HAWAII - Big Island

01:49 Travel Bunny 0 Comments

Big Island is the biggest Hawaiian island, encompassing 10,430 km² is twice the size of all other Hawaiian islands combined and it’s still growing. The world’s most active volcano, Kilauea has been feeding rivers of lava since 1983, adding more real estate to the island everyday. The continuous eruption of more than 20 years has added more than 560 acres of new land to the island. 

DSCF1626 (2)
From Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), I flew to Hawaii. Rested and rejuvenated in Oahu before continuing my adventure in Hawaii Island also better known as the Big Island. To reduce the confusion between the State of Hawaii and the Island of Hawaii, I shall refer Hawaii Island as the Big Island.

A brief description of the State of Hawaii before I proceed. Many of you might think that Hawaii is an Island.

Actually the State of Hawaii consist of 8 major islands. From the bottom of the map is Hawaii, better known as The Big Island which is the biggest island. Followed by Maui which is the 2nd largest island. Beside Maui are three smaller island known as Kahoolawe, Lanai and Molokai.

Further up North is none other than Oahu, the third largest island whereby the state capital city of Hawaii, Honolulu is located. It is the most populous island of all and the main tourist destination. If you are going to Hawaii for holidays, you are most probably vacationing in Oahu.

The other two island up north are Kauai and Niihau.

I boarded the Hawaiian Airline from Honolulu International Airport to Kona International Airport on the west coast of Big Island. Mind you there are no inter-island boat service. Flying is the only option to travel from one island to the other.

I took an early flight to Big Island and I had plenty of time before the commencement of my tour. Decided to laze around the airport terminal area.

Me and my beau taking a picture at the Lark Grey Dimond-Cates Hula Kahiko Statue.

These three dancers convey the grace and power of Hula Kahiko, the ancient dance of Hawaii.

A beautiful picture at the airport.

The Kona Airport is an open-air tropical style airport. Unlike other airports where you have enclosed spaces with security personnel patrolling the area, I just felt so relaxed in this airport.

You can relax and enjoy the cool natural air in the terminal building.

Japanese dominates the number of tourist to Big Island.

Aloha! What does Aloha means? Kinda complicated to explain. It can mean hello, goodbye, love and etc. While in Hawaii, you are often greeted Aloha! Just reply Aloha!

Had my breakfast here at the Laniakea Cafe.

Nope I do not have any baggage to collect. I’m just here for the day.

There are 12 airlines serving this airport, so you have to be at the right counter during your check in.


Big Island voted the best Hawaiian Island? Let’s see about that.

Wonder what are the main attractions?

Strolling around the airport area, while waiting for the tour bus to arrive.


Okay…the bus has arrived. I booked the Roberts Hawaii Tours via their website at www.robertshawaii.com.

Unlike Oahu, Big Island has NO public transportation (not even airport cab). You can either rent a car which you have to book months in advance or book a tour.

If you did not make any preparation beforehand you will be in trouble. Well, you might be able to hitchhike.

Okay, lets start the journey around Big Island.

Along the highway, you often see lava fields with various shades of solidified lava. On the background is Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world. Rising 4,170m above the surface and covering more than half the surface area of Big Island, you can see the volcano almost everywhere on the island.

Mauna Loa is an active volcano and has been erupting since 1730 and the last eruption was in 1984. The travel guide jokingly assured us that in case of an eruption, there will still be time to go to the airport. Its 28 years since the last eruption, the longest period of quiet in recorded history. The volcano might erupt soon.

Stopped by Hilton at Waikoloa Beach Resort to pick up the remaining tour participant.

Exposed solidified lava at the golf course of Hilton. Some of the buildings in Big Island are built over the dried lava flows.


Okay, lets move on.

Arrived at Parker Ranch, a working cattle ranch founded in 1847.

Stopped here at the Parker Ranch shopping center for a quick break.

Mahalo! Hawaiian word for thank you.

With the first cattle arriving in the Hawaiian Island in 1793 as gifts for King Kamehameha I, it was not too long before the cattle overpopulated and plundered the countryside from the mountains to the seashore. Determined to bring them under control and establish a cattle industry, King Kamehameha III sought the services of Mexican vaquero from California.

Arriving in 1833, these Hispanic horsemen not only subdued the wild cattle, but converted native Hawaiians into mounted cattlemen whose natural abilities blended well with riding and roping. They became known as panialo, the cowboys of the far West.

This heroic bronze statue typifies the life of a Hawaiian cowboy roping a wild bull on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

Parker Ranch grazing lands.

Travelled along the beautiful Kealakekua Bay.


I am right now at the Rainbow Falls. Know as ‘Waianuenue’ in Hawaiian language. The falls flows over a natural lava cave, the mythological home to Hina, an ancient Hawaiian goddess.

On sunny mornings, rainbow can be seen in the mist thrown up by the waterfalls. Well its morning alright, but I couldn’t see any rainbow. Well, I guess its not sunny enough.

The Wailuku River is quite dry resulting in small flows of waterfall.

I see a girl crossing the river. Wonder what’s she up to.

The girl manoeuvring across the rocky terrain of the river.

After a while she managed to reach to the edge of the river.

Girls nowadays are really adventurous, brave and daring. Reminds me of the girl sitting at the edge of Grand Canyon.

You be careful girl, you don’t want to fall 24m into the pool beneath. Or is it her intention?

Walked around the tropical foliage of the waterfall for a while before departing.

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii? Hmmm….it’s not in the itinerary.

Imiloa Astronomy Center is an astronomy and culture education center and is part of University of Hawaii.

Why are we stopping here? Lunch break! There’s actually a small restaurant here serving a small buffet spread at USD 18 per person. Yikes! I gave it a pass. Guess I’ll grab my lunch somewhere else.

The Astronomy Center sure does have an interesting deisgn building.

Continued walking around the area while waiting for other people to finish their lunch.


A bookshop in the building.

Time to make a move.

This Monkey Pod tree sure looks like a giant umbrella or mushroom.

Passed by the King Kamehameha I’s statue in Hilo at Wailoa State Park. It was dedicated in 1997 and its not the original one. The original statue is installed near the King’s birthplace in Kapaau also in Big Island in 1912.

Kamehameha I was the great king who united all the Hawaiian islands under his rule, died in Kailua-Kona, Big Island on 8th May 1819.

There’s a storey behind the original statue. Guess I’ll write about it when I come to Honolulu, where the 2nd original statue is.

Candies Big Island. Renowned for their chocolate dipped cookies.

The kitchen where they make the cookies. Yummy.

You can test before you buy. Ahem, remember lunch? Haha! My beau was busy gobbling the free cookies meant for tasting. 

Of course we bought a variety of cookies for ourselves.

One of them I liked was the chocolate dipped mochi balls. A favourite among the Japanese.

After lunch…. I mean after the cookies shopping, I went to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see……….

……Halemaumau crater located within the caldera of Kilauea. The 770m x 900m and is 83m below the floor of Kilauea caldera.

According to Hawaiian mythology, Halemaumau is home to Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire and Volcanoes. Currently it is a lava lake there.

The last eruption was in 1998 and because of this, the overlook is currently closed. I could only view the crater from here.

You can see the lake of lava here in the picture.

Except for plumes of rising steam, all is quiet on the summit of the most active volcano on earth. I most definitely do not want to be here when it erupts.

Panoramic view of the Kilauea Volcano with the Halemaumau crater. 4 towns has been destroyed and later abandoned by Kliauea’s eruption. Kalapana in 1990, Koae and Kapoho in 1960 and Royal Gardens in 1986. The first documented eruption occurred in 1823 and has erupted repeatedly since then.

Japanese girls looking at the crater. That’s one sexy way to dress.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is where volcanologists, seismologists, geochemists and geophysicist monitor seismic and volcanic activity.

DSCF1646 (2)
Too bad the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is closed to the public.

Beside the Observatory building is the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

The museum is open to public to where you can learn more about Hawaii’s volcanoes and the work of the Observatory.

Over here at the Museum, you can read about the storey of Pelehonuamea Pele, the goddess of fire, wind, lightning and volcanoes. The pictures drawn by the artist are really good.

These are some of the paintings of Pele by the late Herb Kawainui Kane being exhibited here at the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

Pele, depicted in battle with Namaka, the goddess of the sea.

Really liked the paintings.

People sailing away from the volcano’s wrath.

The are several legends associated with Pele in Hawaiian Mythology. The volcanic eruptions in Hawaii is said to be Pele’s way of expressing her longing to be with her true love, in most stories a young chief named Lohiau. But she often kills him with flaming lava.

Then why so many eruptions if he is killed? Well, I guess every time he dies, he is brought back to life and Pele kills him all over again.

The history of eruptions can be read here. 

Volcano eruption destroys but it also creates. The Hawaiian Islands are volcanic in origin. Each island is made up of at least one volcano. Just look at Big Island, 6 volcanoes. 3 active volcanoes at the moment which are, Mauna Loa, Kilauea and Loihi.

The Hawaiian volcanoes were produced by the Hot Spot Plume under Big Island. So each eruption pushes the plate over a fixed spot deeper in the Earth where magma forms, a new volcano can punch through this plate creating an island. With time, the volcanoes or should is say the islands, keeps drifting further away from the Hot Spot. The further the island from Big Island, the older the island is. There are 129 volcanoes created by the Hot Spot.

What…129? Don’t worry, 123 are extinct, 2 are dormant and only 4 are active.

As the plate moves away, the volcano stops erupting and a new volcano is formed in its place. For example, Waianae and Koolau volcano in Oahu has not erupt for a million years.

Phew! Feel so much safer in Oahu.

Mauna Loa is not only the Earth’s largest volcano but the largest mountain. It is big but not as beautiful as Mount Fuji. Here are some facts of Mauna Loa.

The volcano has probably been erupting for at least 700,000 years and emerged from the sea 400,000 years ago. Covering a land area of 5,271m² and approximately 75,000km³ of solid rock. This volcano is huge.

In fact if you include beneath the sea floor, this might be as well the tallest mountain the the world at 17,000 meters. However, the official tallest mountain in the world is Mauna Kea at 10,203 meters high measuring from base to peak.

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano located just beside Mauna Loa and the last eruption was about 4,600 years ago. 

How about Mount Everest? Of course if you measure it above sea level, Everest hold the title for the King of Mountains at 8,848m high.

A Pantheon of Volcano Spirits.

The man here is Kama-puaa. He is Pele’s lover and her opposite. He is rain and the wet windward side of the island while Pele is dryness and fire – the leeward side.

At the volcano is Poli-ahu. Goddess of the snow, whose beauty makes her rival to other goddess.

The female with two heads is Laka/Kapo. A goddess with a dual personality. She is the patron of dance, the goddess of vegetation, fruitfulness and fertility. She is also Kapo, goddess of sorcery.

The lady dancing is Hiiakaika-poliopele. The beloved little sister of Pele. Patron of dance and skilled in healing.

The man with the shark is Ka-moho-alii. A shark god who is Keeper of the Vessel of the Water of Life. This is the older brother of Pele who guided her to these island.

The man with the flames is Lono-Makua. An uncle of Pele. Keeper of the Sacred Fire of the Underworld.

Ka-poha-i-kahi-ola. God of explosion.

The paintings really depicted the Hawaiian Mythology very well.

Another drawing of Pele.

Two varieties of lava flows which are Aa (pronuced ah-ah) and Pahoehoe. The left lava is Pahoehoe and the right is Aa.

As lava oozes to the surface from the molten interior of the flow, the surface of the lava rumples, much as a tablecloth does when pushed sideways. This produces pahoehoe’s characteristic ropy surface. Generally this type of lava is slightly hotter and more fluid than aa lava.

Aa is characterized by rough, clinkery surface and is formed when sticky, viscous flows break up while moving downslope.

Pahoehoe flows are characterized by smooth, ropy surfaces and usually are 1 – 2 meters thick. Aa flows have extremely rough, jagged surfaces and may be more than 10 meters thick. The dissimilarities between the two types of lava are largely due to the temperatures of the flowing lavas.

A pretty National Park Ranger in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park giving directions to tourist.

Managed to snap a picture with the friendly ranger. By the way, her name is Rebecca.

Here at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses two active volcanoes, Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcano and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive volcano. Really happy to have seen it. The Park was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Thurston Lava Tube is a 500-year old lava cave located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lava tubes is formed when an active lava flow gradually thickens and forms solid walls and ceiling. When the eruption stops, lava often drains from the tube and leaves the vacated conduit beneath the surface.

Let’s begin my journey into the Lava Tube.

I’m actually descending into a pit crater. Crater walls which are now covered with mosses and ferns can be seen on the sides of the trail. But I can still see small lava tubes and other fractures as I walk down the path. 

The mouth of the lava tube. It looks really dark from the outside.

But don’t worry. There are electric lightings in the tube.

Only one short section of the lava tube is lit with electric lights and open to public. This section of Thurston Lava Tube has a flat rock floor and high ceiling, making it ideal for tourist to walk through it.

This Lave Tube is actually part of the collapse of nearby Kilauea Iki. Its just an amazing experience to actually imagine how the glowing lava travelled here at temperatures exceeding 1,090°C and thus forming this tube.

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku) is named after Lorrin Thurston who was interested in the volcanic nature of the area and was influential in helping to create the park. His Hawaiian name is Nahuku.

There’s another segment past the steps leading back to up the trail that’s completely dark with an uneven floor. So this segment is closed to public due to volcanic hazards.

I guess its time to make a move.

Next stop….Punaluu Beach. What makes this beach famous?

Punaluu Beach is voted as the best black sand beach in the world. Back in Malaysia, there is also black sand beach in Langkawi. Unlike the one in Hawaii, Langkawi’s black beach looked rather dirty.

The black sand was created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and then cools.

The beach has large amount of underground fresh water and ancient Hawaiians would dive to the floor of the bay to collect the fresh water. Hence the name Punaluu, which means diving spring.

You can see a turtle on the beach.

The beach are very rocky and can be dangerous to swim.

DSCF1697 (2)
You can always walk on the rocks. Just be careful.

I’m not here to swim and I don’t see anybody swimming. Just enjoy the sea breeze and the peculiar looking black sand beach.

Coconut trees fringe the upper edge of the beach.

Green Sea Turtles basking in the sand. Quick…..take some pictures of them. This is the first time I’m seeing wild turtles roaming freely on a beach.

Some more Hawaiian Mythology. Here is the storey of Kauila and the sea turtle of Punaluu. The mystical turtle, Kauila makes her home at the Kau district, at Punaluu Bay. Kauila was empowered with the ability to turn herself from a turtle form into a human form and would play with the children along the shoreline and keep watch over them. The people of Kau loved Kauila as the guardian of their children and also for her spring that gave them pure drinking water.

The presence of Kauila can still be felt today by the sea turtles that inhabit this special place. The Hawaiian Honu (Green Sea Turtle) can be regularly seen in the bay feeding on limu growing in the shallows. In addition, the Honuea (Hawksbill Turtle ) sometime enters the bay at night to crawl ashore and deposit eggs in the black sand

So where did Kauila came from? Long time ago, a magnificent turtle named Honu-poo-kea laid an egg here at the beach. As Honu-poo-kea covered her nest, Honuea (her mate) joined her. Together, the turtles dug into the black sand  and created a spring. Then, as silently they came, they disappeared into the ocean.

In time, the egg hatched into magical turtle name Kauila. Kauila made her home at the freshwater spring and if people sees bubbles rising from its depth, they knew that Kauila was sleeping.

The Honu (Green Sea turtle) is big. I think it must weigh more than 100kg. I’m so delighted to watch these marvellous creatures. .

Some of you might be wondering why the turtles are left alone and not surrounded by people wanting to touch them.

Under the Endangered Species Act, it is a federal offence for unauthorised personnel to come within 15 feet of, molest, capture or kill an individual turtle. You really do not want to mess with the laws of America which they take it very seriously. Better stay off the turtles if you don’t want to be imprisoned. Just enjoy watching them but do not touch or disturb them in any way.

Because of these laws these turtles in Hawaii has made a remarkable comeback and become something of a state mascot.

Maybe I’ll take some of the black sand back as a souvenir.

Another prohibition at the beach. I guess you can only take pictures and nothing else. I’ll just leave the black sand back at the beach.

Admiring the waves at the beach.

Sitting here at Punaluu Black Sand Beach is just like sitting in a coal mine. But don’t worry, unlike coal, the black sand won’t leave a black stain on your skin and clothing.


One last stop before the end of the tour. Punaluu Bake Shop, claimed to be Southernmost Bakery in the USA.

Some of the mouth watering bakeries.

All the walking has gotten me hungry and the pastries really looked delicious.

In fact, the pastries really taste very good. Highly recommended.


Some of the paintings at the bakery.

Took a look at the surroundings of the shop.

Time to head back to the airport.

On the way saw a herd of Llama grazing at a field.

Round the island tour took about 12 hours and travelled a distance of approximately 450 km. From the city of Kona, North West of Big Island, I travelled up North East to the city of Hilo, passing by Mauna Kea. Then I travelled South to Kilauea and then back to Kona. 

The sun about to set at the Kealakekua Bay. The driver begun to narrate about the history of Captain James Cook, the first documented European to arrive in Hawaii. He first step foot here at the Kealakekua Bay in 1779.

After some Hawaiians took one of their boat, the Captain tried to lure Hawaiian chief Kalaniopuu aboard to hold as hostage until the boat was returned. A skirmish ensued and Cook’s men had to retreat to the beach. As Captain James Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head and stabbed near the spot where he had first set foot on the island.

The Hawaiian dragged his body away. Following an appeal by the crew, some of his remains was returned to the British for a formal burial at sea. Less than two months in Hawaii and he was killed. I guess Hawaii is just not the place for him. Well, on the bright side, the traditional land division of Kaelakekua is now known as Captain Cook, Hawaii which I passed through on the way to the airport.

While narrating the history, the bus driver gave some sound (using his voice) and lighting (switching on and off the lights to depict storm) effects. The story was much longer, but I won’t write it all here. The history was quite interesting and you can always read more of Captain Cook on the net.

Really had a memorable day in Big Island. Of course there other activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, hiking, sun bathe at the white sandy beach or join the lava ocean adventures. I was here only for the day and couldn’t see all the things the island has to offer. But I have practically covered most of the main highlights.

So….does Big Island deserves the title to be the best island of Hawaii? Well, being a city girl I still prefer the Island of Oahu. A population of a million people in Oahu compared to a mere 200,000 people can’t be wrong.


You Might Also Like