Indulge your spirit of adventure on the biggest Hawaiian island. It's still a vast frontier, full of unexpected wonders.
We doubt that 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. Eight of the world’s 13 climate zones exist here, adding sensory variety as you circumnavigate the island. Gaze at vivid emerald cliffs, swaths of black-, white- and even green-sand beaches, majestic volcanic mountains (possibly snowcapped!), stark lava desert, rolling pastureland and misty valleys, weathered by rain, waves and time. Hawaiʻi is twice as big as the other Hawaiian Islands combined, and its dramatic terrain is ever fascinating.
Less than a million years old, Hawaiʻi is a baby in geological terms. Here you'll find the Hawaiian Islands' tallest, largest and only active volcanic mountains. Kilauea, on the eastern side, is the world's most active volcano, spewing molten lava continuously since 1983. If you see glowing, red-hot lava, you are witnessing Earth in the making, a thrilling and humbling experience. At 33,000ft tall when measured from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea is the world's tallest mountain, and its significance cannot be overstated – as a sacred place to Hawaiians and a top astronomical site to scientists.
Ancient History & Modern Multiculturalism
Ancient history looms large on Hawaiʻi, a place of powerful mana (spiritual essence). The first Polynesians landed at Ka Lae, the windswept southern tip, still raw and undeveloped today. Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Hawaiian Islands, was born in Kohala and died in Kailua-Kona. Hula and oli (chant) are deep-rooted here, and Miloli‘i on the Kona Coast is perhaps the last Hawaiian fishing village. During the sugarcane era, traditional ways became intertwined with those of immigrant cultures: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and more. This legacy is palpable in the mix of languages, foods and festivals. The most striking element of this multiculturalism is the pidgin vernacular.
Roads Less Traveled
Thanks to its sheer size, Hawaiʻi has lots of legroom. Enjoy the delicious freedom of the open road, where the journey becomes the main attraction. From east to west, the island has multiple personalities, and it's worthwhile experiencing them all. While the 'Gold Coast' – South Kohala to Kailua-Kona – caters to travelers en masse, most island towns are rural and exist primarily for residents. Even the capital seat, Hilo, is a former plantation town that's still slow-paced and populated by kamaʻaina (people born and raised here). Ultimately this down-home localness marks the real Hawai‘i. Don't miss it.