Welcome to the Island of Hawaii, also known as “the Big Island.” The Big Island is the youngest (geologically speaking) and largest of the Hawaiian Islands– bigger than all the other Islands combined. What’s more, Hawaii Island continues getting bigger, thanks to the fiery eruptions of the world’s most massive volcano, Maunaloa.
Besides having lots of territory to explore, the Big Island is home to incredible natural diversity and unique scenic wonders. Containing all but two of the world’s climate zones, you’ll find everything from stunning black and green sand beaches, and lush tropical forests, to sunny coffee farms and lofty snow-capped mountain peaks.
The Big Island offers first class resorts, golf courses, world famous Kona coffee plantations, the world’s largest cattle ranch, waterfalls–and did we mention, incredible beaches? There’s plenty of authentic Hawaiian culture to experience, from funky local town venues, to the birthplace of King Kamehameha and the ending place for Captain Cook. There’s so much to see, do and experience on the Big Island, you’ll have to come back again soon for more aloha.
Hawaii Island, or “the Big Island” is both the youngest and largest of all the Hawaiian islands at 4,028 square miles, comprising 62% of the land mass of the entire state. Its greatest distance across is 93 miles. Hawaii is also the largest island in the United States and the southeastern-most island in the archipelago. The Big Island has the highest point among the islands, with the 13,780 foot volcano, Mauna Kea.
Mauna Kea rises over 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor, making it taller than Mt. Everest from base to summit. Maunaloa is the most massive mountain in the world, covering half the island, and Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
The broad variation in elevation and the contrasts between the wet (windward) and dry (leeward) sides means that the Big Island contains all but two of the climate zones found anywhere in the world. The west is driest, with a mere 10.6 inches average rainfall in Puukohola Heiau and an arid 18 inches in sunny Kailua Kona. The eastern side gets much more precipitation, with an incredible 130 inches of average rainfall in the lush and verdant Hilo.
Hilo is the county seat of Hawaii County and the largest city on the island, with a total population for the island of 185,079. The Big Island has lots of elbow room, being one of the least densely populated of the islands.
Although it’s the youngest island geologically, it is believed to be the earliest inhabited of the islands, with Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands settling at Ka Lae, or South Point about 1,500 years ago.
Captain Cook was the first European to discover the islands, landing in Kauai in 1778, and coming to the Big Island a year later, only to be killed during a tragic scuffle with the natives at Kealakekua Bay. The islands were originally called the Sandwich Islands in honor of Cook’s friend, the Earl of Sandwich.
Around this time the islands were ruled as rival chiefdoms and war was common. Paiea Kamehameha, later known Kamehameha the Great, ruled the Big Island and after several years of war, united most of the Hawaiian islands in 1795. He then named the kingdom and the island chain after his native island. The Hawaiian court was moved to Oahu in 1805. In his later years, the King moved back to the Big Island in 1812, where lived peacefully until his death in 1819.
The first missionaries arrived at Kailua Kona in 1820. The historic Mokuaikaua Church on Alii Drive in Kailua Kona Village is still standing and welcomes worshipers to this day. Ranching and sugar cane became big business and drew diverse peoples from around the world. Although sugar cane production is gone now, cattle, coffee and agriculture remain a big part of the island economy. The Big Island’s unique culture, rich heritage and natural beauty contribute to its biggest industry of all, tourism.