Last week, Hawaiian schools celebrated Spring Break. So our family hopped over to Hawaii, the Big Island. Please read the blog, Hawaii 101, for a brief review of Hawaiian history.
But here are 5 quick facts about the Big Island:
1. The island was created by 5 volcanoes
- Kohala is extinct
- Mauna Kea, “White Mountain”, is dormant.
- Hualalai, is still active but not currently erupting.
- Mauna Loa, “Long Mountain”, is dormant.
- Kilauea is continuously erupting since 1983 and home of Pele, the Volcano Goddess (she is a central character in Hawaiian mythology as a hot tempered Prima Donna)
2. The Big Island is 4028 square miles. It is larger than all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined and it is the largest island in the United States. Ka Lae is the southern most tip of the Island of Hawaii the State of Hawaii, and the United States (Key West is the southern most tip of the Continental US).
3. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa keep the rain on the windward side, thus creating tropical forests and cascading waterfalls. The major windward town is Hilo. It is the county seat, it has an international airport, and it is the gateway to the Volcanoes National Park.
4. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa keep rain away from the leeward side, thus it is dry with lava fields from Hualalai eruptions. The major leeward town is Kailua-Kona. Since the state has two other towns named Kailua, the post office added Kona (west) to the town’s name. It is now shortened to Kona. It has an international airport; it produces the famous Kona coffee; and it offers the biggest resorts and calmest beaches in the state.
5. King Kamehameha the Great was born on Hawaii. He defeated his cousin to become king of the island. He later used Western weapons to "unite" the other islands and create the Kingdom of Hawaii. Kamehameha was a big man, both physically and politically, so it is appropriate that his home island is called the Big Island.We booked three nights in the Hilton Resort at Waikoloa Beach
so we flew from Honolulu to Kona (40 minutes on Hawaiian Airlines 737). We relied heavily upon Andrew Doughty’s guidebook, Hawaii The Big Island Revealed, from Wizard Publications Inc (he also has guidebooks for Maui, Oahu, and Kaua’i Revealed). Andrew has a resident’s knowledge of each island and a sense of humor, too!
Day One: Flying into Kona was very strange – the runway is built on lava flows from the Hualalai eruption of 1801. It is very surreal – the perfect setting for an apocalyptic story.
We decided to sight see before we checked into the hotel. So we drove north from Kona, past our resort, towards the Kohala Mountains. Again, it was very strange as we spotted “graffiti” along the lava embankments that was, in fact, white coral rocks positioned to form words. Park rangers later informed us that tourists could bring coral from the beaches … or just rearrange the rocks that are already alongside the road. Some “artists” even created creatures out of the lava rocks – we spotted several fins and even a dinosaur!
We first stopped by the Mauna Lani resort and followed the signs for the Puako Petroglyphs,
Early Hawaiians drew pictures in the lava stones along Mamalahoa (King’s) Trail. The trail was built in 1836 and it encircles most of the island. The king’s patronage guaranteed travelers a safe journey along the trail. Several stones were saved from destruction when construction began on the resort. The stones are placed along a path near the public access to the beach.
We then drove to the Pu’ukohola Heiau – Pu’u is hill, Kohola is a mountain, and heiau is temple. It is a National Park and entry was free. From its website,
“In 1791, Kamehameha completed the construction of his mighty war temple, which he believed would give him the mana (spiritual power) to unify the Hawaiian Islands as one. Nineteen years later, in 1810, the last islands were brought in to his kingdom. Ending well over a thousand years of disunity and warfare, the ho’okuikahi (unification) of the Islands and its inhabitants was complete.”
The visitor’s center offered several short films, war weapons, and the informative display of King Kamehameha’s life (I’ll write more about his prophecy in June when Hawaii celebrates his birthday on June 1).
We continued to drive north to the Lapakahi State Historical Park. Entry was free. From its website,
This 265-acre park is the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement located along the shoreline. The area was first settled around 600 years ago in the 1300s. Some of the village has been partially restored but most of the rocky wall and remains are original.
By now, our children were weary of Hawaiian history, so we drove south to our hotel. The children enjoyed the pool slides, over-sized checkers, and ping pong along side the rolling surf.