Natural Hawai'i

The Big Island

Big Island Lava Flow

About The Big Island

The island of Hawaii is generally referred to as the “Big Island” so as to distinguish it from the state of Hawaii. This name is given because of its enormous size in comparison to the other islands in the chain. The land mass of the "Big Island” is nearly twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Landscapes are extremely varied and include desolate lava flows, lush coastal valleys, rolling pastures, drylands and rainforests.

The “Big Island” is the youngest island and the only one still growing. The volcano, Kilauea, has added over 300 acres to the island just since its latest series of eruptions began in 1983.

The mountains create a huge barrier that blocks the moist northeasterly trade winds, dumping vast rainfall on the windward coast (eastern side) and depriving the leeward (western side) of the Big Island making it its driest region. The Kona and Kohala coasts, on this sunny western side, have the island’s best beaches. The windward coast is humid and tropical with rainforests, deep ravines and impressive waterfalls.

Some of the highlights of the Big Island include the Parker Ranch, the largest privately owned cattle ranch in the US, as well as many noteworthy historical sites. The Big Island boasts The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with its live volcanoes, Hilo (the oldest city in Hawaii), and Kona on the dry, sunny west coast that attracts the visitors.

Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet is the highest point in the Hawaiian Islands. It extends 19,680 feet below sea level to the ocean floor and when measured from its base is the highest mountain in the world.

Rainfall and temperatures vary more with location than with the seasons. The leeward northwest coast between Lapakahi and Waikoloa is the driest region in the state. Kawaihae, in the center of this strip, averages less than 10 inches of rain a year.

Big Island

Elevation makes enough of a difference that even within the city of Hilo, located on the coast and climbing into the foothills, annual rainfall ranges from 130  to 200 inches. On the other side of the island, on the beaches of Kailua-Kona, it’s only 25 inches.

On the windward side of Mauna Kea, near the 2500-foot elevation, 300 inches of rain falls each year. So much rain is squeezed out of the clouds as they rise up Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa that only about 15 inches of precipitation reaches their summits, much of it as snow. Heavy subtropical winter rainstorms in Hilo occasionally bring blizzards to the mountains, as low as the 9000-foot level. One can be sunning oneself on a beach while gazing up at the snow-topped Mauna Kea.

The average daily high temperatures in January are 65°F at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 79°F in Hilo and 81°F in Kailua-Kona. In August, they are 71°F, 83°F and 85°F respectively. Nighttime lows are about 15° less.

‘Vog’ is a word coined on the Big Island to define the volcanic haze that has been hanging over the island since Kilauea’s latest eruptive phase began in 1983. It usually blows towards Kona and conditions can resemble city smog when the trade winds falter.

Big IslandThe Big Island has some inviting small towns that remain unchanged by tourism. It is an island big on space. It attracts the more adventurous tourist and also has many alternative folks living organically off the land.

The Big Island’s official flower is the ohia lehua, a native tree that flourishes around lava flows and it’s official color is red, though it does bloom in other colors as well.

Kilauea Volcano

Kīlauea is the youngest and southeastern most volcano on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Topographically Kīlauea appears as only a bulge on the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa, and so for many years Kīlauea was thought to be a mere satellite of its giant neighbor, not a separate volcano. However, research over the past few decades shows clearly that Kīlauea has its own magma-plumbing system, extending to the surface from more than 60 km deep in the earth.

In fact, the summit of Kīlauea lies on a curving line of volcanoes that includes Mauna Kea and Kohala and excludes Mauna Loa. In other words, Kīlauea is to Mauna Kea as Lo`ihi is to Mauna Loa. Hawaiians used the word Kīlauea only for the summit caldera, but earth scientists and, over time, popular usage have extended the name to include the entire volcano.

Hilo Bay HawaiiHilo Hawaii

Hilo is located in the northeast corner of The Big Island. Hilo features a tropical rainforest climate  with substantial rainfall throughout  the year. Hilo's location  makes it the wettest city in the United States and one of the wettest cities in the world.  At some other weather stations in Hilo the annual rainfall is over 200 inches 

Monthly mean temperatures range from 71.4 °F in January to 76.3 °F  in August.Hilo's location on the shore of the funnel-shaped Hilo Bay also makes it vulnerable to tsunamis. On April 1, 1946, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake near the Aleutian Islands created a fourteen-meter high tsunami that hit Hilo 4.9 hours later, killing 160 people.

Parker Ranch in HawaiiParker Ranch In Hawaii

Parker Ranch is a working cattle ranch on the Island of Hawaii in the state of Hawaii that is now run by a charitable trust. The ranch was founded in 1847 and is one of the oldest ranches in the United States.  It is approximately 135,000 acres and is one of the largest cattle ranches.

The founder of the Ranch was John Palmer Parker who assisted Kamehameha I in ridding the island of feral bulls and was granted land on which he established the ranch.

Big Island
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