Soak Up the Island of Hawaii
By Victor Block
Some vacationers soak up sun on beaches with white or black sand. Not far away, divers suit up for a deep dive to get close-up and personal with a variety of denizens of the deep. Other people check out a surreal moonscape of hardened pitch-black lava, then hike through a lush tropical rainforest.
If this sounds like a continent-wide choice of activities, that's because the island of Hawaii in ways resembles a miniature continent. It's almost twice the size of the other Hawaiian Islands combined.
Visitors find a miniature world that encompasses virtually every kind of landscape. Dry cactus-dotted desert lies near lush rainforests. Barren lava fields contrast with waterfalls plunging into verdant valleys.
People in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park come face to face with the world's most active volcano, Kilauea, and the largest active subaerial volcano. Mauna Loa. It has erupted a total of 33 times in the past 75 years, most recently in 1984.
In recent times, Kilauea erupted from 1983 to 2018, and last December there was a new eruption at its summit. During the 2018 blow, lava flows added more than 875 acres to the island and created a black sand and pebble beach. Visitors can view the newest eruption's billowing plume of gas and steam by day and bask in the reflection of glowing lava deep within the crater after dark.
Hawaii Island's massive mountains also have another claim to fame. From its base on the ocean floor to the summit at more than 13,800 feet, Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest. Because of their heights, the peaks of both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are blanketed by snow at times during winter.
Several attractions greet people taking the Crater Rim Drive through the national park. The Kilauea Overlook provides awe-inspiring views of the Kilauea caldera -- the collapsed center of the volcano -- and the Halemaumau Crater. Ha'akulamanu is a thermal area where volcanic gasses deposit colorful sulfur crystals and other minerals. The aptly named Devastation Trail leads through an area that was buried beneath a covering of cinders during a volcanic eruption in 1959.
Visitors driving in the park are cautioned to be on the lookout for the nene, which is designated as the state bird of Hawaii. This is the rarest species of geese in the world, found only in Hawaii and designated as threatened.
Along with volcanoes and the usual sun-and-sand vacation activities, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Hawaii Island. For fishermen, waters off its Kona Coast are known as the best in the world for catching giant blue marlin. An annual International Billfish Tournament attracts anglers from around the world.