Big Island: A pocket guide

First settled by Polynesian voyagers from the Marquesas Islands more than 1,500 years ago, Hawaii Island—a.k.a. the Big Island—has become in recent decades a haven for artists, hippies, eco-warriors, and celebrities in search of a hideaway. The largest of the eight Hawaiian islands, with almost two-thirds of their combined landmass, it has eight different climate zones and beautiful luxury villas in every region. Big Island topography ranges from lava deserts to dense jungles laced with plunging valleys and waterfalls, all of it reigned over by the goddess Pele, who has kept Kilauea active since 1983. The best beaches for swimming are on the Kona Coast, in the west, but the Big Island’s size and diversity make it far more than a beach destination. Here you can rent a car for a week and explore a new region every day. Some of the choices: Waimea, a region of green pastures and fine farm-to-table cuisine; the town of Hawi, where art galleries and boutiques are concentrated; Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot drop that ends in a kaleidoscopic mist; and the black-sand beach of Punaluu, favored by nesting sea turtles and picnickers. Not to be missed: Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, 180 acres of native Hawaiian temples, sacred burial sites, and royal gardens.

Meet the Experts for Big Island