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Big Island Facts

The Island of Hawaii is nicknamed the Big Island to help distinguish it from the state itself.  When you fly into Kona International Airport for the first time, be prepared to be "under-whelmed."  The approach over the ocean gives way to an expanse of black lava.  Even when you exit the plane you see little of a tropical paradise.  But, don't let first impressions disappoint
you.  It is the youngest and largest of all the islands and has the most diverse geography and climate.  It is twice as large as all the other islands combined and you will find 11 of the earth's 13 different climate zones.  Here you can find  one of the largest cattle ranches in the U.S., black sand beaches, and snow-capped mountains.  During some winter days you can ski down snow-covered slopes and then relax in your bathing suit on the beach.  The Hilo side of the island is lush and wet (Hilo is the wettest city in the U.S. averaging about 150 inches of rain a year) while the Kohala area averages ten inches of rain a year and is surrounded by volcanic flows.

Ferns in Lava
Life Forces Itself Through a Lava Flow on the Big Island
Two volcanoes dominate the geography of the Big Island.  Mauna Kea (meaning White Mountain) dominates the north rising 13,796 feet above sea level with an astronomical facility on top.  Mauna Loa rises to 13,677 feet in the south-central part of the island and is the location of the Volcanoes National Park.  Ka Lae, or South Point, is the southernmost point in the 50 states.

Unlike the other islands, driving distances here can be considerable, especially if you decide to go from one side of the island to the other.  Driving around the island is more than 200 miles and you certainly won't average 65 miles per hour.  

The Big Island is home to the Volcanoes National Park containing the only active volcanoes in the islands.  Kilauea volcano has been erupting almost continuously since 1983.  The sulfur dioxide gas emitted mixes with water vapor to form a haze called vog.  Vog is carried by the trade winds and is most noticeable along the Kona Coast.  When the wind direction changes Kona experiences clear air.

The island gets one-fourth of its electricity from geothermal energy.  An ocean thermal energy conversion facility is in Kona at Keahole, the nation's sunniest coast.


Check Out Facts About Other Islands Below

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