The youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands, the island of Hawaii (known as Big Island to avoid confusion) is one of the few places on earth where visitors can go from snowboarding to snorkelling in a single day! Local legend has it that the volcano goddess Pele and the demi-god Kamapua'a, who could control the weather, battled for the island and eventually decided to divide it: Pele took the hot, dry western half and Kamapua'a ended up with the wet, tropical east.
Big Island, however, actually has twelve distinct climatic zones ranging from tropical rain forests in the east to the frozen tundra atop Mauna Kea and the arid desert of Ka'u in the south. This diversity makes Hawaii's Big Island an unrivalled pleasure ground for active holidaymakers, the island's resorts offering every type of outdoor activity imaginable. To add to the thrill there is the attraction of two active volcanoes on this island - the Kilauea Caldera is the longest continuously erupting volcano in the world, its present eruptive phase dating back to 1983; Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. Of the three other volcanoes on the island two, Mauna Kea and Kohala, are extinct, while Hualalai is considered to be dormant. All this volcanic action has meant that holidaymakers can decide on their preferred beach sand tones ranging from white to red, black and even green.
Together with the diverse ecosystems of Big Island is the rich Polynesian Hawaiian culture, a culture that has absorbed some interesting elements from both Asia and Europe, creating a colourful mix. On the coast you can dance the hula at an authentic luau feast, while upcountry you will find a blend of Portuguese and Mexican culture combined with Hawaiian tradition among the 'Paniolos' (cowboys) on the giant cattle ranches.
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