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big island | Top scenic spots

If your travel plans include flying directly into Hilo, you'll arrive at the county's seat, population 44 thousand. Situated upon two sheath volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, Hilo overlooks Hilo Bay and is home to the University of Hawaii. Directly on the other side of the island is Kailua-Kona, a residential district situated along a 2.5-mile beach well known for great kite surfing, surfing and bodysurfing. Just north of Kailua-Kona is the Kohala Coast, the northwest portion of the island filled with fabulous golf courses and seaside resorts. The Kohala Coast is a place to be for fine dining and basking in the sun. On some days all you'll need is your beach gear because Hapuna Beach State Park has everything else covered from a mile long by 200 ft wide stretch featuring soft sand, snorkeling, a coral reef on the south side and lush greenery.

It's almost impossible to spend time on the 'Big Island' without visiting the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Over a million visitors each year take in the dramatic landscapes amongst the five volcanoes, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Haulalai, Mauna Lea and Kilauea. Running 3.5 miles in one direction and 7.5 in the other, the Halini Pali trail is good hike along the side of Kilauea volcano. This unique hike eventually brings you down to sea level, but along the way you'll arrive at a point where quite literally, you're speechless--you'll be taken by the unforgettable sight of the bright blue ocean and the descending slope below.