Big Island's main attractions
- aka Big Island - is the largest of the six main Hawaiian
natural wonder that is home to the world's most active volcano, rainforest, deserts and even
snow, the 'Big Island' offers the best hiking opportunities in the Hawaiian island group in addition to interestingly reconstructed remnants of ancient Hawaiian culture, sensational deep sea fishing and pretty good snorkeling. Pictures
Mauna Kea: Meaning 'white mountain' in Hawaiian language due to its its snow-capped summit, this is the world's tallest mountain measured from the ocean floor at 4,205m (13,796ft). Mauna Kea is great for hiking (including the challenging summit hike), watching sunrise/sunset (especially the famous sunset shadow on the clouds to the east) and star gazing from the Visitor Centre or the Subaru Telescope. The summit is also accessible by car from Saddle Road, though a 4WD is recommended as the latter part of the road is very rough; it will take at least a couple of hours but presents many terrific views en route.
Beware altitude sickness problems - light-headedness, headaches and possibly worse - and stop off for an hour at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station at 9,200ft.
Volcanoes National Park: the south of the island
holds (or tries to) two active volcanoes, with hot headed Kilauea
Caldera constantly threatening to wreck the peace, while Mauna Loa
is of somewhat cooler, and all set in a gorgeous and wildly varied terrain.
Hike through dense rain forest, enter a 500-year old lava cave called Thurston Lava Tube or drive along Crater Rim Drive. Feeling the energy of the Earth in this eerie landscape is a one-shot experience and a must-do. However, tourists do not see flowing lava plunging into the Pacific Ocean unless they take a helicopter tour or drive outside the park (check the current active lava location at the visitor centre). This is a World Heritage site; allow plenty of time to explore it.
most attractive part of the island is in the sacred Waipio Valley, known as 'the Valley of the Kings'- tropical
heaven, home to the island's tallest waterfall (400m Hiilawe Falls). You can see a view of the valley from the overlook; hiking into the valley is stunning but demanding.
Kona coast: the sunny western side is the island's main resort area - Kailua-Kona for instance - with good beaches,
snorkelling (especially Kealakekua Bay, though the bay is at risk due to overuse) and terrific deep-sea fishing.
Kailua is the main town with a church built from lava; the old
19th century Hulihee Palace is now a museum.
The town is home to the Ironman competition and near to Puuhonua (see below).
- Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, west coast. Puuhonua, the Place of Refuge, is the best traditional religious site in the Hawaii islands, with reconstructed houses, temples and wooden effigies. Self-guided tours are cheap, efficient and entertaining.
Green Sea Turtles hang out on the waters and beaches nearby while kayakers and snorkelers love the place, with easy access from near the boat ramp and especially clear waters a bit further out. In winter it's possible to watch whales from the shore. It's located on Honaunau Bay in south Kona.
More Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park.
Kohala: the Kohala Mountains on the northern peninsula offer scenic hiking
interest but also a temple, the Mookini Heiau, and the Lapakahi
State Historical Park, an old fishing village. Also one of island's most picturesque beaches - Mauna Kea (also known as Kauna'oa Beach) - is located here, as well as the local's favourite Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area with spacious white sand and fine facilities.
Beach State Recreation Area, Big Island (swimming, snorkelling, body surfing, surfing)
Hapuna Beach is one of the longest, widest (200 feet) sandy beaches
and the most popular beach on the island, especially with bodysurfers
and bodyboarders. Excellent public facilities and lifeguards on
duty every day. The high surf period is winter months. It is along
Queen Kaahumanu Highway (No. 19).
Green Sand Beach: (also called Papakolea Beach) with its surreal olive-green colour (due to olivine, a green crystal) and outstanding views, this is one of Hawaii's most breathtaking hiking routes. Located near South Point, it is extremely remote and not easy to get to even by 4WD. It is also not swim-friendly as the water can be rough and the current strong.
Deep Sea Fishing: Big Island is the best of the Hawaiian Islands for this sport and the Kona resort area is world famous.
Island's Anaehoomalu Beach is generally fine for the less experienced.
Snorkelling: summer is the best time to avoid
heavy surf on many beaches.
The Kona coastline, especially Kealakekua Bay, is a good spot. See Hawaii Beaches
Hiking: In Waipio Valley, Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park, and Kohala Mountains.
Merrie Monarch Festival, Hilo, Big Island, an annual, week-long hula
competition with a parade and concerts.
11th June, Kamehameha Day celebration and Kamehameha Festival, Moku Ola (Coconut Island), Hilo, Big Island as well as North Kohala, his birthplace.
Iron Man Triathlon, Cilia.
September, Aloha Week, parades, races,
||GAA operate two good value, adventurous 8 day cruises around the Hawaiian Islands, including guided hiking trips, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle-boards and more: Cruise North | Cruise South
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