Big Island of Hawai’i

Due to the recent dual eruptions of Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes, the Big Island of Hawaii has been in the news!

In addition to the unique phenomena of having active and relatively safe volcanoes to view, the Big Island has some other rather unique characteristics that set it apart from the other Hawaiian islands.

Let's take a look at the biggest event to occur on the Big Island: The Merrie Monarch Festival on April 9-15, 2023.

The Merrie Monarch Festival

This year, the Merrie Monarch Festival is running from April 9-15, 2023.

According to Britannica School,

"The Merrie Monarch Festival is a weeklong event on the Big Island that honors King Kalakaua. Also known as the “Merrie Monarch,” he is revered for his role in reviving hula and other Hawaiian arts. The festival begins on Easter Sunday and is filled with music, hula performances, and art exhibitions."

King Kalakaua, who had a good-natured personality, was renowned for his musical skills.  The people of Hawai'i honored him by naming the hula-centric festival for him.

According to the website, you will experience "an invitational arts fair, cultural demonstrations, hula performances, and a parade that showcases the many cultures of Hawaiʻi":

"The highlight of the festival is a world renowned three-day hula competition featuring some of the best hālau hula (hula school) from Hawaiʻi and the continental United States. Through the celebration of the Merrie Monarch Festival, thousands of people at home in the islands and throughout the world learn about the history and culture of Hawaiʻi."

While flying over the Big Island, be sure to take a look at the landscape.  The Big Island is unique among the Hawaiian Islands because of its climate!

The Big Island's Four Out of Five Climate Groups

According to the Köppen Climate Classification System, the Big Island has four out of the five major climate groups (each of which contains sub-zones) per Love Big Island:

  • tropical rainy climate (coasts, except for northwestern)
    • continuously wet
    • monsoon
    • dry (distinct dry season)
  • dry climate (northwestern coast)
    • dry arid
    • dry semi-arid
  • humid moderate-temperature climate (around Kilauea Volcano's rainforest)
    • summer dry
    • continuously wet
  • polar, snow climate (Mauna Kea)
    • polar tundra

The Big Island does not have a humid low-temperature climate, also known as a continental climate.

Mauna Kea's snowy climate makes it different from any other island in Hawai'i!

One of my favorite things about the Big Island are the unique food finds!

The North Pole of Cacao

It is hard to believe, but the Big Island has become home to several world-renowned confectionaries in the small town called Hilo.

In the 1980's and 1990's, chocolate entrepreneurs found that the Hawaiian Islands are the northern-most region that is compatible with growing cacao plants, from which chocolate is made.  Following are just some of the more famous confectionaries in Hilo.

If you have ever tried one of Big Island Candies' unique chocolate-dipped macadamia shortbread cookies, you will understand why so many tourists visit their shop!  The best part of visiting the Hilo store is that you can observe how the candies are made from the store.

Hawaii's first chip company, Atebara's is a well-established company, since 1936.  The company has also stepped into the candy arena with its delicious tasting Chocolate Crunch, which has the perfect pairing of salty and sweet:  chocolate and potato chips!

Finally, let's investigate the Big Island's most newsworthy feature: its volcanoes!

The Big Island is Comprised of Five Volcanoes

Though Kilauea and Mauna Loa are often in the news, the Big Island is actually made up of five volcanoes.

Mauna Kea, the mountain that provides the Big Island with one of its four climate zones: polar, is a dormant volcano.  Depending upon how you measure it (base of the mountain, located under the ocean), Mauna Kea can be considered the tallest mountain in the world.

Mauna Kea is home to world-renowned telescopes.  Because of its unique position and dark skies, Mauna Kea is prized by astronomers, who can view the stars with limited light pollution.

Please note that Mauna Kea, which is sacred to native Hawaiians, is viewed differently by native Hawaiians.  They believe that the location of the observatories is an affront to their culture.  In 2017, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs sued both the State of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii because of their lack of proper stewardship.

Kohala is the oldest volcano on the Big Island.  It is considered extinct.  It has one of the four climate zones: dry.  Its unique climate is particularly useful for growing certain kinds of crops like sweet potatoes and sugar cane.

Hualalai is the last volcano on the island, and is considered active, though it has not erupted since 1929.

If you have any questions or comments about the Big Island, please leave a comment below!

Books About the Big Island

Fodor's Big Island of Hawaii, book cover
Paradise remade : the politics of culture and history in Hawai'i, book cover
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, book cover
Nation Within, book cover
Kau Kau, book cover