Hawaii, Big Island

One of the country’s most popular vacation destinations is definitely Hawaii, but can you guess which island is the most diverse? If you guessed the Island of Hawaii, you are absolutely right! Known as “The Big Island,” this volcanic isle features 11 different climate zones, so you truly can go from one extreme to the other in the course of a visit. Where else can you go from the heat of the desert…to snow-capped mountains…to the edge of an active volcano… to rolling pasture land…to black sand beaches…on one tropical island island? Just think of all the things you could do and places you could explore in one day without having to travel through different time zones! It would be like having a bunch of mini-vacations all in one place!

For a little background on this incredible destination, the State of Hawaii is made up of 6 main islands, with the Big Island large enough to encompass the other 5 islands combined. The Polynesians discovered the Big Island first during their exploration of the Pacific Ocean, coming from the Marquesas Islands some 1,500 years ago and much of Hawaii’s history began here. It was also the first seat of power for Hawaiian royalty under King Kamehameha, who over powered the early chiefdoms of the Big Island and took title as king. In 1810, this native ruler laid claim to six islands in a 19 island chain, naming them the “Kingdom of Hawaii.” He held court here for thirteen years, finally moving the throne to Oahu. If you visit Kamehameha’s birthplace in Kohala, on the northwest side of the island, you can see his statue, erected as tribute to his many achievements in unifying and ruling all of the  Hawaiian Islands.

The west side of the island has a coastline fit for royalty, who made the most of it, I’m sure! And, let me tell you, after my visit here, I can really see why! This beautiful shoreline along the western coast has developed into one of the most incredible resort destinations in the world. It was here that I found a hotel fit for any king. Nestled in the gorgeous Mauna Lani Resort, the Fairmont Orchid Hotel blooms lavishly in this coastal paradise. It, too, has seen its own share of history in the reign of  island chieftains.

In ancient times, the locale was called Kalahuipua’a, which signifies the place where the Hawaiian chiefs of yore came for meetings and the many festivities which normally followed such gatherings. It’s also located at the base of all the mountains and volcanoes of the Big Island. All native Hawaiians are aware of the role this area played in their cultural heritage and value systems set forth by the  old chiefs.

From the moment you arrive at the Fairmont Orchid, you are greeted with warm Hawaiian hospitality. The open-air lobby takes advantage of the island breezes whispering through and both the sounds and sight of the ocean waves invite you to unwind and relax. The rooms are decorated with furnishings typical of Hawaiian-style living and the luxurious guestrooms have designer linens and marble baths, making anyone feel like royalty. There are lush tropical gardens, a free form pool with a hidden Jacuzzi, outdoor spa services, a white sand beach and a man-made lagoon that’s home to twenty sea turtles. The hotel has activities for both children and adults to immerse themselves in Hawaiian culture. You can weave a basket or make traditional flower leis to take home to your friends and family.

Staying at a resort that has everything may tempt you to spend the entire time in one place, but hang on…there’s a lot more to this island that you have to see and experience! You can’t come to the Big Island without seeing it’s main attraction! Volcanos National Park is home to the most active volcano on this side of the world and definitely worth a visit. If you’re in good physical shape, put on a pair of long pants and thick rubber soled shoes for a hike on and around the volcano, watching steam roll up from the depths. You can actually walk out on to the hardened lava field in search of the current flow, but check with the rangers for location and distance, taking a liter of water per hour. It is said that the one remaining Hawaiian god, the volcano goddess, Pele, remains here in the Kilauea Volcano, keeping it erupting since 1983.

There’s plenty of adventure and excitement available on the Big Island. Try deep fishing for marlin or mahi-mahi. There’s no better fishing than what you’ll find off the coast of Kona, due to the great weather, calm water and the amazing quantity of fish just waiting to be caught! Captain Peter Hoogs will take you out on the “Pamela” charter fishing boat, and no doubt, you’ll run up the marlin flag announcing you’ve caught the big one!

For those wanting to experience the old Hawaii, try living the life of a Paniolo, the original Hawaiian cowboy. After saddling up at the Dahana Ranch, you’ll be riding horseback through the hills of the high country, overlooking black sand beaches.

If it’s shopping you crave, then head straight to the town of Kailua Kona, where you’ll find the best of the Hawaiian souvenirs. Don’t forget flowers and leis to take home to friends. You can at least pick up a t-shirt, or splurge on an “Aloha” flowered shirt for yourself. You can’t leave Hawaii without one of these essentials tucked in your bag! And, if you want a really special souvenir, then why not mail yourself a coconut?

There are just so many different ways to enjoy what the Big Island has to offer. All it takes is an adventurous spirit, a swim suit, a good pair of walking shoes and the realization that paradise truly exists on the Big Island of Hawaii!