Introducing Hawaiʻi the Big Island
We doubt it's possible to get 'island fever' on Hawaiʻi. The aptly named Big Island is fantastically diverse, with miles of highways and – better yet – byways to explore. From age-old fishing villages to modern mega resorts, from snowcapped peaks to sandy beaches, you'll experience tropical splendor backed by an epic history. Hawaiʻi is twice as big as the other Hawaiian Islands combined, and its dramatic terrain will surprise you and take you to extremes.
At 800,000 years old, Hawaiʻi is a baby in geologic terms. It's here you'll find the Hawaiian Islands' highest and largest volcanic mountains– and the world's most active volcano, spewing molten lava since 1983. Circumnavigate the island and watch stark lava desert morph into rolling pastureland and misty valleys, weathered by rain, waves and time.
Ancient history looms large on Hawaiʻi, a place of powerful mana (spiritual essence). The first Polynesians landed at Ka Lae, where the windswept coast remains pristine and undeveloped, and Kamehameha the Great was born in North Kohala. Hula and oli (chant) are powerful forms of living history, and the Big Island has spawned legendary hula masters and the celebrated Merrie Monarch Festival.
Plantation days are long past, but not the colorful legacy. The waves of immigrants who labored in the cane fields added their languages, foods and cultures to the mix. Today, there's no ethnic majority and common bonds are intangible: the pidgin vernacular, easygoing manner and deep love of the ʻaina (land).
Hawaiʻi is surprisingly untouristy. And thanks to its sheer size, there's lots of legroom. While the South Kohala Gold Coast caters to travelers en masse, most island towns are rural and cater to residents. Even the capital seat, Hilo, is a former plantation town that's still slow-paced and populated by kamaʻaina (born-and-raised Hawaiians). Wherever you go, there's a sense of freedom and frontier. The Big Island is a guaranteed big experience.
Need to know
Kohala & Waimea
Kohala is a study in contrasts. South Kohala is the archetypal sun-and-sea resort mecca, while North Kohala proudly remains rural with nary a high-rise in sight. Waimea, a long-standing ranch town in between, is a central stop for cross-island travelers. From Waikoloa to Kawaihae, Hawaiian history is evident in ancient trails, heiau (temples), fishponds and petroglyphs.