Hawaii Island (The Big Island), Hawaii
The Island of Hawaii forms part of the Hawaiian Archipelago in the North Pacific Ocean. Also known as the Big Island, it is indeed the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and, guess what, it’s still growing. It is also the youngest landmass in the archipelago, volcano territory basically, with a subtropical coastline.
What’s most endearing about this remote American island is the extraordinary Polynesian culture of the Hawaiians and how they connect with nature in a truly special way.
If you are the outdoors type this is your paradise waiting, with its sprawling beaches, clear warm waters, and the ocean air, not to mention the lush green jungles and the red-hot lava flows.
Hawaii Island belongs to Pele, the goddess of lightning, wind and volcanoes and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. Go out and enjoy the natural wonders of Pele’s kingdom and the best way to do that would be to take a few days to drive around Big Island.
The west side of Hawaii Island – with its black lava beaches, history, and watersports – is where all the resorts are found.
Watch the Pacific green sea turtles on the beaches of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park or dive in the sheltered Kahulu’u bay if you want an underwater look at “Honu” – the local word for sea turtle.
Take a break from all the sun, sand and watersports to admire the beauty of the Hulihe’e Palace or just shop around for “Aloha” souvenirs or beachwear.
Mauna Kea Beach is an excellent place on Big Island where you can chill out for a few days with the imposing summit of the Mauna Kea Volcano making for an awesome backdrop.
A day would be enough to cover Captain Cook Village, named after the English explorer Captain Cook, who was killed here in Kealakekua Bay in 1779. These days the old jetty built in his honor is used for sunbathing and people watching.
Drive south to Pu’uhonua National Historical Park, a place of refuge in primitive times, and check out the ancient canoes, huts, and board games. Explore the sacred burial temple for Hawaiian chiefs, guarded by carved Kii gods. But, before that, don’t forget to stop by at the painted church en route to the Park.
No trip to Big Island is complete without a trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the island’s interior. Visitors from all over the world are attracted to the steaming craters of the relatively young Kilauea Volcano, which has been active for the last 30 years, erupting every once in a while. Join a cruise to witness the spectacular sight of hot molten lava pouring into the ocean in a continuous sizzle.
One of the wettest cities in the United States, Tropical Hilo is situated on the east coast of Hawaii Island. Hilo boasts some of the most stunning vistas you will ever get to see – a Jurassic Park-like landscape with humongous trees, an explosion of colorful flowers all around, magnificent waterfalls, creeks, the oceanfront and the wonderful gardens of Hilo. And, when the heavens open up, there are many indoor attractions here to keep you entertained.
Visit the northern limit of the island to the birthplace of Kamehameha I, the legendary king who unified the Hawaiian Islands, overlooking the sprawling forest reserve in the Pololu Valley.
Round off your Big Island trip on Hapuna Beach back on the west coast, and watch the sun sink below the edge of the North Pacific Ocean, with a Mai Tai or Lava Flow-inspired cocktail in hand.
The capital and the biggest city of the youngest American State of Hawaii, Honolulu, is located on the Polynesian island of O’ahu where the surf and weather are perfect throughout the year.
Honolulu boasts a perfect blend of culture, shopping, sports, and nature. And history, what with America’s only royal palace at the heart of the city and Pearl Harbor just around the corner.
The Bishop Museum is a must visit for history buffs where you will get to know about the Polynesian settlers who voyaged to these islands hundreds of years before Captain Cook dropped anchor in 1778, only to get killed the next year at Kealakekua Bay.
Do not miss the majestic Diamond Head Volcano which attracted the natives and the first Europeans.
Wherever you are in the city, its explosive past is always a reminder in the form of the Le’ahi Volcano looming in the backdrop. A short trail will lead you to the crater’s circular rim which offers spectacular views of the island and the ocean beyond.
Honolulu, over the years, has developed into a thriving, modern urban center and this can be best witnessed from the top of the Aloha Tower. While it is the commercial hub for residents and locals, tourists flock here for the sun, beaches and water sports.
True to its name, which means “sheltered bay,” Honolulu offers the best swimming options any day of the year in addition to stand-up paddle boarding and sailing in the harbor.
The Ala Moana Beach Park is the perfect foil for the noisier Waikiki Beach where you can just laze on the beach, or get surfing lessons if you are feeling up to it, and even explore the bay in a rented canoe.
The boulevard offers excellent shopping options right from high-end fashion apparel to the typical flowery local garments.
Admire the American-Florentine architecture of Iolani Palace and visit the Halekoa barracks.
The statue of the fearless warrior King Kamehameha, who unified the Hawaiian islands in the late 18th century, can be found downtown.
The ancient Banyan trees and attractive beachfront of the Kapi’olani Park are must-see attractions, including the Honolulu Zoo, which the Park is home to.
At least a day is what you need to cover the historic Pearl Harbor – to see the vestiges of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which was crippled by a Japanese air raid on December 7, 1941. Pay your respects on the USS Arizona Memorial, visit the Aviation Museum and see the spot that marks the surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri.
East of Pearl Harbor is the ever-beckoning warm turquoise waters of the Kailua Beach, the best place to relax and take your mind off the affairs of the world for a change.
Honolulu is not only a great destination in itself but also serves as a launching pad to other Hawaiian islands.
The second largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago after the Big Island, Maui is home to a mere 150,000 people and can be traversed by car from one side to the other in less than three hours.
You only have to tour around for a bit on the island to know why Maui is considered by many as the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. It is also referred to as the “Valley Isle” because most of Maui sits in a bowl between the East and West Maui volcanoes that are responsible for shaping the island. A helicopter ride will give you a birds-eye view of this beautifully lush terrain that has emerged from the fertile lava soil.
The tropical climate and more than 80 beaches provide the ideal setting for beach days and watersports. Plenty of bars, shops, art galleries and museums are there to kill the monotony when the weather is not conducive for venturing outdoors.
Rent a car to enjoy a day trip to Hana, the winding roads taking you past some of the most breathtaking wonders of Maui. Enjoy some Hawaiian delicacies along the way; take a picture break at a waterfall; watch surfers showing off their skills at the Ho’Okipa Beach Park, or simply cast a line and enjoy a beer, or two, while you wait for the bite.
An hour at the Garden of Eden Arboretum – a bamboo forest with great vistas – will do wonders for your soul and peace of mind.
The Haleakala National Park on the other side of Hana is home to the island’s highest peak, a perfect spot for hikers to hit the impressive trails. Those averse to a steep climb can drive to the lookout point for some commanding views of the surroundings.
The best wakeboarding spot on the island is Big Beach, in Makena Beach State Park.
The shore at Turtle Town, a popular nickname for Maluaka Beach, is the best place on the island to observe Hawaii’s green turtles. Dive off the coast and watch these gentle marine creatures feed on the Molokini Reef coral.
A resort stay at the Wailea Beach, particularly with the family, would be an experience in itself. Or you can proceed north to Kihei to brush up your surfing skills in the oceanfront town. Affordable hotels, shopping, and food make it an ideal place to spend a day, or two.
Lahiana, the bustling historic center and one of the prettiest Maui towns in the northwest, boasts excellent galleries, museums, and souvenir shops under the shade of ancient Banyan trees.
For a befitting end to a wonderful Hawaiian adventure, splurge at the high-end Kaanpali Beach Resort. This lush retreat has everything: plenty sunshine, kingly comfort, amazing beaches, and rich culture.