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Big Island see + do

There's so much more to do on the Big Island than kick back at your luxury resort. Everyone makes the requisite pilgrimage to Kilauea Crater, one of the most active volcanoes on earth. But with 11 of the world's 13 recognized climatic zones, the Big Island contains an astounding diversity of natural wonders. If you like driving, you could circumnavigate the island in one long, exhausting, and highly scenic day, but we recommending tackling it in sections over at least three days. There are black (and even green!) sandy beaches, great snorkeling, and some of the best diving in the state. Surfers used to the waves on Maui, Kauai, or Oahu might feel shortchanged, but hikers will be thrilled with the Edenic interior. A new trend on the island is agro-tourism, tours of private farms that give an insight into a growing aspect of the island's economy (www.hawaiiorganicfarmers.org).

Nightlife is next to nonexistent on the Big Island (unless you count bowling alleys and dive-y karaoke bars), so it's best to trade in the boozing for a night dive or a luau. But your absolute best bet for a moonlight activity is to find out where the lava from Kilauea is flowing into the ocean, and head there at sunset: In the darkness of night, you can see red-hot lava meet the cool-blue depths of the Pacific, one of the most amazing sights on the planet.

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Waipio Valley, Honokaa

This hidden valley can be viewed from an outlook near Honokaa when driving along the Hamakua coastline, but if you want to see the idyllic, untouched wonder up...more

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Surfing on the Big Island

Contrary to popular belief, there's good surfing on the Big Island, mostly along the west side, from Kawaihae to Captain Cook. The problem is that the breaks...more

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Hotel Photo
Snorkeling on the Big Island

There are many, many spots with incredible visibility—up to 100 feet—along the west side of the island (even right off the Mauna Lani and Mauna Kea...more

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Parker Ranch Historic Home Tour, Waimea

Founded in 1847, Parker Ranch is one of the oldest and largest privately owned ranches in the United States. Because a drive through Waimea affords views of the...more

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Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo

In Hawaii, tsunamis, more than any other natural disaster, have been responsible for killing the most people. From 1900 to 1964, small tidal waves hit Hilo...more

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Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, Kailua-Kona

Hold and feed a live sea horse! An exciting prospect at any age, and the one-hour tour of this sustainable sea horse farm is well worth the price tag. Located...more

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Merrie Monarch Festival, Hilo

Held the week after Easter in Hilo, this is the showcase and competition for the best and the brightest stars of the hula dance world. It's traditional,...more

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Mauna Kea, Hilo

Mauna Kea, 14,000 feet above sea level, is the highest peak on the island. It's an all-day affair to drive up there, and definitely worth it if there's snow...more

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Kahua Ranch, Waimea

In addition to raising grass-fed livestock that you've probably already eaten in a nice restaurant on the West Coast, Kahua Ranch—8,500 acres on the...more

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Ironman Triathlon, Kohala Coast

Every year in October, the Kohala Coast hosts the awe-inspiring Ironman Triathlon world championship: a 2.4-mile ocean swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride...more

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

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