Home of the Ironman World Championship, Hawaii's Big Island is an active traveler's paradise.
With 11 of the 13 climate zones located on the island, its landscape varies from black sand beaches to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountains to tropical rainforests. Formed entirely by volcanic activity, the Big Island is a combination of five volcanoes: the extinct Kohala, dormant Mauna Kea and the active Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And at 93 miles across and 4,028 square miles in area, it is larger than all the Hawaiian Islands combined.
From running up a volcano to catching a wave on the clear blue waters, outdoor activities abound on the Big Island, evident in its official slogan as "Hawaii's Island of Adventure."
RUNNING ADVENTURESMauna Kea and Mauna Loa: At 33,000 feet (13,796 feet above sea level), the dormant volcano Mauna Kea is considered the tallest mountain in the world. However, since a major portion of Mauna Kea is beneath the ocean, Mount Everest is the highest above sea level. If you are up to the challenge, run or hike the two roads that circle Mauna Kea: the lower Mana Road (starting at 6,500 feet) and the higher Kahinahina Road (starting at 9,000 feet).
The 43-mile Mana Road winds through Waimea cowboy country and provides beautiful scenery of rolling green pastures, fields of wildflowers and the Kohala Mountains. The 37- ilelong Kahinahina Road will take you through a variety of ecosystems as you ascend the mountain. On a clear day, you'll experience stunning views of the neighboring islands, particularly Maui. You might even see the endangered Palila, a Hawaiian finch found only on the upper slopes.
Sister volcano Mauna Loa, while not as tall, is considered the largest volcano in the world based on area coverage. The 35-mile paved Mauna Loa Observatory Road, which winds up the mountain, is a popular path for runners and cyclists alike. While lengthy, the road is not difficult terrain-wise. The higher you climb, the better the views of Mauna Kea, Haleakala and Kohala, and under optimum conditions, the islands of Lanai and Molokai.
Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkExperience one-of-a-kind volcanic landscape on the miles of trails located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Grab a trail map from the visitor center and consider these scenic running routes.
- Kipukapuaulu Trail: A one-mile loop with a slight incline, this trail takes you through lush rainforest and a Kipuka, an old-growth forest of koa and ohia trees, surrounded by recent lava flows from Mauna Loa.
- Kilauea Iki Trail: This challenging four-mile loop features a 400-foot descent through rainforest, rocky lava beds and across the crater floor, which is covered in hardened lava flows and surrounded by rocky cliffs. Be prepared for intermittent steam vents on the crater floor as well as a 400-foot climb up and down switchbacks.
- Crater Rim Drive: Experience an active volcano up close and personal. This 11-mile paved road, offering a slight elevation gain, encircles the rim of Kilauea Caldera. If you have time, visit the Jaggar Museum along the way and learn about how the park's volcanoes are studied.
- The Hilo Region: For a change of pace from volcanic landscape, head to the northeastern coast known as the Hilo region. From breathtaking waterfalls to lush rainforests, this region offers a variety of natural wonders to explore such as Rainbow Falls, an impressive 80-foot waterfall located in Wailuku River State Park. The waterfall gushes over an ancient cave and into a lagoon surrounded by dense rainforest. A short drive from the town of Hilo, Akaka Falls State Park offers a trail that runs near two dramatic waterfalls, the 100-foot Kahuna Falls and 442-foot Akaka Falls.