Hawaii Island

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Hawaii Hawaii Island

edit

Introduction

Waterfall of Lava

Waterfall of Lava

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Hawaii Island, or the Big Island, is (as the name correctly suggest) the biggest island of Hawaii. Unlike Oahu, where Honolulu is located and Maui, it sees far less tourists and is far more attractive and impressive regarding nature and landscapes as well. It is home to three of the most famous and prominent mountains of the state: the ever-active Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the largest mountain in the world in volume (Mauna Loa) and the tallest mountain in the world as measured from its base on the sea floor to its peak (Mauna Kea). If you're not into climbing peaks, the lush rainforest on the windward side, the black sand coast at its leeward side, or the saddle road connecting both sides of the island are the unique features of the island worth visiting.

Top

edit

Geography

In greatest dimension, the island is 150 kilometres across and has a land area of 10,430 km2 comprising 62% of the Hawaiian Islands' land area. Measured from its sea floor base to its highest peak, Mauna Kea is the world's tallest mountain, taller than Mount Everest is above sea level.
The Island of Hawaiʻi is built from five separate shield volcanoes that erupted somewhat sequentially, one overlapping the other. Because Mauna Loa and Kīlauea are active volcanoes, the island of Hawaii is still growing. Between January 1983 and September 2002, lava flows added 543 acres to the island. Lava flowing from Kīlauea has destroyed several towns, including Kapoho in 1960, and Kalapana and Kaimu in 1990. In 1987 lava filled in Queen's Bath, a large, L-shaped, freshwater pool in the Kalapana area. The southmost point in the 50 States of the United States, Ka Lae, is on Hawaii. The nearest landfall to the south is in the Line Islands. To the north of the Island of Hawaii is the Island of Maui, whose Haleakala volcano is visible from Hawaii across the Alenuihaha Channel.

Top

edit

Regions

  • Hilo Region - The Windward side of the island surrounding the city of Hilo, where you can see many waterfalls, walk through rainforest and enjoy the lush landscape.
  • Kona Region - The Leeward side of the island just outside encompassing Kailua-Kona, famed for its highland coffee farms and sunny weather, with splendidly calm beaches good for beginner surfing, snorkeling, paddling, swimming, and scuba diving, as well as whale and dolphin watching.
  • Kohala - The northwestern corner of the island, partially a vast green area artificially landscaped with gorgeous golf clubs and resorts and, where not altered by humans, black volcanic surface that makes up some of the driest land on the Big Island.
  • Hamakua - The east side of the island north of Hilo is rich in scenery, covered with gently rolling hills and spotted with old volcano tops, ending rather majestically in gallant seacliffs over which spill dozens of tall thin waterfalls. Within the region is the awe-inspiring Waipi'o Valley, which is very worthy of a hike or horseback ride.
  • Puna - The eastern side of the island between Hilo and the active lava flows of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where the landscape varies from lush rainforest to the black crust of newly volcano-formed earth and molten lava pouring into the sea.
  • Ka'u - The southern portion of the island is much less visited, but has seen rapid development in recent years following the demise of the local sugar and coffee industries, with tourism becoming the biggest economic generator.

Top

edit

Cities

Hilo's Old Downtown Buildings

Hilo's Old Downtown Buildings

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

  • Hilo - on the west coast, the wettest city of the USA.
  • Kailua Kona - on the east coast, much drier and the location of the main airport.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Mouna Kea

Mauna Kea is by some measures the tallest mountain in the world. When measured from the base of the mountain on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, it rises 10,203 metres to its peak, taller than Mount Everest if using the same measurement. It is a dormant volcano, with its last eruption dating back to about 2,500 BC. In the Hawaiian language, Mauna Kea means "white mountain", so named because its summit is regularly covered with snow in winter.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

The mountain's summit is one of the best astronomical sites in the world and several leading observatories can be found there as a result.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, you can see the only active volcano in North America. Here are steaming vents and gleaming black rocks, the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution - processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with unique, exotic, tropical ecosystems and a distinct human culture. The park highlights two of the world's most active volcanoes, and offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands as well as world-famous views of dramatic volcanic landscapes. An experience visiting the volcano on the Big Island has two parts. There is the steaming Kilauea crater at nearly 4,000 metres high as well as the long slope near Kalapana where the molten lava goes into the ocean. Watching earth being created is an experience you will never forget and is best done near sunset. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is only one of several astounding natural features on the Big Island of Hawai'i. You can also find Mauna Kea, the world's tallest peak as measured from base to summit, sacred Waipi'o Valley with its lush flora and black sand beach, and eleven of the world's thirteen climate zones in one area of the island or another.

Culture

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

Cultural and Spiritual Journeys can now be enjoyed on the Big Island to some of the most sacred places in Hawaii, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, alongside indigenous kahuna. There is a long history of the Hawaiian people being separated from the engine of tourism that drives economy of Hawai'i and that originates in the land. Other attractions include the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, a fascinating site for those interested in ancient Hawaiian history. This place served as a sanctuary for those broke taboos if they could make it here. Cultural demonstrations are regularly scheduled and sea turtles can frequently be seen offshore.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

Top

edit

Weather

The Big Island has 10 of the 15 types of the world’s climate. Hilo is the wettest city in the US, receiving more than 3,250mm of rain per year. That being said, there are many areas on the Island where it might be sunny, especially in the east and northeast, while Hilo might get drenched. Also take into account that because of the high altitude of much of the central parts of the Island, temperatures are much lower over there and snow is common during the winter months on top of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

This website gives a fantastic summary with climate charts and maps of the 4 main islands, which show the differences on each Island, ranging from pretty dry on the main popular coastal areas, to extremely wet on the other side of the islands and even more so on some of the mountain ranges.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

Kona International Airport (KOA) is the major airport on the western side of the Big Island. There are direct flights to the Big Island with United Airlines from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. US Airways has flights from Phoenix. American Airlines and Delta Airlines also serve the airport from Los Angeles. Some other cities with direct flights include Vancouver (seasonal), Seattle, Oakland and Tokyo.

You can also fly to Oahu/Honolulu first (which has many internationl flights) and connect with Hawaiian Airlines through Honolulu. Kahului has also flights with Hawaiian to Kona Airport.

Hilo International Airport currently only serves Los Angeles, Honolulu and Kahului.

By Boat

Although several cruise ship lines operate in Hawaii, there is currently no dedicated inter-island boat service. Hawaii Superferry used to run high-capacity catamaran ferry services between O‘ahu and Maui, with intention to open a route between Maui and the Big Island, but the company has since declared bankruptcy.

Top

edit

Getting Around

By Car

On Big Island, you need a car in order to get to most of the interesting beaches, parks or other attractions, or to travel from the Kona coast to the Hilo coast. Places like the green or black sand beaches, or the Mauna Kea summit and astronomical observatories are only accessible by four-wheel drive. Note that car rentals tend to book months in advance, depending on the season.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.

If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

Other options

Getting around by local bus, bikes, or on foot work well if you're staying in one area. Many budget travelers are unpleasantly surprised by the extremely limited public transport on the Big Island. The county's Hele-On bus is inexpensive ($2 fare as of 2013), but the schedules are mainly intended for commuting. There are some bus companies offering excursions from Hilo to destinations like Volcano, but they require reservations.

Top

edit

Eat/Drink

Top

edit

Sleep

The Big Island is the only county in Hawaii that has no restrictions on the operation of vacation rentals. Before making reservations, it's best to review a map of the island and plan ahead, thinking about the activities and sightseeing you'll want to do. For those that don't have the budget for large hotels and resorts, there are many less expensive options that are still enjoyable, such as local bed and breakfasts, small hotels, and hostels where you can stay for as little as $35 a night. Camping is also readily available all over the island.

View our map of accommodation in Hawaii Island

Top

Accommodation in Hawaii Island

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Hawaii Island searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Hawaii Island and areas nearby.

Hawaii Island Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Hawaii Island

This is version 26. Last edited at 10:02 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 12 articles link to this page.

  • Feature Article
  • (Only editable by Full Members)

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License