By Kent Coules, Publisher
Deciding to vacation in Hawai‘i is an easy choice for many as evidenced by the nearly 10 million people who visited in 2018. What is not so easy is deciding which island to visit. In this article, we provide 10 reasons why (and 10 types of people for whom) the Big Island might be the perfect choice for your first or next visit.
1. For the Volcanologists
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, home to Kīlauea Volcano, is the most visited site in the entire state, hosting over two million guests per year. Kīlauea is the most active volcano in the world and has been spewing lava continuously since 1983. The volcano grabbed international headlines from May through August of 2018 when fissures opened on the sides of the shield volcano and spewed lava into the Puna region, destroying hundreds of homes. Since August, “Madame Pele,” as she’s known to locals, has been quiet and the park has reopened.
Pro tip: Many visitors prefer an aerial view of the volcano. For more information, check out Safari Helicopters Hawaiʻi.
2. For the Beach Bums
No self-respecting beach bum can rightfully claim that title without a visit to the Big Island, home to white, black and green sand beaches. Papakōlea Beach, located near South Point, is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The sand is the result of Mauna Loa Volcano spewing lava rich in green olivine crystals 49,000 years ago.
Pro tip: If you want to fuel up with some outstanding food before you get there, stop by the iconic Punaluʻu Bake Shop.
3. For the Ornithologists
Did you know that 94% of plant life on Hawai‘i is due to birds? It’s mind-boggling when you think about it.
Bird watching is a popular activity on the Big Island. Recently, the 90-mile “Hawai‘i Coast to Coast Birding Trail” was completed over the Saddle Road. In fact, every fall the Hawai‘i Island Festival of Birds takes place in Kailua-Kona.
Pro tip: For more the inside scoop on bird watching tours, visit the website of Hawaii Forest & Trail.
4. For the Climatologists
The Big Island is considered the most diversified landmass in the world. It contains four of the five major climate zones and 10 of the 13 Koppen climate sub-zones. Nowhere else can you jump into tropical beach waters and in a couple of hours be in the Polar and Tundra Climate Zone. But that’s what happens when you make your way from any Hawai‘i beach to the top reaches of Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa. And along the way, you’ll experience and see several climate and topographical changes. Variety is a Big Island spice.
5. For the Astronomers
Mauna Kea is the site of several major telescopes because its viewing conditions are the finest of any Earth-based observatory. The site lies at an elevation almost twice that of any other major observatory and above 40 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere; thus there is less intervening atmosphere to obscure the light from distant stellar objects. A high proportion of nights at Mauna Kea are clear, calm, and cloudless, owing to local weather peculiarities and the fact that the mountaintop lies above cloud cover most of the time. The high elevation and extremely dry, clear air make the site ideal for observing astronomical objects.
At less than half the elevation of the Mauna Kea summit (13,796 feet above sea level) is the Mauna Kea Visitor Station. This is actually a better place to look at stars with the naked eye because the eye loses focus at the higher elevation. And it’s an easier trek.
Pro tip: Want to avoid the hassle and let the professionals get you there? Check out kailanitourshawaii.com.
6. For the Ichthyologists
If youʻre into fish, and more specifically manta rays, the Big Island is for you. Manta rays are large, charismatic and basically geniuses. Mantas have huge brains—the biggest of any fish—with especially developed areas for learning, problem-solving and communicating. The giant rays are playful, curious and might even recognize themselves in mirrors, a sign of self-awareness.
These traits are among the reasons why swimming among the mantas at night is one of the most popular activities on the Big Island, drawing fish-loving tourists from around the world.
7. For the Cultural Anthropologists
Around the world, hula has become increasingly popular over the last few years. There are even hula classes at fitness clubs. On the Big Island, the popularity of hula has never waned. On April 21-27, 2019 the Merrie Monarch Festival, will take place in Hilo, celebrating the “language of the heart.” Established in 1964, the festival brings together the world’s best hula practitioners.
Pro tip: Merrie Monarch is a must-see event. If you want to attend any of the performances, book early! Merrie Monarch is hugely popular and many of the hotels and venues fill up quickly so plan ahead. If by chance youʻre not able to catch any of the performances in person, the event is broadcast live on local television.
For more information go to the website of the Merrie Monarch Festival.
8. For the Botanists
In addition to the amazing variety of tree and plant life due to elevation and rainfall changes, the Big Island is home to a couple of world-class botanical gardens.
9. For the Javaphiles
100% Kona coffee is a rare commodity grown exclusively on the slopes of North and South Kona. The high elevation, constant cloud coverage and rich volcanic soil from Hualālai Volcano in the upland slopes of Kona create an ideal environment for growing this unique Hawaiian varietal.
10. For the Golfologists (Or just Golfers, I guess)
Golfing on the Big Island can be an almost spiritual experience. Majestic views, oceanfront tee shots and spectacular weather help create an idyllic golf experience. The Big Island also boasts some of the only “lava” golf courses in the world. If golf is your thing, the Big Island is a great choice of islands.
Pro tip: Mauna Kea Golf Course is probably the most famous Big Island course, however, in golf “famous” often translates to “expensive.” Two other gems worth teeing it up on include Waikoloa Village Golf Course and Makani Golf Club.
Choosing Hawaiʻi for your vacation was the easy part. The real challenge is deciding on which island(s) to visit! Hope this gave you something to mull over and ease the pain of your decision-making process!