Also called “the Big Island,” this is home to Pele, the fire goddess in Hawaiian mythology. Commune with the fiery aspect of nature at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, which contains the very active Kīlauea, as well as unique ecosystems. Crater Rim Drive, an 11-mile loop around the summit of Kīlauea, is a good way to become accustomed to the park, which includes desert climates and tropical rain forests, depending on elevation. Hike one of the trails, or explore Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) to see what it’s like to be in a cave, Island style. At the time of this writing, Kīlauea was erupting in a vent within Halema‘uma‘u Crater, creating a lava lake and vivid glow that is easily seen from the Jaggar Museum. However, Madam Pele can change her mind—and direction—so before you venture into the park, check the current conditions at the National Park Service’s website so you’ll know what to expect.
Hawai‘i Island doesn’t reserve all her natural wonders for the land, though. Consider the manta rays that glide through the warm waters off the Kona Coast. These huge fish have wingspans up to 20 feet and can be seen via a night boat tour. Snorkelers and scuba divers can get close to these gentle, otherworldly creatures while they are swooping to feed on plankton. Those who have experienced a swim with mantas will never forget their aquatic beauty and grace.