Who should go: Adventurous, active types who want to create
vacation and need lots of options.
Minimum stay: Plan to spend at least five days here just to
scratch the surface.
Pack: Hiking shoes, a day pack, hat, your PADI certification
card, lots of sunscreen.
What you should know: The Big Island isn't known for its
white-sand beaches. Here, you'll find the Ironman Triathlon,
often-active Kilauea Volcano, excellent diving (dive at night with
manta rays in Kona), and more sportsfishing than you can shake a
lure at. The Big Island is laid-back, its 150,000 or so residents
spread over 4,000-plus square miles of land. To put this in
perspective, Oahu logged nearly 900,000 residents in the 2000
census, and its landmass is less than 600 square miles.
Most visitors use Kailua-Kona as their home base for at least half
their stay. Nearby, the luxury resorts at South Kohala (also
referred to as Waikoloa) can absorb you completely, but if you want
to make the most of your experience, plan to spend your days
putting miles on your rental car.
Perched above Kailua-Kona, the Holualoa arts community is well
worth a stop. You can browse through the local galleries and shops
while you enjoy a cup of hot, rich Kona coffee. South of Kona are
the little towns of Kealakekua and Captain Cook, and the
well-maintained and reconstructed City of Refuge, called Pu'uhonua
o Honaunau, where you'll learn about the traditions of ancient
islanders. There's a deep sense of spirituality and reverence for
nature that's easy to feel once you tune out your everyday life and
tune in to the island's rhythm. Here, the myths and legends of old
Hawaii won't seem so far off and distant. They'll be your traveling