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. Anaehoomalu Bay

    This gorgeous, expansive stretch of white sand, fringed with coconut palms, fronts the Waikoloa Beach Marriott and is a perfect spot for swimming, windsurfing, snorkeling,...Read More

  • 2. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

    One of Hawaii's most breathtaking beaches, Hapuna is a ½-mile-long stretch of white perfection, with turquoise water that is calm in summer, so it's good...Read More

  • 3. Kaunaoa Beach

    Hands down one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, if not the whole state, Kaunaoa features a short crescent of pure white sand...Read More

  • 4. Kealakekua Bay Beach

    Gorgeous and undeveloped, this area in the state historical park offers extraordinary vistas and protected swimming. The shoreline is rocky, but the area is surrounded...Read More

  • 5. Kekaha Kai State Park—Mahaiula Side

    It's slow going down a 1.8-mile, bumpy but partially paved road off Highway 19 to this beach park, but the lovely beaches are worth it...Read More

  • 6. Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park

    A must-do on a south–southeast–bound trip to the volcano, this easily accessible black-sand beach is backed by low dunes, brackish ponds, and tall coco palms....Read More

  • 7. Honolii Beach Park

    One of the most consistent places on the east side to catch a wave, Honolii is popular with the local surf crowd. The beach is...Read More

  • 8. Hookena Beach Park

    The 2½-mile road to this secluded little gem feels like you're venturing off the beaten path, through an area rich in history. Remnants of an...Read More

  • 9. Kahaluu Beach Park

    Shallow and easily accessible, this salt-and-pepper beach is one of the Big Island's most popular swimming and snorkeling sites, thanks to the fringing reef that...Read More

  • 10. Kamakahonu Beach

    This beach is where King Kamehameha spent his final days—the replica of the Ahuena Heiau sits on a platform across from the sand. Adjacent to...Read More

  • 11. Kekaha Kai State Park—Kua Bay Side

    On the northernmost stretch of the park's coastline, this lovely beach fronts an absolutely beautiful bay with crystal-clear, deep aquamarine water. It's peaceful in summer,...Read More

  • 12. Kiholo State Park Reserve

    One of the state park system's newest treasures, Kiholo Bay is still in the planning stage, so facilities are sparse (portable toilets, for example) and...Read More

  • 13. Magic Sands Beach Park

    Towering coconut trees provide some shade and lend a touch of tropical beauty to this pretty little beach park (also called Laaloa), which may well...Read More

  • 14. Mahukona Beach Park

    Snorkelers and divers make exciting discoveries in the clear waters of this park, now a swimming hole and an underwater museum of sorts. Long ago,...Read More

  • 15. Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area

    Hugging the long shoreline adjacent to the runway that served Kona's airport until 1970, this beach is flat, generally clean, and speckled with black rocks...Read More

  • 16. Onekahakaha Beach Park

    Shallow, rock-wall-enclosed tide pools and an adjacent grassy picnic area make this park a favorite among Hilo families with small children. The protected pools are...Read More

  • 17. Papakolea Beach

    Those tired of the same old white- or black-sand beach can lace up good hiking shoes or sneakers to get to this olive-green crescent, one...Read More

  • 18. Pohoiki Black Sand Beach

    Located next to Isaac Hale Beach is Madame Pele's newest creation, Pohoiki Black Sand Beach, formed when lava from the Lower Puna eruption of 2018...Read More

  • 19. Pololu Valley Beach

    At the tip of North Kohala, this is one of the Big Island's most scenic beaches. Rain and erosion over millennia have created a stunning,...Read More

  • 20. Reeds Bay Beach Park

    Safe swimming, proximity to downtown Hilo, and the Ice Pond, a freshwater-fed swimming hole that flows into the backwaters of Hilo Bay, are the enticements...Read More

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