Rugged coastline overshot by waterfalls, wild beautiful beaches and forested interior slide past on the Big Island's east coast. Less visited than other parts of the island, the main road winds past old sugar towns, now quiet, and sandy shores where the silence is broken by the crashing surf.
Brush up on your lava safety before paying a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here, the world's biggest volcano, 13, 677 foot Mauna Loa caps an almost extraterrestrial landscape. Slate-black ragged rock edges give way to steaming vents along rift zones close to active Kilauea and beautiful molten rivers of lava slide with a hiss into the sea.
Hilo is the Big Island's big city, green, luscious and properly tropical, unlike other parts of the island overrun by volcanic activity in the last century. With a handful of manageable cultural activities and easy access to the rest of the island, Hilo is a good place to start your adventure.
Kailua-Kona is a charming sea-side oasis of green amidst a volcanic and relatively barren landscape. With a population of little more than 10,000, Kailua-Kona is only a quarter the size of comparatively lush and urban Hilo on the opposite coast.
Down along the western slopes of mighty Mauna Loa, the Ka‘u district goes peacefully about business, thus far unaffected by the recent lava flows that have flooded the eastern side of the mountain. Coastal grasses blow with the winds along this southernmost stretch of coast, where green crystal and black sand beaches beckon.
Kalapana, once a village with a stunning black beach on Hawaii's southeast coast, was caught in the path of lava spewing forth from one of Kilauea's vents and since then area has been overrun with volcanic flow. Regular volcanic activity still shut down roads here in the Puna district, Hawaii's 'Wild West', though ironically most of the attractions in the region are in turn related to recent volcanic activity.
Dry, arid, and often lava encrusted, the southern part of Kohala district is nonetheless the best place on the Big Island to enjoy water activities. White sandy beaches here stand in sharp contrast to the dark volcanic sands of other nearby shores, while swimmers enjoy the gentle waters, divers the diverse underwater geological formations and sea-life.
Jump start your day with java jolt of Kona coffee, grown on the Big Island for over 100 years, most of it in Kona district's mountainous interior. Here, over the centuries, greenery has begun to assert dominance over lifeless volcanic landscapes as evidenced by the numerous farms in the region.
None of the Big Island's roads lead to Rome, of course, but the island's best known road, The Saddle Road (Route 200), crosses the valley between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea leading to Hilo in the east or, at the opposite end of this 55-mile road, to Kailua-Kona and Waimea.
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