The Big Island of Hawaii
…is the largest island and the southeastern-most of the Hawaiian islands, a chain of volcanic islands in the North Pacific Ocean. With an area of 4,028 square miles (10,430 km2), it is larger than all of the other islands in the archipelago combined. The island of Hawaii is the third largest island in Polynesia, behind the two main islands of New Zealand. There is a resident population of approximately 185,079. By comparison, the Island of Puerto Rico is 3,515 square miles in size with a population of approximately 4,117,633.
Hawaii is said to have been named after Hawai‘iloa, the legendary Polynesian navigator who first discovered it. Other accounts attribute the name to the legendary realm of Hawaiki, a place from which the Polynesian people are said to have originated (see also Manua), the place where they go in the afterlife, the realm of the gods and goddesses. The name is cognate with Savaii, the name of the largest island of Samoa. Captain James Cook, the English explorer and navigator who was the captain of the first European expedition that discovered the Hawaiian Islands, called them the “Sandwich Islands” after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich. Cook was killed on the Big Island at Kealakekua Bay on 14 February 1779, in a mêlée which followed the theft of a ship’s boat.
The Big Island of Hawaii is Filled with History
You can travel through ten of the world’s 14 different climate zones on Hawaii ranging from Wet Tropical to Polar Tundra, a result of the shielding effect and elevations of the massive volcanoes Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The dramatic size and scope of the largest Hawaiian Island create a microcosm of environments and activities. On this island’s vast tableau, you’ll find everything from extravagant resorts and incredible golf courses to modest local towns and sacred Hawaiian historical sites, from the birthplace of King Kamehameha I to Hawaii’s first missionary church in Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona). With so much to see, it’s best to experience the island in small pieces. There’s plenty of room on Hawai‘i Island for your return.
Big Island Adventures, Things to Do
- Kalapana Cultural Tours—Guided hikes/tours to view lava as well as boat tours to view lava from the ocean. Locally owned and operated.
- Adventure in Hawaii—8 hour tour and includes dinner, transportation to the summit, hooded parkas and warm gloves and hot beverages.
- Mauna Kea Observatory Tours—Tour comes with boxed dinner, hot tea, hot chocolate, bottled water, cookies, telescope stargazing, jackets and gloves.
- Mauna Kea tours Tour comes with arctic style hooded parkas and gloves, meals and telescopes stargazing.
- Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach Park, County of Hawai‘i—Many Honu (sea turtles), black sand beach, county park
- Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach)—If hiking, expect a hot dusty hike of about 2+ miles each way and if driving, use a real 4 wheel drive vehicle with decent clearance as the “roads” to the beach are deeply rutted and require some experience to navigate. The series of “roads” furthest inland are somewhat better but the ones closest to the ocean are very poor condition. In any case you will drive over the lava fields to get there in places. Locals that know the best routes will take you out for a very small fee in their pickup trucks.
- Ka Lae (South Point)—Southernmost point in the United States (not including the territories). There is no landmass when you stare across the ocean to the south between you and Antarctica. Something to contemplate. It truly is at the ends of the earth.