Hawaii Island or the Island of Hawaii is nicknamed "the Big Island" to avoid confusion with the name of the entire Island chain. And it really is big
. It's so large that all the other islands could fit in it, with room left over. Covering 4,038 square miles and offering 266 miles of coastline, it's the youngster of the group, having broken the surface of the Pacific Ocean less than a million years ago.The first island to be visited by ancient Polynesians, Hawaii's Big Island offers an interesting blend of rainforests on one side and lava on the other, with almost every geological feature in between. A rural atmosphere and ancient tradition blend with luxury resorts here to create a special place.Hawaii's Big Island, like all the Hawaiian islands, is the product of volcanoes. Standing tall among them on the northern half of the island is Maunakea, the world's loftiest mountain (if measured from the ocean floor). Rising 13,796 feet above sea level, Maunakea is surrounded by some of the clearest skies on the planet and is home to world-renown stargazing. Maunakea offers the unique experience of skiing on a tropical island on those occasions when snow is present, most likely during winter months. Maunaloa, classified as active but not erupting (it last erupted in 1984), is in the southern half of the island. Kilauea, almost 5,000 feet high and currently erupting, is the most active volcano in the world. Located on the slope of Maunaloa, its lava flow, pouring continuously toward the ocean since 1983, provides the kind of spectacle that led to the formation of all the islands so long ago.Also on the eastern side of the island is the picturesque town of Hilo. Gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this bay-front town allows one to take a step back in time to the nostalgic days of old Hawaii. Hilo offers cultural and historical attractions, as well as tropical beauty that's second to none.A drive along the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Corridor will allow visitors to discover hidden waterfalls, ancient valleys and plantation history, and is home to Waipio Valley, nicknamed "Valley of the Kings." Beginning seven miles north of Kona International Airport, the Kona-Kohala Coast boasts white-sand beaches, luxury resorts, spectacular golf courses and near-perfect weather. Farther south, Kailua-Kona, once a royal seaside village, offers a quaint shopping district and historic Hulihee Palace. Near Kailua-Kona is Keauhou, a blend of restored historical sites and modern comforts. Some of the world's best snorkeling and deep-sea fishing are found along the Kona coast.