What is the big island in hawaii called?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: July 10, 2024

Introduction to the Big Island

The Big Island in Hawaii, officially known as Hawaii Island, is the largest and youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. Covering an area of 4,028 square miles, it is almost twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Its diverse landscapes feature everything from lush rainforests and arid deserts to snow-capped mountains and black sand beaches, making it a unique and captivating destination.

Geography and Climate

Hawaii Island is home to 11 of the world's 13 climate zones, which is a testament to its geographical diversity. The island's climate varies dramatically depending on the location. The eastern side, known as the windward side, receives abundant rainfall and is covered in verdant forests. In contrast, the leeward side is arid and sunny, perfect for beachgoers and sun-seekers.

Volcanic Origins and Activity

The Big Island was formed by five volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are still active, with Kilauea being one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The island's volcanic activity has led to the creation of new land and dramatic changes in its topography over the years.

Historical Significance

Hawaii Island holds great historical significance. It was the birthplace of King Kamehameha I, who unified the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. The island is dotted with ancient Hawaiian sites, including heiaus (temples) and petroglyph fields, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the native Hawaiian people.

Captain Cook's Landing

In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook made his first landing in the Hawaiian Islands at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. This event marked the beginning of significant changes for the native Hawaiian population, as it led to increased contact with the outside world.

Natural Wonders

Hawaii Island is renowned for its natural beauty and geological wonders. Visitors can explore a range of breathtaking sites, each offering a unique experience.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

One of the island's most famous attractions is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, home to the active volcanoes Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park offers a variety of hiking trails, scenic drives, and educational exhibits, allowing visitors to witness the power of volcanic activity up close.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor. It is a popular destination for stargazing, thanks to its clear skies and minimal light pollution. The summit houses some of the world's most advanced astronomical observatories.

Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls

The island boasts several stunning waterfalls, including Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls. Akaka Falls, located in Akaka Falls State Park, drops 442 feet into a lush gorge, while Rainbow Falls, near Hilo, is known for the rainbows that form in its mist on sunny mornings.

Cultural Experiences

The Big Island offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences that reflect its diverse history and traditions. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture through various activities and events.

Hula and Hawaiian Music

Hula, the traditional Hawaiian dance, is an integral part of the island's cultural heritage. Visitors can attend hula performances and even take lessons to learn the graceful movements and chants that tell stories of the islands. Hawaiian music, featuring the ukulele and slack-key guitar, is another essential aspect of the local culture.

Luaus and Traditional Cuisine

A visit to the Big Island wouldn't be complete without experiencing a traditional luau. These festive gatherings feature Hawaiian food, music, and dance, providing a taste of the island's hospitality. Traditional dishes like poi, laulau, and kalua pig offer a delicious insight into Hawaiian culinary traditions.

Outdoor Activities

The Big Island is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities to suit all interests and skill levels.

Snorkeling and Diving

The island's crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life make it an ideal destination for snorkeling and diving. Popular spots include Kealakekua Bay, where visitors can swim with colorful fish and possibly encounter dolphins, and the Kona Coast, known for its vibrant coral reefs.

Hiking and Trekking

With its diverse landscapes, the Big Island offers numerous hiking opportunities. Trails range from easy walks through lush rainforests to challenging treks across volcanic craters. Notable hikes include the Kilauea Iki Trail, the Pololu Valley Lookout, and the Mauna Kea Summit trail.

Surfing and Watersports

Hawaii is synonymous with surfing, and the Big Island has plenty of spots for surfers of all levels. The island's consistent waves and warm waters make it a great place to catch a wave. Other watersports, such as paddleboarding, kayaking, and windsurfing, are also popular.

Unique Attractions

In addition to its natural wonders and cultural experiences, the Big Island boasts several unique attractions that are worth exploring.

Green Sand Beach

Papakolea Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach, is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The beach gets its distinctive color from olivine crystals found in the surrounding volcanic rock. Reaching the beach requires a hike or a four-wheel-drive adventure, but the stunning scenery makes it well worth the effort.

Waipio Valley

Known as the Valley of the Kings, Waipio Valley is a place of immense beauty and cultural significance. The valley features towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and a black sand beach. It can be explored on foot, by horseback, or with a guided tour, each offering a different perspective on this magical place.

Historic Kailua Village

Kailua Village, located on the west coast of the island, is a charming seaside town with a rich history. The village is home to several historical sites, including Hulihe'e Palace and Mokuaikaua Church, as well as a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries.

Practical Information for Visitors

When planning a trip to the Big Island, there are several practical considerations to keep in mind.

Getting There

Hawaii Island has two major airports: Kona International Airport (KOA) on the west side and Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east side. Direct flights are available from many major cities in the United States and other international destinations.


The island offers a range of accommodations to suit all budgets and preferences, from luxury resorts and boutique hotels to vacation rentals and campgrounds. Popular areas to stay include Kona, Hilo, and the Kohala Coast.

Best Time to Visit

The Big Island can be visited year-round, but the best time to go depends on your interests. The winter months (November to March) offer cooler temperatures and a chance to see humpback whales, while the summer months (April to October) provide warmer weather and ideal conditions for outdoor activities.

Hawaii Island, with its incredible diversity in landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and endless opportunities for adventure, remains a place of wonder and discovery. Its volcanic origins, historical significance, and natural beauty continue to captivate visitors from around the world. Whether you're drawn to the island's majestic mountains, serene beaches, or vibrant communities, the Big Island offers an experience unlike any other.

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