Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island, is famous for its gorgeous beaches, towering volcanoes, and its world-renowned coffee. While these are great reasons to visit, there are many other interesting things about the island that you may not know about. So put on your sandals and your flower-print T-shirt and read on as we explore four surprising things about Hawaii Island.
- The Snow
Yes, you read that right: snow. It’s hard to associate Hawaii with the cold, damp, powdery white stuff, but during the winter you can find snow on the summit of Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the world. In fact, Mauna Kea, means “white mountain” in English. Under ideal circumstances, you can go from hanging out on the beach to making snow angels after just a few hours of driving. There’s even about 100 miles of terrain you can ski through, but you will want to know the area isn’t maintained as a ski resort and should only be traversed by advanced skiers. For more information on skiing Mauna Kea, visit the Mauna Kea Ski Corporation’s website.
- The Terrain
If the presence of snow wasn’t enough of a surprise, then get this: Hawaii Island has 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones. On one moment you might find yourself in a lush green forest, and in another surrounded by dusty hills and withered desert shrubs. This is due to the mountainous terrain and variety of winds, which has created micro-ecosystems with their own flora and fauna. There are two ways you can see the dramatic changes in scenery for yourself. Heading north from Kona on HI-19 to Waimea will take you from lush greenery through a desert, while driving east on Hawaii Belt Road to Hilo leads you past Mauna Kea.
- The Beaches
It might seem strange to list beaches as something surprising about Hawaii, but hear us out. While the island has white sand beaches of its own, it also has something more unusual: green and black sand beaches. The most notable of these unusual beaches is the Punaluu Black Sand Beach, which is about 30 miles south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Not only is the black sand a sight to behold, but you’ll likely see large Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles basking on the beach. Meanwhile, the Papakolea Green Sand Beach, one of only four of its kind in the world, is located on the southernmost tip of the island. What makes the sand green? It’s composed of olivine, a mineral that has been eroded from lava rocks over time.
- The Stars
As in the celestial bodies, not celebrities. Hawaii Island is one of the best stargazing spots on the planet, which is why it’s no surprise there are 13 telescopes perched on Mauna Kea’s nearly 14,000-foot-tall summit. Although you can ascend to the mountain’s peak, the aforementioned telescopes aren’t open to the public. To get in some quality stargazing, stop at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, which is located about halfway up Mauna Kea. It’s suggested you take a break at the center to give your body a chance to acclimate to the change in altitude.
Where to Stay:
Kona Reef is a four-story oceanfront resort covering three acres of the gorgeous Kona coast. Every unit has a garden, partial ocean, or ocean view, with a patio or balcony. The ambience of the ocean is present while swimming in our pool that is perfect for family fun, with four barbecue grills and a party pavilion nearby. Take a ten minute walk to the historic fishing village of Kailua-Kona, and explore wonderful shops, sidewalk cafes, restaurants and art galleries.
Kona Reef is a tourist center with a small-town feel. It is home to the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, the “Grandfather of all Big Game Fishing Tournaments”. To see the best sights, follow Ali’I Drive as it weaves from Kailua Pier south to Keauhou Bay, with the azure blue ocean at your side.