The Best-Kept Hawaiian Secret: The Big Island

28 February 2015

The Big Island is what dreams are made of. If you’ve ever dreamt of swimming with manta rays in crystal clear waters, flying over lush green mountains and waterfalls, and watching humpback whales play in the wild, then this is the Hawai'i Island holiday for you.

As the youngest island geologically and the largest in the Hawai'ian Island chain, the Big Island (Hawai'i) offers an endless list of activities to suit everyone.

Rainforests and rugged coastline of the Big Island Rainforests and rugged coastline of the Big Island

 

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Staying In Kona

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Kona is a convenient location to base yourself during your stay. The Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay is a 30-minute drive from Kona International Airport and 15 minutes from the town of Kona on nine hectares of oceanfront.

Keauhou Bay was the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and the area was once known as a playground for Hawai'ian royalty. If you are interested to learn more about the Hawai'ian culture, the Sheraton Kona team will be happy to share their knowledge.

Get involved in traditional activities such as lei making, hula and ukulele lessons.

For the more adventurous, ocean activities are available such as paddle boarding, diving and snorkelling, deep-sea fishing, and night-time manta ray snorkelling.

Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay

 

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Swimming With Manta Rays

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The shoreline at the Sheraton Kona is a renowned gathering point for manta rays.  These gentle giants are in Keauhou Bay most evenings waiting to play!

Tours can be arranged directly with the Sheraton Kona, and you are taken out into the bay on a traditional Hawai'ian vessel only metres from the hotel. Donning your snorkel and fins, you jump into the water and hold on to a paddle board attached to the boat which has been especially designed with handles to accommodate guests.

Lights then illuminate the ocean under the paddle board, which attracts plankton, and in turn the manta rays for their evening feast.

You can't believe your eyes when these incredible creatures swoop in from the darkness, literally centimetres away from you! They can grow up to a wing span of seven metres but are totally harmless, so there is no need to fear these beautiful creatures.

Manta rays at Keauhou Bay on the Big Island (photo provided by Second Wave Ocean Images for Sheraton Kona) Hayden, one of the friendly manta rays at Keauhou Bay (Second Wave Ocean Images for Sheraton Kona)

 

The team at the Sheraton Kona are passionate about these wonderful animals and can answer any of your curious questions. They even know all the manta rays by name, recognising the rays from the distinct spots and markings on their underside.

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See The Big Island By Air

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There are many ways to explore this magical island, but to truly absorb its sheer size and diversity, a flight with Paradise Helicopter tours is a great way to go.

Paradise Helicopters Paradise Helicopters

 

On your tour you depart Kona Airport to fly over the Kona coffee district and the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa on your way to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the hunt for red, hot lava at Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.

Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcano Hot lava at Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano

 


Discover another of Hawaii's famous islands.  Oahu - Surf, Segway And Swimming With Dolphins

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Hawai Hawai'i Volcancoes National Park

 

You’ll then head north along the island’s rugged coastline, seeing jagged cliffs and lava fields give way to hundreds of waterfalls and rich vegetation.

View lush rainforests and the incomparable Kohala valleys and enjoy a bird's-eye view of iconic beaches, including Hapuna Beach and Kua Bay, before finishing your journey back in Kona.

An birds-eyes view of a pod of Humpback Whales travelling along the coastline A bird's-eye view of a pod of humpback whales travelling along the coastline

 

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Mysteries Of The Skies From Mauna Kea

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A must-see on your visit to the Big Island is Mauna Kea, the world's tallest volcano, in the Hawai'i Volcancoes National Park.

You can visit the volcano by car or with a tour, such as the Mauna Kea Summit Adventures sunset and stargazing tour.

The Mauna Kea guides are educational and fun, and teach you about the island's geography, culture and natural history. Tours depart the coastline and make their way up the volcano, stopping for an early dinner before entering the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

You then travel up through the mountains to reach the summit of Mauna Kea for sunset. Don't forget to pack warm clothing, as it's usually about minus one degree Celsius at the summit!

Sunset from the Mauna Kea summit Sunset from the Mauna Kea summit

 

Have your camera at the ready, because this is a sunset that is beyond belief, as you watch the sun descend below the clouds from the tallest volcano on Earth. At the summit you can see telescopes from around the globe that open up at sunset to uncover the mysteries of the skies.

The world The world's largest telescopes at the Mauna Kea summit

 

After this spectacular sunset, you travel down the mountain and set up for some stargazing. For city dwellers that don’t regularly see the night sky, this is a must as you search for your favourite constellations and spot shooting stars through a powerful telescope.

View the detail of the moons View the detail of the moon's surface through the telescope whilst stargazing

 

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Kona Coffee Festival

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Coffee aficionados, this is the event for you! The Kona Coffee Festival is the oldest food festival in Hawai'i.

Coffee has been grown in Kona for nearly 200 years thanks to the rich volcanic soil, bright sunny mornings, afternoon cloud cover and ample rainfall. More than 600 coffee farms now grow Kona coffee and these local families and farmers line up their best brew for judging during this much anticipated event.

Make your way from stall to stall tasting their wares and chatting to the local Hawai'ians that have hand-picked their best blends for you.

Kona Coffee Festival 'Hula Daddy' Kona Coffee at the Kona Coffee Festival

 

The secrets of the Big Island in the Hawai'ian Islands are just waiting to be discovered by you!

Joanne Heggie

Social media manager at Flight Centre Australia and lover of travel, fitness, vino and good company. 2014 London Marathon finisher.