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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Visitors to this small but informative center will learn about the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which encompasses about 140,000 square miles in the waters northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Giant graphics, murals, and maps depict the monument's extensive coral reefs and the more than 7,000 marine species that live there, one in four of which are found only in the Hawaiian archipelago. Knowledgeable staff or volunteers give daily tours of the exhibits. Interactive programs and short films describe marine life and environmental conditions. (It's worth a stop just to get an up-close look at the center's huge stuffed albatross, with wings outstretched.) www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/education/center.html. COST: Free. OPEN: Tues.--Sat. 9--4.
A thatch hut, erected on this site by missionaries in 1820, served as the first Christian church on the Islands. A more permanent structure was built in 1836 with black stone from an abandoned heiau. The stone was mortared with white coral and topped by an impressive steeple. Inside, behind a panel of gleaming koa wood, is a model of the brig Thaddeus.mokuaikaua.org.
Acres of macadamia trees lead to a giant roasting facility and processing plant with viewing windows and self-guided tours. A videotape depicts the harvesting and preparation of the nuts, and there are free samples and plenty of gift boxes with mac nuts in every conceivable form of presentation to buy in the visitor center. Children can run off their energy on the nature trail. www.maunaloa.com. OPEN: Daily 8:30--5.
As the first company to specialize in tours to the mountain and the only company to offer only Mauna Kea tours, Mauna Kea Summit Adventures loves to focus on stars. Cushy vans with panoramic windows transport you first to the visitors center at 9,200 feet where you'll eat dinner and acclimatize for an hour. A hooded arctic-style parka and ski gloves keep you warm for the 4WD sunset trip to the 14,000-foot summit. Stargazing through a powerful Celestron telescope happens mid-mountain with the help of knowledgeable guides. Tour, dinner, and (westside) pickups cost $200 per person. www.maunakea.com.
In 1819 an estimated 300 Hawaiians were killed on this vast, black-lava field, and you can still see their burial mounds there today on the south end of Alii Dr. After the death of his father, King Kamehameha, Liholiho was crowned king; shortly thereafter he ate at a table with women, thereby breaking the ancient kapu (taboo) system. Chief Kekuaokalani, who held radically different views about religious traditions, unsuccessfully challenged King Liholiho in battle here.
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