HAWAII "The Big Island"

Hawaii "The Big Island"

Only 400,000 years old, the island of Hawai‘i is the youngest of the Hawaiian isles. It is also, by far, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago; its 4,028 square miles is more than twice the size of all the other major islands combined.

The "Big Island," in fact, is still growing. Kilauea volcano has been spewing molten lava since January 1, 1983, continually adding real estate to the island. The Big Island's other active volcano, 13,679-foot Mauna Loa, last erupted in March 1984. Mauna Loa is the world's largest volcano and covers about half of the island. Of the three remaining volcanoes on the island, Mauna Kea and Kohala are extinct, and Hualalai is considered to be dormant (it last erupted in 1801).

Anchoring the eastern end of the island chain, the Big Island is an island offering spectacular contrasts. Twelve distinct climate zones exist here, from tropical rain forests in Hilo and Ka‘u's arid desert to the snow-capped summit of Mauna Kea. Ka‘u is the southernmost point in the U.S. A Hawaiian legend tells of two deities, volcano goddess Pele and demi-god Kamapua‘a, battling over the island. The two eventually struck a deal, dividing the Big Island in two: the dry west side (Kona) and tropical east side (Hilo).

Hilo is the Big Island's county seat and largest city-population 40,759-yet it has maintained all the ambience of an old-fashioned small town. As one resident put it, "Hilo has more of an ‘old Hawaii' feel than anywhere else in the state."

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