Island fever may happen elsewhere, but it's almost unheard of on Hawaii Island. Appropriately referred to as the “Big Island”, it is incredibly diverse with miles of roads, trails and spectacular parks to explore. From an active volcano and snow-capped peaks to lush valleys and incredible reefs, you'll experience tropical splendor backed by an inspiring culture. Hawai'i Island is twice the size of the other islands combined, and its dramatic climactic regions will surprise and delight you.
With so much to explore, you’ll find it hard to decide which adventure to try first. Where to start? Try these 5 can't miss Big Island experiences:
1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – This number one attraction is the reason why the Big Island is the only Hawaiian island that is still growing. Kilauea has been active since 1983. Known as the home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, the Halemau’mau Crater is creating an unbelievable show right now as the lava is approaching the top of the crater.
2. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park – Tropical fish and dolphins are abundant in this bay, which also is the home of the famous Captain Cook Monument. It’s a Marine Life Conservation District with crystal blue water that is renowned for its snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking. On the east side of the bay there is also the Hikiau heiau (sacred temple) dedicated to the Hawaiian god, Lono.
3. Explore Waipi’o Valley -- Located on the northern Hamakua Coast, the sacred Waipio Valley was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I, and an essential center for political and religious life in Hawaii. Not only is "The Valley of the Kings" an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it's also a place of dramatic tropical beauty. "Waipi?o" means "curved water" in the Hawaiian language. It was the capital and permanent residence of many early Hawaiian ali?i up until the time of King ?Umi.
4. Akaka Falls State Park: Located along the lush Hamakua Coast, Akaka Falls boasts two gorgeous waterfalls, the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and the towering Akaka Falls, which plummets 442 feet into a stream eroded gorge. All it takes is one short hike to see their splendor. It’s also a lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns. Akaka Falls is easily the most famous of the Big Island’s collection of spectacular waterfalls.
5. Hilo Farmers Market: The festive Hilo’s Farmers Market is one of the island’s most popular open markets and frequented by both locals and visitors. The booths are filled with Hilo’s freshest finds at very affordable prices. There’s a colorful variety of locally grown exotic fruit, vegetables, herbs, island jams, honey, macadamia nuts and hard-to-resist baked goodies, too. The flower displays are spectacular, too. Huge buckets of orchids and anthuriums, complement the displays local artisan’s crafts like koa wood treasures and wind chimes. It’s open year-round every Wednesday and Saturday.
Images courtesy of Big Island Visitors Bureau.