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Travel idea: 7 reasons to visit Hawaii's Big Island

<I>Image courtesy of Four Seasons Hualalai</i> Image by: <I>Image courtesy of Four Seasons Hualalai</i> Author: Canadian Living

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Travel idea: 7 reasons to visit Hawaii's Big Island

An active volcano, fields of black lava, lush rain forests, arid desert – Hawaii's Big Island with its many microclimates is a glorious surprise to the senses. Hawaii is a chain of islands, perhaps the best-known of which is Maui, synonymous with surfing, and Oahu, where you'll find the glittering metropolis of Honolulu. The largest however, is the lesser-known but no less spectacular island of Hawaii, called The Big Island to avoid confusion. Here are 7 reasons to visit The Big Island, Hawaii:

1. Communion with nature
It's impossible not to fall in love with The Big Island's flora and fauna: Sleepy sea turtles lounging on the beach, brightly coloured birds taking wing, the sway of palm trees, gorgeous hibiscus, ohia and kukui blossoms growing everywhere would enchant even the most jaded urbanite. Many of Hawaii's Big Island's villa-style accommodations make you feel as if you're outdoors all the time, from the swanky Four Seasons Resort Hualalai which has outdoor showers and spacious lanais on ground-floor rooms, to the thatched hales (huts) of eco-conscious Kona Village.

2. Hawaiian culture
Lei, hula dancing, and pig roasts are in fact enduring parts of Hawaiian culture, not just old traditions revived for entertaining tourists. For instance, Hawaiian families still make lei from fresh flowers at home to bring to friends and family for get-togethers and celebrations, and hula dancing is taught in school. Visit The Big Island's official website, bigisland.org to get the scoop on cultural events that are happening during your visit, or check out the local newspapers, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and the West Hawaii Today.

3. Great food
For the avid foodie, Hawaii's Big Island is a treat. The warm year-round growing season means that tropical fruits and vegetables abound. Macadamia nuts, papaya, mango, pineapple, breadfruit (called ulu in Hawaiian) and purple-streaked taro root are just some of the island's luscious produce, and much of it is organic. Fresh fish like ahi, crimson snapper and seabass are in abundance, and even the beef can come from one of the island's ranches. Then for mornings and after dinner there's the coffee. Kona coffee is one of the best known in the world, and comes from plantations that are often open for tours on The Big Island.

Page 1 of 24. Wellness
Hawaii's Big Island is the island for wellness in Hawaii, as it's also known as the healing island, whether you want to visit a traditional Hawaiian healer, connect with your dormant spirituality, or visit a spa for a much-needed massage. Wellness Travel Hawaii specializes in arranging such packages, and many accommodations offer excellent spas with outdoor treatment rooms, such as the aforementioned Four Seasons, and the Fairmont Orchid.

5. Outdoor activities
Surfing, cycling, hiking are all popular recreational activities in The Big Island. The mild climate and rugged terrain make it a hikers' paradise, with hundreds of miles of trail across the island ranging from easy walks that are a few miles long to challenging twenty-mile stretches. Surfing, a quintessentially Hawaiian sport, is an activity many locals and visitors enjoy. Ask someone local where to catch the best waves and to rent equipment. Cycling is another fun activity for beginner and pro alike whether you like street cycling or mountain biking (there's even an Ironman Triathlon held on the island each year.) Hawaii Cycling Club, an organization of cyclists on The Big Island, is a font of info at hawaiicyclingclub.com.

6. Souvenir shopping
While looking for tchotchke souvenirs anywhere else is a slightly hokey pursuit at best, in Hawaii it's positively cute. Be sure to grab a few bags of Kona coffee and macadamia nuts at the very least. The intrepid souvenir hunter will want to visit the city of Hilo, and scoop up gorgeous upscale Hawaiian shirts and dresses from Sig Zane on Kamehameha Avenue, the main drag for boutique shopping. Hana Hou, also on Kamehameha Avenue, is a favourite for women looking for unique skirts made of vintage fabric, modern t-shirts, jewelry, nostalgic prints and books, and the requisite Hawaiian dresses and skirts.

7. Hotel hopping
There's no reason to esconce yourself in just one hotel if you're staying a week or longer. If you're renting a car (rates tend to be reasonable), the island is small enough that you can stay on different parts of the island and experience the different microclimates Big Island has to offer. For instance, I stayed at the ultraluxe Four Seasons, and the Fairmont Orchid, both resorts that enjoy sunny, dry climates, then at Palms Cliff House, a B&B overlooking waves crashing on the cliffs where you'll experience a more humid, tropical climate, only a few hours drive away. Aloha!

Read more:
7 reasons to visit Oahu, Hawaii
Tips for women traveling solo
7 tips for taking kids on a plane

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Travel idea: 7 reasons to visit Hawaii's Big Island

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