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observatory on hawaii's big island



Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is famous for growing coffee



orchids grow well in hawaii



Hawaii's big island is growing thanks to the lava flow



Rainbow Falls, Big Island, Hawaii



hula dancing, hawaii

Hawaii - The Big Island

The largest and youngest of the chain of Hawaiian is officially called Hawaii but is more commonly referred to as The Big Island.

The high mountain barrier that runs down the middle of the island blocks the trade winds and makes the western side the driest region. This is where you will find the most popular hotels in the resort areas of Kona and Kohala. This is also where you find some of the island's best golf courses, beaches and seas ideal for snorkelling and swimming.

The clear waters give you a window into a whole new submarine world inhabited by graceful and colourful creatures. Swimming with Manta Rays is just one of the unique memories you can take home from the Big Island.

The lively harbour town of Kailua-Kona offers a selection of shops, restaurants and hotels. This is the place to charter a boat for some great deep sea fishing. It is also the host town for the annual Ironman Triathalon World Championships.

South of Kona and Keauhou is also the commercial coffee growing region and it is interesting to take a tour to fully appreciate how the richly planted slopes end up creating some of the best coffee you will taste anywhere! This area is steeped in Hawaiian royal history. It is also the spot where Captain Cook met his death in 1779.

The Big Island is one of the least commercially developed so you won't find any big shopping malls or large cities here. What you will find is a varied landscape which can all be experienced along one route when you travel the Belt Road which is named as one of the World's Greatest Scenic Roads by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. It is noted for its lava desert, lush jungle, rolling farmland and open plains, active lava flow, warm beaches, cool highlands and views of soaring mountains and plunging valleys. To experience it all you really should hire a car.

On the eastern side of the island is the quaint island capital town of Hilo. Step back in time as you wander around the historic sector and take in the sights and smells of the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The largest orchid industry in the world is in and around this area so make sure you visit one of the many farms.

The heart of the island is dominated by two large mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The former is home to a number of observatories and was been selected as the location for one of the world's largest telescopes. Hawaii's clear, clean skies and lack of night time light pollution offer some of the best star-gazing conditions in the world. On the way to the summit you will find the Onizuka Centre for International Astronomy. Check locally for opening hours.

There are some areas and roads on the Big Island where rental cars are not be permitted and sadly for visitors anywhere beyond this Visitor Centre and up to the summit of Mauna Kea is one of them. To get to the summit you will have to join a guided tour.

Hawaii's Highlights

Volcanoes National Park - incorporates both Mauna Loa and Kilauea, the latter which has continuously spewed lava down to the sea (over 7 miles away) since 1983. The Park is well worth a visit and going with an official guide makes it even more fascinating. Drive along the 20 mile Chain of Craters Road through the park's moonscape to the ocean. Here you will stand on land that did not exist 10 years ago and you can watch the 'vog' (volcanic steam and fog) rising from where the lava enters the sea. There are a number of local guided tours on offer. Check details to see how close to the lava flow each tour goes.

Akaka Falls State Park - an easy walk along a pathway through lush rainforest takes you to the most famous of the Big Island's waterfalls, Akaka Falls. The water plunges 420 feet and even from your high vantage point you will feel the mist dampen your skin.

Hulihe'e Palace - see the collection of beautiful furniture and fascinating artifacts at this museum in Kona, once a vacation residence of Hawaiian royalty.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory - visit the orchards where these buttery nuts are grown and harvested then explore the visitor centre to sample them. Very "ono"! (it means "delicious" in Hawaiian).

Add a short stay in the Big Island to your Waikiki holiday in Honolulu, Oahu. The price depends on the category of hotel or apartment, the room type you select as well as the time of year you travel. Use the price grid on the Waikiki package page as a guide to estimate the price for 5 nights based on 2 people sharing - we have priced hotels on the high side to allow for fluctuation in exchange rates so you can be fairly sure the final budget will be around the total calculated if not less - nobody likes nasty surprises! We recommend you book a hire car for the duration of your stay to give you the best opportunity to explore Hawaii Big Island.

And remember, the Aloha Holidays Promise applies - if we find better value on your travel dates we will pass the savings on to you!

Photo credits: HTA, Kirk Lee Aeder, Tor Johnson, earl53 morguefile