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What to Do on the Big Island of Hawaii

Trying to decide which island to visit is like trying to decide who your favourite child is! They are all different and lovable in their own ways. The Hawaiian Islands are each a magical destination filled with the Aloha spirit and warm hospitality of the Hawaiian people. 

You visit Oahu and Honolulu for all the great tourist attractions available for families and likely want to see the world-famous Waikiki Beach, Polynesian Cultural Center or visit Pearl Harbour among some of the most popular attractions. Beach lovers and sun-seekers head straight to Maui for the laid back beach vibe and quaint villages to relax and soak up the sun. Discover tranquillity and peace surrounded by the lush “Garden Isle” of Kauai for the uninhibited beauty of nature. 

And then there is the baby of the islands. The Island of Hawaii, also affectionately known as the “Big Island” is the youngest but largest of the islands and continues to grow and evolve as the lava flow creates new land and new beaches. It is the island that has the perfect mix of everything you know and love about Hawaii already but with some unique experiences that can only be found on this island. 

Home to Kilauea, one of the active volcanoes on the island, the eruption in May 2018 caused the longest closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in its history. When the lava finally moved into the ocean in August, parts of the park were able to begin recovery efforts and slowly reopen to the public. Before the eruption, the “glow” from the Kilauea was one of the top activities to experience on the island. The glow is no more, and the experience at Kilauea is nothing short of awe-inspiring as you feel the power of Pelehonouamea (or Pele, for short), the goddess of the volcano, and the humbling reminders that the land is to be respected with reverence. 

Halemaumau Crater, Kilauea Caldera, Big Island of Hawaii

 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the top tourist attraction for the island and with good reason. It is worth the experience to check out the park and explore the nearby town of Hilo. Stay at Volcano House with views of the Kilauea Caldera and enjoy wines from the Volcano Winery. The best way to see the dramatic landscapes is from above in a scenic helicopter flight. 

View of Halemaumau Crater from above in a helicopter

And as the land continues to grow, the island is ripe for adventure with more than 11 of the 13 climate zones found on the island. You can experience tropical jungle and rainforest climates through to the cool, snow-capped mountains of Mauna Kea. 

Hiking the Kohala Coast with Hawaii Forest and Trail

The entire Northern hemisphere and 90% of the Southern hemisphere can be seen from the island of Hawaii making it a haven for stargazers and astronomy buffs. Skies are clear and dry with low light impact surroundings, making it the perfect place to gaze at the stars. Head up Mauna Kea for the ideal view, one of the best places on the planet to enjoy the night sky, or take in a stargazing experience on land.

Coffee is serious business on the island, and you will not want to miss out on any opportunity to enjoy Kona coffee!  Visit a coffee farm or roast your own Kona coffee beans for a unique souvenir. And if you happen to be there in November, the first ten days of the month is the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, a 10-day coffee lovers paradise! 

About to roast coffee beans at Ueshima Coffee Company

Night swimming with the manta rays is a highly sought after activity on the island and not to be missed. Fishing boats can take you out into the water but there are also family-friendly experiences from the land where you can swim with the manta rays with entrance into the water from the shore. You can watch the manta rays from the beach at Sheraton Kona Resort at Keauhou Bay, where they even have a whole restaurant dedicated to these gentle giants, Rays on the Bay. 

Dive into Hawaiian culture with a visit to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park – the place of refuge, where lawbreakers flee. The breaking of Hawaiian law is sacred and punishable by death so lawbreakers would seek refuge here to complete the ceremony of absolution by a priest. During times of war, defeated warriors could also find comfort and refuge here away from the battlefields yet within the protection of the powerful chiefs that overlook the grounds.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (place of refuge)

When in Hawaii, cowboys may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Still, the paniolo (Hawaii cowboy) culture and history are very strong and prevalent to the Hawaiian people. The birth of paniolo was spearheaded by Anna Lindsay, a prominent figure in Hawaiian ranching history. Anna Ranch is preserved in her honour for guests to explore the importance of paniolo life in Hawaii. It’s fascinating to peek into history that opens your eyes to how steep and varied Hawaiian culture can be, beyond what you know (or think you know) about Hawaii! 

Anna Ranch Heritage Center

Visit the Big Island of Hawaii for an awe-inspiring experience that engulfs you with the aloha spirit but in a way that is unique to the island. More than just a greeting, the spirit of aloha is the essence of the Hawaiian people on all the islands. The spread of aloha is of love, kindness, generosity and compassion that guides their way of life, and inspires you to do the same. To do more, to live better and to live deeply. 

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