Hawaii, a chain of islands, became a U.S. State only in 1959. Plan a multi-island trip or choose between Maui, the Big Island, Oahu, or Kauai. The Big Island, as its name implies, is the largest.
Up on the northernmost point of the island, in Kapaau, stands the original King Kamehameha statue, erected not far from where he was born. It was in 1810, after years of conflict, that King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands.
The Big Island provides sunshine, beaches, volcanoes, luxuriant vegetation, a variety of aquatic activities, and amazing wildlife: fish, turtles, dolphins, manta rays…and snow! There are not many places where you can take a swim in the morning and go walking in the snow in the afternoon!
There are direct flights from Seattle to Kailua-Kona, which is on the west side of the island, or to Hilo, which is on the east side. The two sides are quite different. You will want to cross the island to experience both: the contrast between the two is quite amazing. It will take about two hours to do so.
The beaches and the sun are mainly on the western coast. Staying between Kona and Waikoloa seems to be a good choice. The northern part of the island is superb even if the weather there is a bit iffy, as the coast is where the volcanos cause clouds to form. It’s wetter, the vegetation there is magnificent and lush.
The southeastern part of the island is a lunar landscape of lava fields, where life struggles to hang on (or come back).
Let’s mention a few sights to see, but stop wherever the wind carries you!
Of course, the volcanoes are one of the island’s major attractions. The eruption of Kilauea (the world’s most active volcano) in 2018 is something that everyone remembers. The southeastern part of the island was badly affected: 700 houses were destroyed, and the island landscape altered. Some splendid hikes are possible on the volcano.
In the center of the Big Island, Mauna Kea is the tallest volcano on the island. It is dormant, and has a peak of 13800 feet. It is the home of the world’s biggest astronomical observatories. Several research teams operate the 13 telescopes on the mountain’s summit. It’s a good idea to stop for lunch at 12800 feet (as recommended), in order to acclimate to the altitude.
Manau kea: Have a swim and a drink at the end of the day while awaiting the sunset over the beach at Club Lava
Makalawena Beach, in Kehaka Kai State Park: A road over a lava field that resembles the lunar surface leads to the sea (take a 4×4 or a classic car). Continuing on foot off to the right you will find a more sheltered beach, like a lagoon, where you may end up swimming with turtles.
Waipio Valley: A steep road towards the sea leads down into a valley. Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed; those on foot need to be in good physical condition! The valley is a magnificent sight.
You can go kayaking with the dolphins in Captain Cook Bay, and finish up with snorkeling or even go for a ride on the waves if you are feeling audacious and take a surfing course.