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. Anna Ranch Heritage Center

    On the National and State Registers of Historic Places, this stunning heritage property belonged to the "first lady" of Hawaii ranching, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske, and...Read More

  • 2. Hulihee Palace

    On the National Register of Historic Places, this lovely two-story oceanfront home, surrounded by jewel-green grass and elegant coconut palms and fronted by an elaborate...Read More

  • 3. Kamakahonu and Ahuena Heiau

    In the early 1800s, King Kamehameha the Great built a large royal compound at Kamakahonu, the bay fronting what is now the Courtyard King Kamehameha's...Read More

  • 4. Lyman Museum and Mission House

    Built in 1839 by a missionary couple from New England, Sarah and David Lyman, the beautifully restored Lyman Mission House is the island's oldest wood-frame...Read More

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. Kau Desert Footprints Trail

    People take this short hike, 1.6 miles round-trip, to see faded human footprints, fossilized in hardened volcanic ash. Easy....Read More

  • 10. Lapakahi State Historical Park

    A self-guided, 1-mile walking tour leads through the ruins of the once-prosperous fishing village of Koaie, which dates as far back as the 15th century....Read More

  • 11. Laupahoehoe Train Museum

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

  • 12. Mookini Heiau

    Dating from as early as AD 480, this parallelogram-shaped structure is a stunning example of a luakiniheiau, used for ritualized human sacrifice to the Hawaiian...Read More

  • 13. S. Hata Building

    Built as a general store in 1912 by Japanese immigrant and businessman Sadanouke Hata and his family, this structure now houses galleries, a restaurant, and...Read More

  • 14. Star of the Sea Painted Church

    Dating from the 1930s, this historic church, now a community center, is known for its colorfully painted interior. It was moved to its present location...Read More

  • 15. Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

    One of the park's star attractions, the Thurston Lava Tube (named "Nahuku" in Hawaiian) spans 600 feet underground. The massive cavelike tube, discovered in 1913,...Read More

  • 16. Volcano Art Center Gallery

    Occupying a portion of the original Volcano House hotel built in 1877, this mesmerizing art gallery, within walking distance of the hotel, has showcased works...Read More

  • 17. H. N. Greenwell Store Museum

    Established in 1850, the homestead of Henry N. Greenwell served as cattle ranch, sheep station, store, post office, and family home all in one. Now,...Read More

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