was once a favorite retreat of Hawaiian royalty. Waterfalls drop 1,200 feet from the...Read More

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  • 3. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

    Garden

    Eight miles north of Hilo, stunning coastline views appear around each curve of the 4-mile scenic jungle drive that accesses this privately...Read More

  • 4. Honokaa Town

    Town/Village

    This quaint, cliff-top village fronting the ocean was built in the 1920s and 1930s by Japanese and Chinese workers who quit the nearby plantations...Read More

  • 5. Honomu Town

    Town/Village

    This tiny town, which borders Akaka Falls State Park, did not die when sugar did. Its sugar-plantation past is reflected in its wooden boardwalks...Read More

  • 6. Kalopa State Recreation Area

    Park (National/State/Provincial)

    North of the old plantation town of Paauilo, at a cool elevation of 2,000 feet, lies this sweet 100-acre state park. There's a lush forested...Read More

  • 7. Kolekole Beach Park

    Beach

    This lush park is tucked away under a high bridge that crosses a gulch along Highway 19, between Akaka and Umauma falls. The beach is composed...Read More

  • 8. Laupahoehoe Point Park

    Park (National/State/Provincial)

    Here the surf pounds the jagged black rocks at the base of a stunning point. This is not a safe place for swimming, however, so bring only cameras...Read More

  • 9. Laupahoehoe Train Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    Behind a stone loading platform of the once-famous Hawaii Consolidated Railway, constructed about 1900, the former manager's house is a poignant...Read More

  • 10. Umauma Falls & Zip Line Experience

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    The only place to see the triple-tier Umauma Falls, this kid-friendly 200-acre park has 14 waterfalls and a classy visitor center. Options include...Read More

  • 11. World Botanical Gardens & Zip Line

    Garden

    Just off the highway, this garden park is on more than 300 acres of former sugarcane land. With wide views of the countryside and the ocean...Read More

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