Natural Wonders of Hawaii Island
Hawaii Island spans 4,028 square miles (and still growing) and features Kilauea (one of the world’s most active volcanoes), Maunakea (the world’s tallest sea mountain), Maunaloa (the world’s most massive mountain) and is home to ten* of the world’s 14* different climate zones. Needless to say, natural wonders abound on Hawaii Island.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii’s most popular visitor attraction, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the largest park in the state, covering 333,086 acres and most of the southeastern district of Kau and some of the Puna. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Continuously erupting since 1983, Kilauea Volcano is the centerpiece of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Currently, most of the volcanic activity is centered around the Puu Oo Vent. Visitors can witness lava entering the sea from a viewing point in Kalapana outside the park. See the Volcano Eruption Update for more information.
Home to Pele, the volcano goddess, this massive crater within Kilauea Caldera has also been the center of recent volcanic activity. Steam vents and dramatic, otherworldly views make this an unforgettable sight.
Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube)
Explore this massive, 500-year old lava cave, conveniently located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Standing at 13,796 feet above sea level and over 32,000 feet from the ocean floor (making it taller than Mount Everest), don’t be surprised to see snow on Maunakea’s peaks during the winter. Take a guided tour to the summit for excellent stargazing opportunities or visit the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station (at 9,300-feet) for additional stargazing and to learn more about astronomy atop Maunakea.
All along the Hamakua Coast from Hilo to Waipio Valley, you’ll find a variety of lookouts to see incredible waterfalls. Akaka Falls is a 442-foot waterfall that’s easily accessible, while Wailuku River State Park features the 80-foot Rainbow Falls and Peepee Falls just west of Downtown Hilo.
Black Sand Beaches
While Hawaii Island is home to many amazing beaches, its constant volcanic activity has created amazing black sand beaches along the Puna and Kau coasts. The most famous of these is Punaluu Black Sand Beach, which is a favorite of honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles).
* J. Jurvik, NOAA Maunaloa Observatory, A 20th Anniversary Report 1978, pg 130-132; Hawai’i Magazine, Nov. 2015; Above based on Koppen Climate Classification System (original) 1884.