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A long list of incredible attractions lures million of visitors to Hawaii each year — gorgeous sandy beaches, lush tropical rain forests with brightly colored flowers, breathtakingly beautiful sea cliffs that soar thousands of feet into the sunny sky, the dreamiest of sunsets, some of the world’s best hotels, crystal-clear water that’s perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. We could go on and on, but here are five things that you absolutely must see and do while on a visit to the Big Island:
1. Explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. More than a million visitors a year arrive to bear witness to the tempestuous Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983, the volcano’s longest rift-zone eruption in more than 600 years. As lava flows down Kilauea and into the ocean, new land mass is created, making the Big Island even bigger. On some days, you can actually see the fiery lava flowing, something that is causing the island to keep growing. Must-see sites include the Holei Sea Arch, Thurston Lava Tube, Kilauea Iki Overlook and Jaggar Museum.
2. Climb Mauna Kea. This dormant volcano is Hawaii’s tallest mountain and to get to the top of the 13,796-foot volcano, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. There are plenty of companies that will take you to the summit, such as Mauna Kea Summit Adventures, and you know you’re in good hands. The journey to the summit is a seven- to eight-hour trip, where you’re rewarded with access to the world’s largest telescopes to gaze out onto the Hawaiian Islands.
3. Tour the coffee plantations. Sure, Hawaii is known for its beaches; but Kona is known for its legendary coffee. Take a tour of the various coffee plantations around Kona, many of which have tasting rooms where you can sample the different roasts and take home what you like best. Don’t miss celebrating the tradition with the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival each November.
4. Get a birds-eye view. Hop aboard a helicopter and take off to see Hawaii from a different point of view. The most well known company in Hawaii is Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which offers tours of the Kohala Coast (where you’ll spot sea cliffs, valleys and ancient Hawaiian settlements), as well as flying over fiery lava flows, rain forests and waterfalls. It’s a great way to see the Big Island’s wide variety of natural attractions.
5. Hit the beach. Everyone comes to Hawaii for the glorious beaches, whether it’s to just lie around under the sun, or to spend the entire day surfing or snorkeling. Which beach you choose depends on your interest — Hawaii contains some of the world’s most beautiful stretches of sand and surf.