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

    Beach

    Also known as "A-Bay," this expansive stretch of white sand, classically fringed with coco palms, fronts the Waikoloa Beach Marriott and is...Read More

  • 2. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

    Beach

    One of Hawaii's finest beaches, Hapuna is a ½-mile-long stretch of white perfection. The turquoise water is calm in summer with just enough...Read More

  • 3. Kaunaoa Beach

    Beach

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

  • 4. Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens

    Zoo/Aquarium

    Billed as "the only natural tropical rain forest zoo in the United States," this sweet zoo features native Hawaiian species such as the state...Read More

  • 5. Ahalanui Park

    Beach

    There's nothing like swimming in this natural, geothermally heated tide pool next to the ocean with palm fronds rustling lazily overhead. Popular...Read More

  • 6. Greenwell Farms

    Farm/Ranch

    The Greenwell family played a significant role in the cultivation of the first commercial coffee in the Kona area (as well as the first grocery...Read More

  • 7. Hookena Beach Park

    Beach

    The 2½-mile road to this quiet, secluded little gem feels like you're venturing off the beaten path. The area is rich in history, with remnants...Read More

  • 8. Kaloko–Honokohau National Historical Park

    Ruins

    The trails at this sheltered 1,160-acre coastal park near Honokohau Harbor, just north of Kailua-Kona, are popular with walkers and hikers....Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Kamakahonu Beach

    Beach

    This is where King Kamehameha spent his final days—the restored Ahuena Heiau sits on a platform across from the sand. Fronting the Courtyard...Read More

  • 11. Manuka State Wayside

    Forest

    This lowland forest preserve spreads across several relatively recent lava flows. A semi-rugged trail follows a 2-mile loop past a pit crater...Read More

  • 12. Moku Ola

    Island

    This small island, also known as Coconut Island, sits just offshore from Liliuokalani Gardens. Accessible via a footbridge, it was considered...Read More

  • 13. Mokupapapa Discovery Center for Hawaiʻi’s Remote Coral Reefs

    Zoo/Aquarium

    This is a great place to learn about the stunning Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which encompasses nearly 140,000 square miles...Read More

  • 14. Old Kona Airport Park

    Beach

    Hugging the long shoreline adjacent to the runway that served Kona's airport until 1970 (the old terminal is used for community events), this...Read More

  • 15. Onekahakaha Beach Park

    Beach

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

  • 16. Pacific Tsunami Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    In downtown Hilo, it may seem odd that businesses tend to be far from the scenic bay front, but there's a reason for this. Tsunamis have killed...Read More

  • 17. Spencer Park at Ohaiula Beach

    Beach

    This white-sand beach is popular with local families because of its reef-protected waters. It's probably the safest beach in West Hawaii for...Read More

  • 18. 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

  • 19. Waiolena and Wailua Beach Parks and Richardson Ocean Center

    Beach

    Just east of Hilo, almost at the end of the road, three adjacent parks make up one beautiful spot with a series of bays, protected inlets, lagoons...Read More

  • 20. 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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