What comes to mind when you think of Hawaii? It will be either Maui or Honolulu. For those dating ourselves, perhaps the famous detectives show of the 70’s: Hawaii Five 0.

We sell a lot of Hawaii packages with Maui being the most popular, Oahu’s Waikiki beach, second, and the garden island of Kauai, third. For whatever reason, the Big Island ranks fourth in popularity. That is good news.

The Big Island is my personal favorite for several reasons. First, it is never crowded with congested traffic as one would find in Honolulu or on Maui during peak seasons.

Second, the island offers a step back in time to the Hawaii of old before the advent of extensive hotels and tourism. Granted there are magnificent hotels, however they are spread out and not on top of each other as one finds on the other islands.

Third, for the nature enthusiast the Big Island is Mecca. Volcanoes National Park is the only place in America where there is an ongoing, albeit slow, volcanic eruption. The geological processes are amazing to behold and visiting this park will be a semester course education in itself.

For the astronomy buff, the top of Mauna Kea at 13,000 feet is home to the Onizuka Astronomy Complex, with the 10 meter Keck telescopes peering billions of light years into deep space.

For the scuba diver, the Kona coast has a plethora of excellent shore based dive sites. And for those that prefer boat diving, there are a multitude of vessels available for an effortless excursion into the depths and the reefs below the waves.

Do you want solitude and tranquility? This island offers countless locations to enjoy natures’ serenity.

One example is Lapakahi Historical State park located on the northern Kohala coast. These are the ruins of an ancient fishing village. The steady ocean breeze and tranquil location makes one realize how simple life was in ancient Hawaii.

Such peaceful locations near the sea are plentiful all over the island as are a multitude scenic overlooks along the interior roads.

For the four wheel drive enthusiast, this island offers an assortment of remote jeep trails for the explorer at heart. The bottom line is this: if you like to explore, then this island is for you!

For those that prefer traditional activities such as golf, shopping, fishing, guided tours or just lounging around the pool at your condo/hotel, no problem.

The one thing the Big Island does lack, are the extensive beaches one finds in Oahu and Maui. Geologically, Hawaii is a young island, and consequently, the shores are rocky. There are some resort hotel beaches but not to the extent of the islands up north.

The best way to explore the Big Island is by car and stay at one of many nice hotels or condos along the western Kona-Kohala coast. In a week one can cover the entire island with excursions to various locations. The first thing you want to get is a good roadmap available at any ABC store.

Take a day to drive to Volcanoes National Park. Another day, visit the northern Kohala district and Parker Ranch, home of the largest cattle farm in the Pacific. Another excursion can be a drive to Hilo over the Saddle Road (between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa) and up the northeast coastline.

A day snorkeling at historic Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook’s Cove) underwater park is a popular destination with locals and visitors. Nearby, the Kona Coffee Plantation is worth the visit.

Daily non-stop flights are available on United from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Kailua-Kona. This airport is nostalgic as one must exit down traditional stairways off the aircraft. The waiting and baggage claim areas are covered open air. Carved out of a lava field, this unique airport is only a few minutes north of the main town Kailua-Kona on the leeward side of the island.

A Big Island vacation is one that will stand apart from your traditional Hawaiian getaway. Break the mold, next trip, go to the Big Island, you won’t regret it.