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Overview

WHEN TO GO


The Big Island has year-round air and ocean-water temperatures in the mid-70s to 80s (though higher elevations can be as cool as 45 to 55 degrees, and the summit of Mauna Kea can drop as low as 30 degrees, so pack a Windbreaker). Since weather is not a concern, work around the holidays and the summer high season (mid-June to Labor Day). Mid-September to mid-November is a great time to travel and beat the crowds, but right after New Year's until spring break (except for around Valentine's Day) is the best window for deals.

HOW TO GET THERE


It's an island—unless you have a week to waste going back and forth on a cruise ship, you must fly. American (800-433-7300; www.aa.com), United (800-864-8331; www.united.com), US Airways (800-428-4322; www.usairways.com), Air Canada (888-247-2262; www.aircanada.com), and Northwest (800-225-2525; www.nwa.com) offer direct daily flights to Kona from mainland cities. Most people find a good deal on a direct flight to Honolulu then take a 40-minute flight to the Big Island on Hawaiian Airlines (800-367-5320; www.hawaiianair.com) or Go! Airlines (800-435-9462; www.iflygo.com). If you don't mind small planes, flying with Island Air (800-652-6541; www.islandair.com) and Pacific Wings (888-575-4546; www.pacificwings.com) is a more casual—you can check in up to 15 minutes before the flight—and less expensive way to fly inter-island. However, the planes are rarely on time and may make unexpected stops on other islands.

Alternately, if money is not an issue, a helicopter is the ideal way to island-hop (numerous companies have counters at the airport—Blue Hawaiian and Sunshine are the best known). Both Hilo International Airport (808-934-5840; hawaii.gov/dot/airports/ito/) and Kona International Airport (808-329-3423; hawaii.gov/dot/airports/koa) have daily service from Honolulu. There is also a small Waimea-Kohala Airport, mostly used for private charters (hawaii.gov/dot/airports/mue).

GETTING AROUND


Because of its sheer size, this is a driving island. Rent a good car (all the usual suspects are here at the airports—Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty), but only get a four-wheel drive if you plan to do more adventurous stuff like motor to the top of Mauna Kea or go off-roading in search of secret surf spots. A GPS device isn't necessary, but a detailed map and guidebook that provide specific landmarks and mile markers are essential. When in doubt, ask several different sources (you may notice the locals speak a kind of patois called pidgin English) for directions.

TRAVEL TIPS


On the morning of October 15, 2006, a 3.6 earthquake centered near Puako caused $200 million in damages on the Big Island. Whole sections of the legendary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Golf Course, built in the mid-'60s, collapsed. Some minor damage to tourist attractions, including the Kalahikiola Congregational Church in Kohala and the Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona, were since repaired.

TOURIST INFO


Hilo Big Island Visitors Bureau
250 Keawe Street
Hilo
Hawaii
96720
Tel: 808 961 5797
info@bigisland.org
Open Mondays through Fridays 8 am to 4:30 pm.

West Hawaii Big Island Visitors Bureau
250 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Suite B–15
Waikoloa
Hawaii
96738
Tel: 808 886 1655
Open Mondays through Fridays 8 am to 4:30 pm.

OTHER INFO


SUGGESTED READING

Hunter S. Thompson's The Curse of Lono is a manic diatribe about middle-life, mid-'80s angst coming to a head during a brutal holiday season in Kona. In addition to many Hawaiian myths and some passages Mark Twain wrote about Hawaii, the book includes Thompson's take on the Ironman Triathlon and the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.

Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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