Hawaii - Big Island
Hawaii, variously known as "The Big Island." "The Orchid Isle", "The Volcano Island", describing the amazing beauty and history behind this amazing place, right bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Want to know more? Then read on!
Any visitor will marvel at the diversity of the island, from it's snow-capped 14,000ft plus peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (host to Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, on it's lower slopes), to it's plantations and beaches dipping into the sea, way below.
And what beaches! With sand all the colors of the rainbow due to the effects of the volcanic history. You can find black, yellow, white and green!
And then there's the amazing fiery landscape of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
From glistening waterfalls to bubbling volcanoes, to rainbow sand and rolling surf, this island is as varied as it is spectacular.
Indeed the big island is so diverse, that it's landscape includes 11 out of 13 of the world's climate ecosystems, from sub-arctic to desert.
When Your Cruise Ship Lands
Cruise ships usually dock in Hilo and Kona, both contrasting and perfect places for you to explore the island.
It is pretty big to see in one stopover, so you need to be selective and active, bearing in mind that once you get back on board, you can get some rest! You do want to make the most of your Hawaiian Cruise, don't you?
While in Hilo it's worth hiring a car and driving up to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and seeing the Kilauea Volcano eruptions, especially in the evening. This really is an erupting volcano, but it's taking it's time and if it's possible, gently erupting! If you drive, you'll get to see more of the park than with an organized tour - you can even take a picnic!
There is also a helicopter tour over Kilauea which is very popular, though it is said that you see a lot of lava, which isn't that exciting and there are other helicopter tours on the islands that are better (like the one on Kaua'i, if you're going there - then again if you can manage to squeeze the dollars for both...).
If you want to get really obsessive about the volcano and it's flows, there there is an excellent (if a bit technical) website here run by the USGS.
Hilo is second only in population to Honolulu and holds the dubious honor of being the rainiest place in the whole US, with 128 inches a year!
Yet when the sun shines, it takes on an unimaginable beaury all of it's own, perhaps in such stark contract to the rain! So, bring an umbrella and your rainwear and don't let the weather put you off Hilo!
The very tropical climate on this side of the island is amazing. Ask anyone who knows, surfing the great waves, while the less adventurous watch from the beach, is something experienced nowhere else in the world.
With it's lush forests and a rain-filled sky with the sun bursting through, Hilo is one of the very best places to visit in the whole world.
The cruise ships also stop in Kona, though often just for a few hours and not overnight, so your time in Kona is quite limited.
Stops require a tender to get you to shore, so you can manage parasailing or Atlantis Submarines, once on dry land. Sometimes it's better to check out what the cruise can offer for shore visits (then you'll be sure to get back ontime too), or just chill in the town!
Yep, you got it - Kona is where the coffee comes from. One of the only places in the US where coffee is grown - and it's gooood coffee! Your time in Kona will be filled with the wonderful aromas of that coffee (did I mention coffee again?), beautiful flowers and fruits, getting you into perfect harmony with the delightful experience you will have there. Remember to check out the Holualoa Kona Coffee Company and it's 300 acre plantation.
Way drier than Hilo, the name Kona means 'leeward side' (some say 'whispering sea' as well!), so you get all the sun and less rain!
Ranging from a seventy-mile long stretch of black lava beach that is breathtakingly beautiful, to lush, fertile plantations, Kona has a varied geography that is ideal for getting out and about and exploring.
Many areas in and around Kona still remain simple and agricultural in nature.
Other Big Island Highlights
The Summer residence of Hawaiian royalty was at Hulihee Palace. This museum, operated by the Daughters of Hawaii, houses a collection of Hawaiian artifacts and personal memorabilia of 19th century Hawaiian royalty.
The Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is situated is an out-of-the-way spot and originally was a place of refuge for criminals and outcasts. Now it offers the chance to learn a little history as you view the exhibits or walk along the 1871 Trail.
The Lyman Museum is full of Hawaiian natural and cultural history exhibits.
Ten Things You Must Do On Hawaii
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Kilauea)
Mauna Kea (and at Night!)
Crater Rim drive
Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens
World Tropical Garden
Royal Kona Museum and Coffee Mill (and Luau)
Swim with Rays
Thurston Lava tube