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Eight main islands are the most populated in the entire Hawaiian archipelago, which comprises of hundreds of islands spread over 2,400 km. To avoid confusion with the name of the entire state, the Island of Hawaii, the largest of the islands, is often called the “Big Island.” A common explanation of the name of Hawaii is that it was named for Hawai 'iloa', a legendary figure who is said to have discovered the islands.

The aboriginal culture of Hawaii is Polynesian. Based on archaeological evidence, the earliest habitation of the Hawaiian Islands dates to around 300 CE, probably by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas Islands. Ancient Hawaii was a caste-based society, much like that of Hindus in India.

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Spanish explorers probably arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in the 16th century-200 years before Captain James Cook's first documented visit in 1778. Cook died in his second visit to Hawaii in 1779, during a fight regarding the ransom for King of Hawaii island Kalaniʻōpuʻu whom Cook had abducted.

After Cook's visit and the publication of several books relating his voyages, the Hawaiian islands attracted many European visitors: explorers, traders, and eventually whalers, who found the islands to be a convenient harbor and source of supplies.

The Hawaiian islands were formed by volcanic activity initiated at an undersea magma source called the Hawaii hotspot. The process is continuing to build islands; the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean continually moves northwest and the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes.

Our ambassador, Chris, stayed over at Hilton Waikoloa Village, one of the best luxury hotels on the Big Island, set in Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Kona Coast. With incredible views, where one can swim with dolphins, paddle board, snorkel, get a massage, go on water slides, or simply relax by the pools and the amazing man-made lagoon, staying at the hotel was a great experience.

Even though Christianity is the most widespread religion in Hawaii, Buddhism is the second most popular religion, especially among the archipelago's Japanese community. That's why Chris wasn't very surprised to see a Buddha statue inside the hotel.

Chris also strolled along Anaeho'omalu Beach; a place of unparalleled beauty, tranquility and charm. Often referred to as A-Bay, the beach is a long crescent of salt and pepper sand. Long rows of palm trees make A-Bay one of the premier places to photograph a Big Island sunset.

Named for the historic royal fishponds, this is an interesting and very picturesque place to explore. Once a thriving fishing village, today the Anaeho'omalu fishponds are still actively maintained. The area is rich in history including archaeological sites, 'heiau' (temples) and petroglyphs.

Chris also visited Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, located on the west coast of the Big Island, which preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a “kapu” (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge (“puʻuhonua”.) It includes a complex of archeological sites: temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks, etc.

One of Chris' best experiences was at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the southeast of the Big Island, which includes the active volcano Kīlauea and its rift zones. Founded in 1916, the Park encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea.

Here you'll find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since 1983.

The extraordinary natural diversity of the park was recognized in 1980 when it was named a World Biosphere site by UNESCO. In 1987 the park was honored as a World Heritage site. Kilauea is sometimes called "the world's only drive-in volcano." This prolific volcano currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road daily.

After leaving Kīlauea Visitor Center, 8 miles ahead on the left are the Steam Vents. Ground water seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks in this area and returns to the surface as steam. Chris also took a walk in the dark through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-year old lava cave. These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings. Nahuku is the most easily accessible one.

Chris is very proud to have visited the Waipio Valley Overlook, or "the edge of the world" as it is often called! Located on the northern Hamakua Coast of the Big Island, "The Valley of the Kings" is an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, and also a place of dramatic tropical beauty.

This fertile valley is about one mile across and over five-miles deep, and surrounded by cliffs up to 2000-feet high. Big Island's tallest waterfall, Hiilawe Falls cascades down 1,300 feet in the back of Waipio. “No cliff is so tall it cannot be climbed” Chris thought, as the Hawaiian proverb goes.

There are so many other things to do in Hawaii! Stargazing at Mauna Kea, boarding on a helicopter tour to see the islands from above, tasting noodles and fish at Honolulu or Waikiki, watching dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center, attending a Kaanapali Sunset Luau in Maui, whale-watching at Lahaina, snorkeling at the Maui Molokini Crater, hiking the Waimea Canyon and Napali Coast in Kauai, visiting Pearl Harbor or escaping to Ninini Point for some peace and quiet...

The options are practically limitless. We have barely scratched the surface with this blog post! But if you liked it, you can always come back for more!

Featuring our Cabar bow-tie, Alvin case and Van Phone Case.

Photos by Chris 

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