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Home to the world's tallest mountain and the world's most active volcano, Hawaii is an island of extremes and superlatives. Where else can you go skiing on a mountain top in the morning and snorkel in a tropical sea in the afternoon? The southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, the Big Island is also the largest island in the chain — bigger than all of the other islands put together — and is the largest island in the United States. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the state's most popular attraction, which is pretty impressive considering just how many attractions Hawaii boasts.
Whether you explore the desert-like Kona coast or the lush emerald rainforests of Hilo, the laid-back Upcountry around Waimea or the glitzy resorts of the Gold Coast, the Big Island's many facets offer something for everyone. Hawaii is also the heart of Hawaiian history and culture, the seat of power for Pai`ea Kamehameha (or Kamehameha the Great), the legendary Hawaiian king who united the islands under his rule. A land of coral and lava, of fire and snow, the Big Island is awesome in its rich natural beauty and offers a dazzling array of vacation options.
TOP ISLAND PICKS:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It offers visitors a chance to watch the lava flow meet the sea. Walk through a 500-year-old lava cave known as the Thurston Lava Tube to find a beautiful rainforest awaiting your arrival at the end.
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site – Part of the National Park System, this site is the location of the largest heiau, or Hawaiian temple, in Hawaii. This heiau is dedicated to the god of war, Kukailimoku, and was meant to support his efforts in creating a united Hawaii islands.
Punaluu Black Sand Beach – It is exactly as you imagine, a unique black sand beach lining the shore before you hit the lush green palm trees. You'll find this wondrous sight just south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Hilo – In downtown Hilo you will find art galleries, shopping and restaurants that make you feel as though you’ve taken a step back in time, walking through a plethora of storefronts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park – Once served as a sacred refuge for Hawaiians who broke the law, and making it to the refuge for a special ceremony was the only way to avoid being put to death. The park is set on a lava rock shore and features a Great Wall, wooden gods and a sacred temple set among the fishponds.
Stargazing – Where better to view the beauty of the skies than the tallest sea mountain in the world, where the elevation and clear air create an ideal location to experience the stars. Pack your cold weather gear as you will find Maunakea’s peaks are snowcapped in the winter. Those not inclined to tackle the high altitude can visit the Imiloa Astronomy Center which features learning opportunities and a large planetarium.
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