Hawaii’s Big Island – An Island Overview

Imagine watching a lava fireworks show. Picture yourself snorkeling or diving among tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins that seem to be putting on an enchanting and graceful performance just for you. Create in you mind an image of teeing off by the turquoise waters of the Pacific at one of the many famous Hawaii golf courses or melting into a massage at a luxury spa. Daydream of sipping a cool drink while savoring a romantic sunset. Image the incredible night sky you’ll see on a Mauna Kea stargazing tour.

They don’t call the island of Hawaii the Big Island for nothing! It’s twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined and it’s getting larger every day as the due to the worlds most active volcano – Kilauea!  Watching the lava flow forcefully to the ocean is a fascinating sight and should not be missed on your trip to the Big Island.

The Big Island overflows with scenic beauty, such as, rain forests, waterfalls, rainbows, snow capped mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and gorgeous beaches with white, black and even green sand! What a colorful pallet!

While staying on the Big Island, enjoy the sights, sounds, and of course the delicious food at a Hawaiian luau while learning about Hawaiian culture, history, and legends. The Big Island was the first of the Hawaiian islands settled by the Polynesians and is rich with history. The Honaunau National Historical Park provides you with an insightful view to the lives of the early Hawaii settlers.

Do you want to relax or explore on your trip to the Big Island? You can relax at your luxury hotel or mix in some memorable adventure – your choice. Adventures abound on the Big Island, whether you are staying on the sunny Kona and Kohala coast or the towns of Hilo and Volcano. Here, you can hike near an active volcano and to tropical waterfalls or for an aerial view of these sights, take a thrilling Big Island helicopter tour. Go on a scenic bike ride or saddle up for island horseback riding. At night, you will be amazed at the number of stars you will see and the top of Mauna Kea (elevation 13,796 feet) offers unmatched stargazing. As for water activities, you can snorkel, scuba dive, fish, surf, kayak along the shore, and observe the great humpback whales enjoy their annual vacation to Hawaii (mid-November to April). Be sure to bring your tennis racket and golf clubs! For its beauty, tropical breezes, and natural wonders, the Big Island is sure to please for your honeymoon, anniversary, or family vacation.

Big Island Weather:
The daily average ranges from mid-70’s to mid-80’s. The temperatures can be lower at higher elevations. The mountain top temperatures can be below freezing. The amount of rainfall varies based on what side of the island you are on. The east side (Hilo side) averages 132 inches of rain each year, mostly falling overnight. The west side (Kona side) averages only 10 inches of rain per year. See my suggestions for where to stay on Hawaii to avoid rain.

Big Island (Hilo) year round temperature and rainfall averages by month
Big Island (Kailua-Kona) year round temperature and rainfall averages by month

For Hawaii weather forecasts check out our Hawaii weather page.

Terrain, Geography and Highlights:
This beautiful island is the most diverse of the Hawaiian Islands from beaches to mountains and fields of lava to lush tropical rain forests.

The west side is known as the Kona side and it is dry and sunny there. Parts of this area resemble a moonscape with fields of black lava. The Kohala Coast is on the northern end of the Kona side. The Kohala Coast is home to some very popular and posh Hawaiian beach resorts. With low rainfall, the Kohala Coast is almost always sunny.

Waimea, in the central north part of the island, has a hilly terrain that is known for being a ranching area. The town of Waimea very much feels like a ranch town with restaurants and gift shops that cater to cowboys and cowgirls. It makes for a nice area to stop for a bite to eat and a place to stretch your legs when traveling by car from the Hilo side to the Kona side.

Waipi’o Valley on the northern end is a picturesque highlight of the Big Island. The views here are phenomenal. From the lookout you will see the blue pacific contrasted with the black sand beach and the green cliffs and cascading waterfalls. This beautiful spot is not to be missed!

For the waterfall enthusiasts, the Hamakua area (northeast part of the Big Island) is a dream come true. This area is sandwiched in between the Waipi’o Valley and the town of Hilo. Another attraction to this area is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens that boast over 2,500 species of tropical plants.

Hilo is a lovely coastal town and serves as a great launching point for exploring the eastern part of the island. This town has several parks, museums, restaurants and shops well worth a visit.

The Puna area is the most eastern tip jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. This is an area that has some beautiful beaches. It is the home of the famous Painted Church that was moved in 1990 to avoid a lava flow. The Lava Tree State Park is in this area just off Hwy 132.

The Volcano area is located on the southeast part of the Big Island, about an hours drive south of Hilo. The Volcano National Park is not to be missed. In my opinion you should plan to visit the park at day and at night.

And finally, don’t forget those two large volcanic mountains, Mauna Kea on the north and Mauna Loa to the south. They are majestic and sometimes snow capped.

>> Go back to the Big Island Vacation Guide

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