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Hawaii Island is a hot bed of natural wonders

The largest of the Hawaiian Islands, this massive island boasts more than 4,000 square miles to explore. With all but two of the world’s climate zones represented here, you can experience lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains, vast expanses of volcanic desert, and world famous beaches. 

 

The dry, sunny west side of the island draws visitors to two popular areas: Kailua-Kona, a quaint fishing town and the Waikoloa Beach resort area with lots of luxury accommodations. In Kailua-Kona, King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel sits right on Kailua Bay and adjacent to the popular Alii Drive shopping district. The Hilton Waikoloa, Hapuna Beach Prince Resort, and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel are just a few of the lodging options in the Waikoloa Beach area. All are just minutes from shopping. The Shops at Mauna Lani, Kings’ Shops, and Queens’ Marketplace offer a selection of island attire, jewelry, and surf gear. 

 

To experience lush green rainforests, you’ll head to the east side of the island. To make the best use of your time, it’s a good idea to arrange to stay overnight. There are a few hotels to choose from; Naniloa Volcanoes Resort is probably the best option. Take an easy (paved) hike through ferns, vines, and banyan trees to see Akaka Falls. Nearby is the Hilo Tropical Botanical Garden, situated on a four-mile scenic drive bypass. 

 

The highlight of a visit to the island might very well be Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to see red-hot lava flowing into the ocean, but action at Halamaumau Crater is usually a sure bet. You’ll see the plume of steam emerging from the crater and, if you visit at dawn or dusk, the red glow of lava below. A stop at Jaggar Museum is educational and allows a look down into the caldera. If you’re up for a short hike, look up the Kipukapuaulu Trail on the park map. 

 

Dining options on the island are quite varied, but many restaurants boast island grown produce and Big Island grass fed beef. Kona Brewing Company has great casual fare, served with island-brewed ale. In Waimea, try Village Burger, Merriman’s, or Pau. If you’re heading to the Waipio Valley overlook, stop in the tiny hamlet of Honokaa and enjoy a fresh calzone at Café Il Mondo. Try the half-moon nachos at Café Pesto, with locations in both Hilo and Kawaihae.