Hawaii Island

Overview

Introduction

Most commonly known as the Big Island, Hawaii Island is also known as the Orchid Isle and the Volcano Isle. Twice as big as all the other islands of the Hawaiian archipelago combined, Hawaii Island's size does not necessarily mean crowded and busy. Most of the island of Hawaii retains a rural flavor, and many residents are grateful to be removed from the urban bustle.

Most visitors to the Big Island congregate on the west side, primarily in sunny Kailua-Kona and along the majestic Kohala coast, but on the east side, in tropical Hilo, you will find a number of attractions and activities of interest as well. The landscape is varied, too, changing from beach to mountain and from dry desert to moist upland rain forest. Eleven of the world's 13 climate zones can be found there.

Visitors determined to see an active volcano will find one of the best bets on the Big Island: The world's most active volcano, Kilauea, has been erupting almost continuously since 1983. (You can watch the flowing lava safely, but the best viewing spots change daily.) You'll also find colorful beaches—golden, green, gray, black and white—and even a beach that disappears seasonally (between Keauhou and Kona, it is claimed temporarily by the tide). The deep-sea fishing and snorkeling are both great, and in some places excellent.

The Big Island also boasts Mauna Kea (the world's tallest mountain, if you count the portion below the surface of the sea); numerous large cattle and horse ranches (the Parker Ranch is the largest ranch in Hawaii); and more gorgeous flowers than you can imagine—most of the orchids for the leis made in the state are grown there. All of this peace and nature means that nightlife and shopping are limited to a few areas. Most visitors, if they go to the Big Island at all, stay for only a few nights, although those captivated by the island's low-key charm could stay much longer.

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