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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
King Kalakaua, who revived the hula, was the inspiration for Hilo's Merrie Monarch Festival. A bronze statue, erected in 1988, depicts the king with a taro leaf in his left hand to signify the Hawaiian peoples' bond with the land. The park also has a huge spreading banyan tree and small fishponds, but no picnic or recreation facilities. In a local tradition, families that have had recent funerals often leave leftover floral displays and funeral wreaths along the fishpond walkway as a way of honoring and celebrating their loved ones.
Windswept Ka Lae is the southernmost point of land in the United States and a National Historic Landmark. It's thought that the first Polynesians came ashore here. Check out the old canoe-mooring holes that are carved through the rocks, possibly by settlers from Tahiti as early as AD 750. Some artifacts, thought to have been left by early voyagers who never settled here, date to AD 300. Driving down to the point, you pass rows of giant electricity-producing windmills powered by the nearly constant winds sweeping across this coastal plain. Continue down the road (parts at the end are unpaved, but driveable), bear left when the road forks and park in the lot at the end; walk past the boat hoists toward the little lighthouse. South Point is just past the lighthouse at the southernmost cliff. You may see brave locals jumping off the cliffs and then climbing up rusty old ladders, but swimming here is not recommended. Don't leave anything of value in your car, and know that you don't have to pay for parking.
Since the latest eruption began in 1983, Kilauea Volcano has been adding new land to the Big Island rather steadily—except when a big shelf of recently cooled lava rock suddenly breaks off and crashes into the sea. Sometimes, molten lava will ooze from outbreaks on the southeast flank of Kilauea, until it meets the ocean, cools, and solidifies into a new ragged, rugged stretch of coastline. It's fire, earth, and water: creation at its most elemental. And if you are lucky (volcano permitting) you can watch it happen. If you do nothing else on the Big Island, do the volcano.
Eight miles north of Hilo, stunning coastline views appear around each curve of the 4-mile scenic jungle drive that accesses the privately owned nature preserve beside Onomea Bay. Paved pathways in the 17-acre botanical garden lead past ponds, waterfalls, and more than 2,000 species of plants and flowers, including palms, bromeliads, ginger, heliconia, orchids, and ornamentals. www.hawaiigarden.com. COST: $15. OPEN: Daily 9--4.
Journey to the summit of the world's tallest mountain with this popular outfitter. Small group tours (14 max) are led by naturalist guides who bring along their own telescopes. You'll have dinner at a historic ranching outpost. Parkas and gloves are included and brownies and hot chocolate make cold stargazing more pleasant. Pickups available at most major hotels and resorts north of Kona. Price is $192 per person. www.hawaii-forest.com.
This small island, just offshore from Liliuokalani Gardens, is accessible via a footbridge. It was considered a place of healing in ancient times. Today children play in the tide pools while fisherfolk try their luck.
Named after the "First Lady" of Hawaii ranching, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske, this ranch offers a rare opportunity to see a fully restored cattle ranch house on the Big Island. Wander the picturesque grounds and gardens on a self-guided walk, watch a master saddle maker and an ironsmith in action, and take a tour of the historic house, where Anna's gowns and elaborate pau (riding) costumes are on display. The knowledgeable staff will share anecdotes about Anna's amazing life. The ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places. On Wednesday afternoon Anna Ranch hosts a farmers market. www.annaranch.org. COST: Guided tours $10. OPEN: Tues.--Sat. 10--4.
Easy to drive by on the twisting two-lane highway, this garden offers a wealth of Hawaiian ethnobotanical traditions. On 12 acres, 250 types of plants are grown that were typical in an early Hawaiian ahupuaa, the usually pie-shaped land divisions that ran from the mountains to the sea. The new visitor center, now on the south side of the garden, includes a gift shop. The garden is 12 mi south of Kailua-Kona, just past mile marker 110, across from the Manago Hotel. Call for information on guided tours. www.bishopmuseum.org/greenwell. COST: $7. OPEN: Tues.--Sun. 9--4.
A meandering 10-minute loop trail takes you to the best spots to see the two cascades, Akaka and Kahuna. The 400-foot Kahuna Falls is on the lower end of the trail. The majestic upper Akaka Falls drops more than 442 feet, tumbling far below into a pool drained by Kolekole Stream amid a profusion of fragrant white, yellow and red torch ginger and other tropical foliage. COST: $5 per vehicle (non-residents); $1 for walk-ins. OPEN: Daily 7--7.