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Visiting The Big Island of Hawaii

Updated on February 22, 2013
Hilo, Kilauea Volcano
Hilo, Kilauea Volcano
First Church
First Church
Gaffitti Hawaiian Style
Gaffitti Hawaiian Style
Ryan's Lei Stand
Ryan's Lei Stand

The History of Hawai'i, The "Big Island."

Also known as the Hawaiian Island the Big Island is the youngest island in the archipelago. It is thought to be the first island the Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands populated 1500 years ago.

In 1778 English explorer Captain Cook arrived. Cook was killed by Hawaiian Warriors when he got into a spat with a powerful Hawaiian Chief. At the time of Cooks visit the Hawaiian Islands were divided into separate chiefdom's that were all at war with each other. One of those Chiefs was Kamehameha.

In 1790 Kamehameha I built a heiau (religious temple) as a tribute to the war god Kukailimoku. He wanted to unite the Hawaiian Islands. Soon after he conquered all the Islands and established a kingdom with himself as King on the Big Island.

In 1804 King Kamehameha the Great and his court moved to the island of Oahu. In 1819 Kamehameha returned to the Big Island to die not far from where he was born in Kohala .

By 1820 the first missionaries arrived and built the first Christian Church in Kona. Westerners introduced cattle to the island and established sugar plantations in Hilo. Captain Cook’s visit in 1778 had indeed opened the door to westerners.

Modernization has changed Hawaii. Today tourism takes the place of sugar and pineapple plantations. However Hawaiians believed that Pele, the ancient Volcano God, is still alive and well. Pele is believed to have settled in Kilauea Volcano, the only active volcano in Hawaii.

The Big Island is divided into 6 districts:

Hilo District

HIlo - International Airport, Lelewi Pt, Hilo/Onomea Bay, Rainbow Falls, 4 mile scenic drive.

Honomu - Akaka Falls State Park, Pepeekeo Pt.

Umauma - Kolekole Beach Park, Umauma Falls

Hamakua District

Honokaa - Mauna Kea - highest point in Hawaii, observatories, army airfield.

Waipio - Waipio Bay.

Kohala District

Kapaau - Keokea Beach Park, Pololu Valley Lookout, Kamehameha Statue, Upolu Point,

Kawaihae - Puukohola Heiau National HIstorical Site, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Center, Kawaihae Harbor, Anaehoomalu Bay.

Kona DIstrict

Kailua-Kona - Kona Airport, First Christian Church in Hawaii, Mt Hualalai, Kailua Bay.

Kealakekua - Captain Cook Monument, St Benedicts Paointed Church, Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park.

Hookena - Kalahiki Beach, Kauluoa Point.

Ka'u District

Kona Kai - Hawaiian ranchos, Ka Lae (southermost point in the USA) Mahana Bay, Hwy 11, (Volcano Hwy) Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, Kiluea Caldera.

Puna District

Volcano Village - Puuo'o Active Volcano Vent.

Pohoiki - Mackenzie State Beach, Isaac Hale Beach Park, Cape Kumakahi.

Kapoho - Lava Tree State Park, Paradise Park, Kaloli Point.

Don't miss:

Hilo Kilauea Volcano - the only active volcano in the Hawaiian Islands so take your helicopter ride here.

Hilo Botanical Gardens - native plants on display.

Hilo Lava Tubes - formed by flowing lava.

Kona Petroglyphs - an ancient foot path. King Kamehameha I trained his Hawaiian warriors here. In 1810 he conquered the Hawaiian Islands and established the Kingdom of Hawaii with himself as King.

Airfares from Southern California:

SAN - San Diego - Not all flights are non-stop. Hawaiian Airlines was the only non-stop to Honolulu from San Diego when we booked our flight. Other carriers offered connecting flights with stop-over service. Other non-stop flights are going too start so shop around.

LAX - Los Angeles - non-stop to Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island.

OC - Orange County - Continental is suppose to start non-stop flights from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport March/2010

Car Rentals:

Shop around before you go. Rent before you get there. Pick up a Hawaii Drive Guide/Road map for The Big Island when you rent your car. There are discount coupons inside so shop around for things you want to do. The best we found:


Hawaii is 3 hours behind us in time zone. When it’s 12:00pm here on the Pacific Coast it's 9:00am in Hawaii.

Best time to go to beat the crowds: May, periods between spring break & summer and Labor Day until mid November.

Find a hotel with washer & dryer facilities. There are hefty weight and extra baggage fees so pack light, wash and dry your clothes before your return trip to avoid extra weight fees. *The red clay dirt will not wash out of your clothes.

The flight over is 5 hours non-stop, longer if you pick a flight with stop-overs. Take your head phones. You can watch movies for free if you have your own head phones or rent them on the plane for a fee. Pack small snacks as they are expensive on the plane.

Mail home your souvenirs. If you visit Oahu the Alamoana Swap Meet is the best! The post office is right by the airport.

Make reservations for things you really want to do as soon as possible.

Take binoculars and a flash light if you are going on a long cruise.

Visit Kaua'i, Oahu, and Maui if you have time.

Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:

An ice chest with food, snacks and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.

Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a bag for garbage.

Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Download any ebooks or apps that can help you.

Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.

Streets, freeways, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take along a good GPS system and visit off season.


Have you visited The Big Island?

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