15 Things You Really Need to Know about the Island of Hawaiʻi

Pssst! Want to learn a few very cool things about the island of Hawaiʻi? Here’s the first: It’s a lot more than just being the largest island in the chain, folks. Proving that, here’s a handy collection of 15 other interesting facts you should (but might not) know about the island.

# 1. We’ve got the newest natural landscapes

Island of Hawaiʻi, the largest and youngest Hawaiian island, is also home to Kīlauea volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. During the historic 2018 eruption, Kīlauea added over 875 acres of new land to the island, including a black sand and pebble beach at Pohoiki; named one of the “2019 World’s Greatest Places” by TIME magazine. About 90 percent of the lava flows on Kīlauea are younger than 1,000 years old, and about 20 percent of those are less than 200 years old, which is the blink of an eye in geological terms.

#2. We’ve got all but four of the world's sub-climate zones

Studies by climatologists using the original Koppen Climate Classification System – a method applied to identify and define global climate zones – show the island of Hawaiʻi boasts everything from humid tropical and arid desert climates to temperate and ice climates. Thank the island’s vast size and sea level to alpine elevation changes for that. We’re the only place on Earth to explore so many sub-climates in a concentrated area.

#3. Sustainability is one of our main priorities

There are many ways to mālama ʻāina, or love and care for the land. Wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect our ocean’s ecosystem, pack a reusable water bottle, or support local farmers’ markets. Make a difference by joining one of many eco-voluntourism opportunities, such as helping remove invasive plants in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. We appreciate your kōkua, your help and support, in nurturing our island’s precious ʻāina

#4. The history of our Hawaiian Islands began here

The island of Hawaiʻi is believed to be the first of the main Hawaiian Islands discovered and settled by Polynesians, possibly as far back as the fifth century. Island-born Kamehameha the Great created the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi by unifying the entire island chain under his rule in 1810 after a years-long succession of battles, initially basing the capital of the Islands in Kailua-Kona. 

#5. We’ve got more land for more outdoor adventuring

With 4,028 square miles of land encompassing everything from sandy beaches, windswept seashores and warm lava deserts to occasionally snowy alpine summits and lush rainforests and valleys, the island of Hawaiʻi offers myriad outdoor adventures. Hiking, snorkeling, sailing, biking, road tripping, zip-lining, horseback riding and stargazing? We call that a good start. 

#6. We’ve got four active volcanoes

Hualālai volcano last erupted circa 1801 and Maunaloa volcano last sent out lava in 1984. While Maunakea last erupted 4,000 years ago, it’s still considered active. Kīlauea volcano’s most recent eruptions lasted from 1983 to 2018, ending with its largest eruption and summit collapse in over 200 years. Kamaʻehu or Lō‘ihi, a submarine volcano off the southern coast of Hawaiʻi Island, is also active. 

#7. The two tallest mountains in the world? We’ve got ‘em, too.

Measured from their bases on the Pacific Ocean floor, Maunakea and Maunaloa volcanoes are more than 33,000 and 30,000 feet tall, respectively. (Take that, Mount Everest and your mere 29,000 feet!) Maunaloa is also the world’s largest subaerial (that’s “above ground” for non-science types) volcano, with a land area of 2,035 square miles.

#8. Four of our five National Park Service (NPS) parks, sites and trails focus exclusively on Hawaiian culture

Everyone knows of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and its wonders. But did you know Hawaiian history and culture provide the main narrative drive of NPS sites Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail? All five are must-visits. 

#9. We’re one of the best places on Earth for stargazing, from anywhere Hawaiʻi Island

You may not realize that naked-eye stargazing is awesome from just about anywhere on Hawaiʻi Island. The island’s 19.5 degrees north latitude location offers dazzling views of the entire Northern Hemisphere and 90 percent of the Southern Hemisphere’s. 

#10. We make sure our marine life have lots of room to thrive

With 266 miles of coastline, the island of Hawaiʻi has the most marine conservation districts of all the Hawaiian Islands. Which is wonderful for the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), manta rays, dolphins, the colorful marine life; and undersea nirvana for snorkel and scuba aficionados. Please follow NOAA’s marine life viewing guidelines while observing our marine life. Help us take care of our land and sea by signing the Pono Pledge at www.ponopledge.com

#11. We’re home to the most prestigious hula competition in the world

Held each year in Hilo, starting on Easter Sunday, the weeklong Merrie Monarch Festival’s three biggest nights are its signature hula competitions. Participation is by invitation only and tickets are extremely limited for this popular event. For non-ticketholders, the fest also has craft fairs, a hoʻolauleʻa (celebration), a parade through Hilo, free hula exhibitions, and a livestream of the competition to enjoy. For more information, visit www.merriemonarch.com

#12. We’ve got more oceanfront golf holes than any island in the Pacific

It’s true. And we dare you NOT to be at least a little bit distracted by all of the sublime natural scenery surrounding the island’s sumptuous greens. Views of volcanoes. Fairways set like emerald oases amidst indigo lava fields or set apart by churning seaside coves. Go ahead. Feel free to sightsee while you tee off. 

#13. If it can be grown or ranched, chances are good we’re growing and ranching it

Vanilla. Coffee. Papaya. Mushrooms. Bananas. Strawberries. Cacao. Tea. Grass-fed beef and lamb. Honey. Herbs. Lettuces. And that’s just for starters. With a diversity of climates and landscapes available to them, the island’s farmers and ranchers produce an ample bounty for the supermarket shelves, farmers markets and the ever-growing number of farm-to-table restaurants

#14. We expand the definition of nightlife

Nightclubbing is for amateurs. On the island of Hawaiʻi, our nightlife includes stargazing from just about anywhere on the island, pelagic night diving, manta snorkeling, or dining under the stars at one of many outdoor restaurants. 

#15. We are the island of Hawaiʻi

Each of the islands has a Hawaiian name and ours is Hawaiʻi. You’ve likely heard the island called by one of its nicknames, “Big Island,” “Orchid Isle,” or “Volcano Isle.” But our proper name is “Hawaiʻi” or the “island of Hawaiʻi.” Come visit and we’ll say it together!

Lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Island of Hawaiʻi Story Ideas