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Hawaii Island

The biggest island in the Hawaiian archipelago

Overview

Things can get a little confusing when one of the principal islands in the archipelago shares a name with its state so it’s very handy the island of Hawaii is usually referred to by its nickname - the Big Island. And a very apt nickname it is. Spreading more than 4,000 square miles, it is larger than all the other islands put together and with room to spare. It’s growing too, right in front of your very eyes. From beneath the magnificent Kilauea Volcano, molten magma spews up from the earth’s core; it then spills down long slopes into the sea expanding the island’s shoreline on its way. Since January 1994, the island has seen an additional 500 acres in its real estate.

The Big Island is diverse. From the world’s most active volcano to the multi hued beaches it created, from lavish resorts to small-town shops, the island puts on a display of unique sights and experiences everywhere you look. With over 260 miles of breath-taking coastline and five marine life conservation districts you’re also regaled with more than half the world’s 13 climate zones – here on the one island alone. In less than a day, you can go from tropical rainforest to lava deserts, verdant pastures, misty uplands, coral forests and frozen tundra thrown in for good measure.

Yet despite the island’s impressive versatility, there’s no doubt that the joint headline acts both reside in the hot spot that is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Mauna Loa and Kilauea Caldera, two of the park’s five volcanoes. Mauna Loa stands at 13,796 above sea level but it’s a sub aerial volcano and rises over 30,000 feet from the ocean floor making it the planet’s most massive volcano. Its last eruption was in 1984 unlike its compatriot, Kilauea which has been performing continuously since January 1983 and carries the mantel as the world’s most active volcano. Make sure you get a good spot as the show can be action-packed; you can explore steaming craters and cinder cones, venture into the rainforest, and at times approach within feet of the eruption itself.

Today, there is very much an “East-West Divide”. Legend has it that the island’s two deities — the volcano goddess Pele and the demi-god Kamapuaʻa, who could control the weather, struck a deal after a battle for supremacy over Hawaii and split the island in two. Today, the town of Kona, known for its year-round sunshine, sparkling resorts, top golf courses, white sand beaches and of course coffee presides over the dry west side while Hilo, the state’s second largest city, with its volcano backdrop, tumbling waterfalls, colourful gardens and towering banyan trees officiates over the wetter east. side As to which is best, the jury’s still very much out - even the locals can’t decide, so the only way to find out is to make sure you visit them both.

Things to do

Holidays

Browse our amazing range of holidays in Hawaii Island

  • Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, Hawaii Island

    Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa

    from £60

    Perched on the rocky headland of Keauhou Bay, Big Island, the Sheraton Kona Resort is a large hotel with excellent facilities and superb views over the ...see more

  • Vancouver and Honolulu Multi City Holidays

    Vancouver & Honolulu

    from £869

    A great stop-over en route to Hawaii is the Canadian city of Vancouver, with its beautiful backdrop of ocean and mountains, great cuisine, shopping and ...see more

Top tips

Top tips for visiting Hawaii Island

1. Kilauea Visitor Centre

• Kilauea is sometimes called "the world's only drive-in volcano." This prolific volcano currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road every single day.
• The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lies 30 miles south-west of the town of Hilo. You should start your visit at Kilauea Visitor Centre which is open daily from 7:45am to 5pm.
• It’s best to start your visit with the hourly film from 9 am to 4 pm to introduce you to the park. Ranger talks are offered and ranger-guided activities can be scheduled.
• You can plan your day (and you should allow a full day if time allows), pick up maps, learn about the park's hikes and get the latest eruption updates here.


2. Planning a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

• You need to be prepared for your visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
• Bring food and water since there are no facilities in the park.
• Dress appropriately with strong shoes especially if you are planning on hiking, long trousers and a jacket/jumper.
• You will definitely need your camera; you should bring binoculars and if you are here at night, make sure you have a torch with you.
• For your safety, you need to stay on the marked roads and stay out of restricted areas as there is a danger of harmful volcanic gases and unstable land in these areas.


3. Green & black sand beaches

• Because of the constant volcanic activity, you'll find white sands, green sands and black sands on Hawaii Island.
• Black sand beaches are pretty rare so you should visit Punaluu Black Sand Beach which is located between Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu.
• Coconut palms fringe the upper edge of jet black sand and you may also discover large honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) basking on the beach. Although it may be tempting, do not touch these protected species and do not remove any black sand from the beach.
• It’s not recommended to swim here but there is a picnic area and restroom facilities so you can have lunch while you experience the unique feeling of black sand between your toes.


4. Kona coffee

• Coffee is synonymous with the Big Island and in particular in north and south Kona. Keep an eye out for 100% Kona. Like fine wine, it’s expensive but worth it.
• Most of the coffee you’ll find in Hawaii will contain at least some percentage of Kona coffee. Blends are definitely good, but there is nothing like the real thing.
• The price of a pound of 100% Kona coffee is directly related to the complex and meticulous process required to transform a bean into a full-bodied, aromatic brew. Seedlings are hand-planted and hand-picked. An estimated 4,000 beans are needed to produce a pound of coffee.
• Before roasting, Kona coffee is sun dried, and then custom roasted. Roasting is considered an art form by many in the trade and some say it’s the most important step in the process.
• There are a number of coffee farms in the Kona area and some do offer tours. For details of farms available, visit: http://www.gohawaii.com/en/big-island/guidebook/topics/coffee-plantations/
• The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival takes place in November every year.


5. Historic towns & art galleries

• When in Kona, make a stop at historic Kailua Village – it’s no longer the sleepy fishing village it once was for Hawaiian royalty. Take a stroll down the main street to find a variety of attractions beyond the shops and restaurants. Kailua Pier is an excellent spot to watch the famous sunsets. The Ironman World Championship takes place here in October. • You should also pay a visit to Holualoa, a small town of artists and art galleries which sits above Kailua Village on the slopes of Hualalai. Check out the exhibits and events at the Donkey Mill Art Center and make sure you stop at the art galleries and shops while wandering down the town’s main street.


6. Farmers markets on the Big Island

• Every Wednesday from 8:30am to 2:30pm, the Kings' Shops Farmers Market in Waikoloa features locally grown fruits and vegetables, fresh jams and jellies, macadamia nuts, breads and pastries, as well as arts and crafts.
• Hilo Famers Market is open year-round every Wednesday and Saturday from 6am to 4pm and all other days from 7am to 4pm and is considered to be one of the best open markets on the island.


7. Hamakua Coast drive & waterfalls

• For a memorable day-trip of spectacular Hawaiian scenery, head along the Hamakua Coast and drive along sea cliffs, through lush valleys and tropical rainforests.
• The beautiful Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive begins in Hilo and ends at the Waipio Valley Lookout. Along the way you’ll explore old plantation towns and see amazing waterfalls at the Akaka Falls State Park.
• A short hike here (less than an hour) will take you first to the 100-ft Kahuna Falls. Then continue along the loop to witness the towering Akaka Falls plunging 442 feet from the cliffs above. • Make sure you drive to the end of Highway 240 to reach the Waipio Valley Overlook. However the road into the valley is very steep and accessible only by 4x4 vehicles or on foot. For this reason it is recommended that if you want to visit the valley floor you should do this on a guided tour.


Gallery

At a glance


  • Gorgeous white sand beaches and resorts on the west side
  • Tropical rainforests and waterfalls on the east side
  • Home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and world's most active volcano

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Winner of British Travel Awards 2020 - Gold award for Best Holiday Company to Canada (Large)
Winner of British Travel Awards 2020

Gold award for Best Holiday Company to Canada (Large)


Fully protected - We are members of ATOL, ABTA and IATA
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We are members of ATOL, ABTA and IATA.

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Price Match Guarantee

If you find the same tour cheaper through another operator, we'll match the price.

Why book with American Affair


  • Expert Knowledge
  • 20 Years Travel Experience
  • ATOL & IATA Protected
  • Tailor Made Holidays

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At a glance


  • Gorgeous white sand beaches and resorts on the west side
  • Tropical rainforests and waterfalls on the east side
  • Home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and world's most active volcano

Trusted travel partner


Winner of British Travel Awards 2020 - Gold award for Best Holiday Company to Canada (Large)
Winner of British Travel Awards 2020

Gold award for Best Holiday Company to Canada (Large)


Fully protected - We are members of ATOL, ABTA and IATA
Fully Protected

ATOL, ABTA and IATA logos

We are members of ATOL, ABTA and IATA.

Price Match Guarantee
Price Match Guarantee

If you find the same tour cheaper through another operator, we'll match the price.

Why book with American Affair


  • Expert Knowledge
  • 20 Years Travel Experience
  • ATOL & IATA Protected
  • Tailor Made Holidays

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American Affair