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. Greenwell Farms

    Depending on the season, the 20-minute walking tour of this working farm takes in various stages of coffee production, including a look at the 100-year-old...Read More

  • 3. Kaloko–Honokohau National Historical Park

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

  • 4. Kalopa State Recreation Area

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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

    One of the most beautiful spots in the state, this underwater marine reserve has dramatic cliffs that surround super deep, crystal clear, turquoise water chock-full...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Mokuaikaua Church

    Site of the first Christian church in the Hawaiian Islands, this solid lava-rock structure, completed in 1837, is mortared with burned lime, coral, and kukui...Read More

  • 9. Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station

    At 9,200 feet, this excellent amateur observation site is a great way to get a sense of the mountain and the observatory work without going...Read More

  • 10. Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens

    Billed as "the only natural tropical rain forest zoo in the United States," this 12-acre county zoo features native Hawaiian species such as the nene...Read More

  • 11. Parker Ranch

    Exceeding 130,000 acres and regularly running tens of thousands of head of cattle, Parker Ranch is an impressive and compelling backdrop for the scenic town...Read More

  • 12. 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

  • 13. Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

    Quite simply, this is one of the most historic and commanding sites in all of Hawaii: here, in 1810, on top of Puukohola (Hill of...Read More

  • 14. Waipio Valley Lookout

    An easily accessible access point to see the beauty of the Waipio Valley, this lookout offers a stunning view of the valley and the high...Read More

  • 15. Boiling Pots

    Four separate streams fall into a series of circular pools here, fed by Peepee Falls just above, and the resulting turbulent action—best seen after a...Read More

  • 16. Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel

    Even if you're not staying here, make time to stroll through the expansive lobby of this Kailua-Kona fixture to view impressive displays of Hawaiian artifacts,...Read More

  • 17. Haili Congressional Church

    Constructed in 1859 by New England missionaries, this church is known for its services in Hawaiian and for the choir, which sings hymns in Hawaiian....Read More

  • 18. Hikiau Heiau

    This stone platform, once an impressive temple dedicated to the god Lono, was built by King Kalaniopuu. When Captain Cook arrived in 1778, ceremonies in...Read More

  • 19. Hilo Coffee Mill

    With all the buzz about Kona coffee, it's easy to forget that estate-grown coffee is produced throughout the rest of the island: the Hilo Coffee...Read More

  • 20. Holoholokai Beach Park and Petroglyph Trail

    While mostly rocky topography makes swimming and snorkeling a bit difficult here, this little park is still scenic and relaxing. Take the short trail over...Read More

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