The largest of the Hawaiian Islands is the original home of King Kamehameha, the landing spot of the first Portuguese explorers and the island for which the chain is named. You could call it the island that started everything. (Just don’t call it the Big Island.)
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Marco Garcia
Flo-Yo floating yoga instructor, Fairmont Orchid Resort
“Standup paddleboarding affords the best view both over and into the water, which is why I have guests do it before and after my class. I also go to the Kona Boys beach shack at the Kailua-Kona Pier; it’s protected enough that you can paddleboard there any time of year.”
Cultural adviser, The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui
“I love the evening of Hawaiian-style ‘talk-story’ that Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows offers on the Saturday closest to the full moon. Elders, musicians and dancers converge on the beach, and once it gets going, no one knows (or cares) what time it ends.”
Owner, The Boutique, Hilo
“When I’m not working, I like to drive down to the south side of the island. The beaches there have green sand, which is really cool. Plus, it’s a big nesting spot for sea turtles, so you’re bound to see a couple of honu.”
A torturous 140-mile swimming, biking and running race designed by Navy SEALs, the Ironman World Championship is hosted on the island of Hawaii, and even though the event itself isn’t exactly pleasant, it does afford racers some unique views of the island — from a mile out in the ocean, for instance. If you’d rather take the easy road, though, you can see a lot of the same scenery without the elevated heart rate (unless you count the one that comes from peering into an active volcano) by taking a helicopter tour. Try Paradise Helicopters’ “Fire and Falls Adventure.” It ferries you to waterfalls you might not be able to reach even with bionic legs, and lets you fly right over open lava vents at Kilauea. Even the ironmen can’t do that.
Isolation and unusual ecosystems make the state of Hawaii the perfect place to learn about subjects that are almost impossible to study elsewhere. Here are a few of the experiments that have been conducted in the middle of the Pacific:
• Solar radiation researchers working at the Mauna Loa Observatory use Hawaii’s isolation from ambient light to amass the longest record of sunlight transmission in existence.
• Much like Charles Darwin before him, Dr. Kenneth Y. Kaneshiro at the University of Hawaii examines how an ordinary species of fruit fly has evolved since becoming stuck on Hawaii thousands of years ago.
• Leading ecologist Peter Vitousek uses Hawaii’s self-contained ecosystem to understand how plants get nourishment from soil. He’s also found that certain nutrients on the island arrived from elsewhere via dust and ocean spray.
• The Hawaiian Islands sit over a moving hot spot in the earth’s mantle, which is why they have both active and dead volcanoes. Scientists from the University of Hawaii’s Department of Geology and Geophysics use the visible history from all the islands’ volcanoes to understand how the rest of the world may have been formed.