southpoint ka lae

Photo: Courtesy Scott Rackers

The cliffside wooden structures at South Point double as anchors for ?shing boats, observation decks for visitors, and platforms for adventurous cliff divers.

Big Island

Adventure abounds on Hawaii’s biggest island

FIRST-TIME ESSENTIAL  Thirty miles from Hilo, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park holds two of the most active volcanoes in the world. After standing at the edge of Kilauea’s yawning crater, 194-degree steam rising steadily over dark, otherworldly lava fields, you’ll never see Mount St. Helens the same way. TIP: Splurge on a helicopter tour to get a better view of an island continually being born.

MAXIMUM EXPOSURE  The Kohala coast brims with dozens of resort-backed beautiful beaches, but for a more intimate interlude with the ocean, head for Makalawena. A 20-minute hike across lava fields from Mahaiula beach in Kekaha Kai State Park, Makalawena’s mile-long stretch of bright sand sparkles against an azure sea.

ZEN MOMENT  Staring out at the great blue beyond from the windswept cliffs at South Point (Ka Lae), the southernmost point of the US. Swirling currents coalesce at this spot, where Polynesians are thought to have first arrived in Hawaii—and where some dare-devils are still crazy enough to cliff-dive.

  • 1 flight from PDX daily (Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat)
  • 81 average high temp in February
  • 11 different climatic regions

EAT THIS  In 2010, former Fairmont Resort chef David Abrahams transformed Waimea’s once rowdy Fuji Mama’s into a culinary adventure. Set amid the fertile landscape of cattle-rich Waimea—a kind of high-altitude Willamette Valley—Red Water Café uses locally grown produce and meat in a fusion of Asian and country classics: from simple petite filets to sushi rolls made with fresh catches of the day.

REST YOUR HEAD  Kona’s popular, centrally located King Kamehameha Hotel boasts the only sandy beach in downtown Kona. Last March’s Japan tsunami damaged the historic hotel, which was built on the site of King Kamehameha’s royal residence, but recently completed renovations have restored its 452 elegant, island-themed rooms. from $159

RETAIL THERAPY  The Big Island is home to more than 200 varieties of tropical fruits. And you can find many of them—from custardy cherimoya to pretty, prickly, juicy dragon fruits—at the Kona Farmers Market.