Description - The Big Island encompasses over 4,000 square miles, including two active volcanoes that continuously add to the acreage. Hawaii is the youngest island and southernmost in the state. The terrain is diverse and elevations range from sea level beaches to the summit of Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet.
The western and leeward side supports the most attractive sites for tourists and water sports. South Kona is the southwestern region. The area is mainly rural and teeming with Hawaiian historical sites. Coffee is grown in the higher elevations of the region that lie somewhat inland. Many beach parks lie along the coast of this region preserving beaches, bays and inlets for recreational use. The Islands of Maui, Molokai, O'ahu and Kauai are all just to the North.
The tourism center lies on the central leeward side along the Kona coast. The largest community on the Kona coast is Kailua, which lies on Kailua Bay. Several fishing and large Pacific marlin catches.
Akaka Falls encompasses 66 acres of land on the windward. The site contains a well-maintained, paved loop trail, one half mile in length. The trail leads through tropical rain forest passing two beautiful waterfalls, the tallest of which is over 400 feet. This point is rich in scenic beauty, that lends itself well to photography. The lush terrain also provides excellent opportunities for plant identification. A paved walking path leads visitors to the waterfalls, A wonderful spot for hiking.
In Big Island the natural and cultural wonders of the state parks abound. The sites preserve waterfalls, beaches, native plants, historic trails, religious sites and many other natural and man-made features. The state parks commission maintains 14 properties that lie in all regions.
Hakalau Forest Wildlife Refugeconsists of the 33,000-acre Hakalau Forest and the 5,300-acre Kona Forest on the Big Island (Island of Hawaii). The Hakalau district of the refuge was established in 1985 to conserve endangered forest birds and their rain forest habitat. Eight endangered bird species, an endangered bat and nine endangered plant species exist in this district.
Lava Tree Monument preserves the site where a lava flow burned through an ohia forest in 1790. The lava, flowing quickly from Kilauea's east rift zone, surrounded the trees and cooled forming molds of the burned tree trunks. Picnicking facilities, bathrooms and a hiking trail are maintained at this site, but drinking water is not available. A hiking trail leads through and around 17 acres of the preserved forest.
At Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) is comprised of two areas: Mahai'ula and Kua Bay. The Mahai'ula area is more developed with a sandy beach and dunes, picnic area and restrooms. A four and a half mile trail leads to the Kua Bay portion, which contains a tall cinder cone, water access and excellent views of the coast.
Hawaii Volcanoes and the Kau region lie west of Puna on the southern coast. The park contains amazingly diverse terrain, including two active volcanoes, tropical beaches, subalpine tundra and rain forests. This place shouldn't be missed by anyone who visits the island even if a few hours is all the time that can be spent here.
Recreation - Most of the water-oriented recreation sites lie on the leeward (Kona) coast. The region's extensive reef system supports a myriad of diving sites. Snorkeling and swimming are popular pursuits in protected bays when waters are calm. Conditions for windsurfing, board surfing and body surfing often are better during the summer when under currents are not as strong. Hiking, backpacking, biking, scenic driving and camping opportunities can be found in all regions of the island.