The Island of Hawaii - Big Island
Also Know as "The Orchid Isle"
The Big Island of Hawaii is more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands put together. It’s home to the world’s most active volcano, black-sand beaches, the best marlin waters anywhere, one of the country’s largest privately-owned cattle ranches, Hawaii’s best hunting, the state’s only snow skiing and the state’s largest orchid farms.
The Big Island, as the island of Hawaii is usually referred to, spreads over 4,038 square miles and is more than twice the size of all the other islands combined but is home to only 198,000 people! About three-quarters of the population live in the city of Hilo and the small towns of Kailua-Kona and Kamuela. For close touch with the awesome power of volcanoes and the creation and spirit of Hawaiiana, the Big Island is unsurpassed.
The road that loops 300 miles around the geologically youngest Hawaiian Island embraces five volcanoes (Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Hualalal, Kohala and Kilauea), four of them lie dormant. Twin volcanic peaks, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, surpass in size any mountains or island in the world. The mountains are divided by a lava wasteland except for the heavily wooded eastern section. From the Saddle Road passing between the mountains, roads branch towards both peaks.
Snowcapped in the winter, the 13,796-foot dormant volcano Maunu Kea on the northeast side of the island has sugarcane fields on its lower eastern slopes all year-round. Between Mauna Kea and the Kohala Mountain ridge running to the northern tip of the island is the huge 250,000-acre Parker Ranch in Waimea, the largest ranch in the US. Ranch land runs down old lava fields to famous sun-drenched Kono Coast resorts, public beaches and other developments.
Further south, past the beauty of deep tropical gulches in the Hamakua Coast, over 22,000 varieties of orchid thrive in nurseries on the edge of Mauna Loa near the rain-drenched city of Hilo. This lush tropical town normally absorbs about 140 inches of rain a year. In 1990, (the wettest year ever recorded in Hilo), the figure exceeded 210 inches!
Mauna Loa is the world’s largest active volcano. Mauna Loa’s visible 13,680 feet actually is 32,000 feet from the ocean floor (that makes it higher than Mount Everest). Kilauea, rising from one side of Mauna Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is intensely active, covering more and more of the south coast with fiery lava, both consuming and creating black sand beaches in the Puna district. Puna also contains Hawaii’s last remaining lowland rain forests.
West of the Puna district, the desert-like Kau district covering the southwestern tip of the island exhibits yet another climate and terrain, drier near the shore-line but still lush along the lower reaches of Mauna Loa.
The dry West Side of the island, the Kona and Kohala coasts, are dominated by the town of Kailua-Kona below the dormant Hualalai volcano. Above and south of Kailua-Kona, large numbers of small coffee groves and macadamia nut farms thrive on the climate and soil.