At last my favorite of the 4 major islands – the big island better known as Hawaii. Having been born from 5 major volcanoes, this unusually large island is bigger than all the islands, islets, and atolls of the Hawaiian island chain combined. Named after the legendary Polynesian navigator Hawaiiloa, this island is by far so unique that it's definitely out of this world! Here's my list of must-see locations!
1. Mauna Kea Summit
At 13,796 feet, this peak offers an incredible view of lava, desert, the valley and Mauna Loa. Free guided summit tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00-5:00 PM (be sure to double check the times), and the Onizuka Center offers free nightly stargazing from its telescope array as soon as the sun sets.
Incredibly, this volcano is actually the highest peak on this planet measured from sea floor to its peak. Mauna Kea stands at more than 10,200 m (33,500 ft), significantly taller than the elevation of Mount Everest above sea level. The drive isn't long at all and the view is amazing when no clouds/rain are present.
2. Mauna Loa Observatory
Situated on the peak of Mauna Loa sits an incredible scientific experiment. This observatory was specifically chosen to be on this peak since Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific. Having no outside interference from the continents, this observatory is home to many research projects. Sunrises, sunsets, and especially the star gazing is a must at this location.
3. Kilauea: Volcanoes National Park
This active volcano has built itself on the southeastern slope of Mauna Loa. It features a caldera approximately 4 by 3.2 kilometers wide and walls from zero to 120 meters high. Definitely a must-to-enjoy tour in and around the park either by car/walking or by helicopter.
If you do drive don't forget to check out the infamous Chain of Craters road. This road has multiple rock beds all over the highways due to lava flowing right over them on its way to the ocean sea floor. Only visible by helicopter is the active lava flowing down the eastern slopes into the Pacific ocean creating new terrain for the beautiful island of Hawai'i.
4. Pu'u Huluhulu & Mauna Ulu Hike: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Pu'u Huluhulu trail crosses 1973 and 1974 lava flows of Mauna Ulu, through kipuka, past lava trees, and climbs 150 feet to the summit of Pu'u Huluhulu. On a clear day, you can see Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Puu O'o and the Pacific Ocean.
5. Kilauea Iki Trail
You'll experience the work of the volcano goddess, Pele, firsthand on this hike. The 4-mile trail begins at the visitor center, descends through a forest of ferns into still-fuming Kīlauea Iki Crater, and then crosses the crater floor past the vent where a 1959 lava blast shot a fountain of fire 1,900 feet into the air for 36 days. The walk to the crater, through it, and back definitely is an experience of a lifetime.
6. Kona Coffee Plantations
Coffee is becoming a huge market around the world. Why not try the best and rarest cup of coffee? Kona coffee is very unique in its flavor, roast, and presentation. This coffee is hard to come by around the world and if so is extremely expensive. Try out a tour of any of the plantations to give it a try!
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