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Why now is a good time to visit the island of Hawaiʻi

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Sunrise on the shores of Pololu Valley. Image courtesy of The Hawaiian Islands / Tyler Schmitt.
We don’t want to understate its effects: some 700 homes in the Puna district were lost, several residential roads in the area remain inaccessible, and Green Lake, once the largest freshwater lake in the entire Hawaiian archipelago, was literally boiled away. But for most residents of the island of Hawaiʻi, life continues on as normal, and so does the tourism calendar.

That calendar dips into low season from September to November, and again from mid-March to June. Fall is, frankly, a sweet time to be on the island of Hawaiʻi. You’ll find more affordable rates and a ton of seasonal events, and you’ll be free of crowds. Also, the island has one of the world’s highest concentrations of climatic diversity, but unless you’re planning on spending your trip entirely on the Maunakea summit, the weather is going to be pleasant and warm.

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A farmers market in Hilo © nameinfame / Getty
Coffee, gastronomy and the arts
Few towns weave Asia-Pacific demographic threads quite like Hilo. With this many Pacific Rim cultures placed adjacent to one another, some very beautiful food results. Taste of Hilo, which kicks off on Oct 21, showcases these flavors for foodies and folks who just like good grub. The incredible cultural diversity of Hilo doesn’t just manifest in food; this is a town in love with music as well, and you can get a sense of this obsession at the East Hawaii Jazz and Blues Festival (Oct 28), when live music spills across stages at Nani Mau Gardens.

The arts are deeply felt across the islands of Hawaii, and the Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll and Hawaii Artist Collaboration Annual Art Auction (both on Nov 3) are beloved celebrations of local creative energy. The Coffee & Art Stroll is a free arts walk sprinkled with a heavy farmers market vibe thanks to the presence of local coffee growers; while the Art Auction is a ticketed event that showcases master artists from around the Islands. Both occur in Hōlualoa, an artists’ village that occupies a beautiful, breezy stretch of upland Kona mountainside.

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Kona coffee beans. Image courtesy of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
Indeed, the entire Kona region blends great eats and creativity into one superlative travel destination. The area’s gastronomic and artistic heritage is the subject of the popular Kona Coffee Cultural Festival (Nov 3, 9-18, multiple locations). The culture and (of course) coffee of the island of Hawaiʻi is on full display here, which includes plenty of music and dance performances, a lantern parade, Japanese calligraphy and some delicious drinks of the caffeinated (and decaffeinated) variety.

Finally, on the southeast side of the island, don’t miss the Volcano Village Artists Hui Annual Studio Tour & Sale (Nov 23-25, Volcano). The village of Volcano is filled with artists who live in the shadow of a magnificent force of nature. During this long weekend, the studios of local creators are thrown open and prices are often competitively set to sell.

Features – Mixed breed beef cattle graze in North Kohala, HI
The grassy, windblown landscape of North Kohala © Alvis Upitis / Getty
Contemporary culture
Visitors can engage in year-round access to Hawaiʻi’s mix of cultures, shaped by the Hawaiian culture’s deep roots in pre-contact Polynesia and by generations of immigrants from across the Pacific Rim and Europe.

In North Kohala, you’ll find a windblown, surreal landscape that feels utterly unexpected. This land of long grassy hills and deep, rainy jungle is the birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great and home to the friendly village of Hāwī, which produces art and music in equal measure.

There’s an unending parade of culture and good food in Hilo, where it seems every nationality from the Pacific Rim has a seat at the dining table. Don’t miss the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, which serves as an information gateway to the 583,000-square-mile Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; or the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, which focuses on modern and ancient Hawaiian astronomy.

For a more visceral, dirt-under-your-fingernails experience, head to the fog-wreathed upland pastures of Waimea. This is true island cattle country, where the paniolo (cowboy) is a present and living part of daily life and the steaks are well… exceptionally good.

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A rainbow arching over a scenic road on the island © Toshi Sasaki / Getty
Scenic drives
The island of Hawaiʻi may be the largest in the archipelago, but it is a landmass you can drive across in a few hours – and yet, it’s packed with enough heartbreakingly beautiful scenery to feel continental.

Fall is the perfect time for a road trip, and it doesn’t get much better than a drive along the dramatic Hāmākua Heritage Corridor, where the view jukes between deep jungle valleys and sweeping Pacific Ocean vistas. From here, you can access the lookout of the rugged green gem of the Waipiʻo Valley, a geographic feature that looks like Eden’s lost sister garden.

Less vibrantly green yet no less rugged, raw and beautiful is the Kohala Mountain Road, which links the towns of Hāwī and Waimea. This is one of the most scenic drives on the island, crossing upland cattle country and windy mountain passes while affording long, sweeping vistas of the ocean below. If you’re traveling with others, try to switch drivers so you can take a turn as passenger and fully appreciate the amazing views.

Volcanic vistas
We can’t finish without mentioning the geographic feature responsible for creating the island of Hawaiʻi: her iconic volcanoes. These can be best accessed via Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, which has reopened to visitors and spotlights Hawaiian culture and volcanology.

While restoration work is still happening in the main park, its Kahuku Unit remains an exciting alternative. This is a wonderful glimpse into the aftereffects of a volcanic eruption, as well as a gateway to the otherworldly landscapes of the southern end of the island.

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25 Comments

  1. Reply

    Wow….I didn’t know about this before till now

  2. Profile photo ofItz Kvng Twitch

    Reply

    Very interesting

  3. Reply

    Cool place

  4. Reply

    Good place

  5. Reply

    This is really good and interesting to know

  6. Reply

    Nice place to know

  7. Reply

    Interesting place

  8. Reply

    Amazing

  9. Profile photo ofSIRMUSTY

    Reply

    small island

  10. Reply

    Can’t wait to visit

  11. Reply

    Small island

  12. Reply

    Island

  13. Reply

    Good article

  14. Reply

    Good

  15. Reply

    To do qat

  16. Reply

    Jumboearn paid platform and news update

  17. Reply

    Good article

  18. Reply

    Good sharing

  19. Reply

    Very interesting

  20. Reply

    Good

  21. Reply

    Very interesting piece

  22. Reply

    I have heard about the island though,wish I could afford to go there

  23. Reply

    Very good

  24. Reply

    Great👍

  25. Reply

    Yah

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