The “Big Island” is the youngest island in the Hawaiian archipelago.
Encompassing 4,028 square miles, the Big Island is twice the size of all other Hawaiian islands combined! It’s also twice the size of Delaware and three times the size of Rhode Island. And it’s still growing.
The Big Show
Located near Hilo, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano. (The Big Island is home to Madame Pele, Hawaii’s legendary fire goddess.) Kilauea has been feeding rivers of lava since January 1983, adding more real estate to the island every day. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, which includes Kilauea, is one of the state’s most popular visitor attractions, offering hiking, camping and stunning views of Madame Pele at work. More than a million people visit the park each year. The Big Island’s other active volcano, 13,679-foot Mauna Loa, last erupted in March 1984.
Most of the 149,000 residents here divide the Big Island in two: the Kona side and the Hilo side. On the east, Hilo is wet and tropical, with more than 150 inches of rain annually. The Kona side gets less than 10 inches of annual precipitation. Hilo is the county seat, while Kona is where you’ll find many of the island’s major resorts.
More Hot Stuff
Kilauea Volcano isn’t the only sizzling attraction on the Big Island. Visit the Kohala Coast, a wide-open resort playground with championship golf courses, horseback riding and a host of visitor attractions. Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park in Kailua-Kona is one of the state’s most revered cultural attractions. Located in Waimea, Parker Ranch is one of the largest cattle ranches in the world.
North Kohala, located near the northernmost tip on the Big Island, is the birthplace of Kamehameha, the great king who united all the Hawaiian islands under his rule. It’s said that he was born on a stormy night, during which a bright star appeared in the heavens. Some believe this star may have been Halley’s Comet, which appeared in November or December of 1758 (Kamehameha is believed to have been born sometime between 1748 and 1761). Kamehameha died in Kailua-Kona on May 8, 1819. Following ancient tradition, his bones were hidden to protect the king’s mana (power).
Popular Destinations on the Big Island
- The Big Island’s official color is red.
- Its official flower is the red ohia lehua blossom. The flower is actually found in an array of flowers, including white, yellow and orange.
- The ohia lehua tree can be found along the slopes of the island’s volcanoes. According to legend, the blossom is sacred to Pele, and picking it will produce rain.
Did You Know?
- Measured from the seafloor, Mauna Kea on the Big Island stands 33,476 feet high (13,796 feet from sea level), making it the tallest mountain on the planet.
- Ka Lae, also known as “South Point,” is the southernmost point in the United States, located 18:54:49 N, 155:41:00 W.
- The Mauna Kea Observatory houses the world’s largest telescope.
- The Big Island is the world’s leading producer of macadamia nuts and orchids.
- The King Kamehameha statue in Honolulu is a reproduction of the original. The ship carrying the original statue from Germany to Honolulu caught fire and sank off the Falkland Islands. The original was later recovered and now stands in Kohala, near the king’s birthplace.