Nickname - The Big Island

Size: Hawaii is the largest (and still growing) of the Hawaiian Islands, with a land area of 4,038 square miles. It is 93 miles long and 76 miles across at its widest point.
Highest Point: Mauna Kea, 13,796 feet.Big Island History
Miles of Shoreline: 266 miles
County Seat: Hilo
Flower: Red Lehua
Color: Red

Overview: Early Polynesians began to inhabit the island by the fifth century, and by 1000 AD, the coastal areas were fairly well established. The earliest acknowledged ruler of the Big Island was Liloa, who ruled during the 1400s. At that time, the island was already divided into districts and individually governed by chiefs. First contact with a non-Pacific civilization occurred in 1527 when a Spanish vessel wrecked off the coast of Ke‘ei in south Kona. Survivors were the ship’s captain and his sister who both inter-married with native Hawaiians and founded a line of chiefs. Hawai‘i was also visited by Juan Gaetano in 1555 when he charted the islands and gave them Spanish names.

Legend of Kilauea Volcano
There is something terribly awesome and yet utterly fascinating about the handiwork of Madame Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, who resides at Kilauea Caldera.

It seems that the beautiful young goddess, from a large family of gods, was struck by wanderlust. Tucking her young sister, who was conveniently in the form of an egg, under her armpit, she set out to see the world. Fortune had its ups and downs for young Pele. For one, she was ravished by a real swine, Kama Pua‘a the pig god. Moreover, she fought desperately with her sister, Namaka o Kahai, over the love of a handsome young chief, with her sister stalking Pele and eventually smashing her bones on the Hana coast of Maui.

Pulling herself back together, Pele set out to make a love nest for her lover and herself and chose the fire pit at Kilauea Volcano. Pele has also been known to change her form from a withered old woman to a ravishing beauty or a white dog, as her moods can change from gentle to fiery hot.

The rangers at Volcanoes National Park receive hundreds of stones every year that were taken as souvenirs only to be returned by distraught tourists, who claim to have been plagued with bad luck from the day they removed Pele’s sacred stones. And, no one who has lived in the islands for any length of time will carry pork over the volcano at night, lest they offend the goddess. She’s perhaps still angry with that swine, Kama Pua‘a.

Saving the Land
Kamehameha the Great became the sole ruler of the island in 1791, after defeating his cousin in battle, and went on to unite all of the islands under his rule in 1810. He died in 1819 at Kamakahonu Bay.

Early European visitors were proud to offer gifts of domesticated animals to Kamehameha to raise and eat. Unfortunately, after ten years the feral herds were ravaging cultivated farmlands from coast to coast. In 1809, a young New England American named John Palmer Parker offered to round up the animals in exchange for a homestead. Kamehameha gave him two acres and the Parker Ranch dynasty began. Today, Parker Ranch consists of over 224,000 acres of pasturelands and is one of the largest privately owned ranches in the United States.

Today’s Big Island
The Big Island has the world’s largest anthurium and orchid flower industries and is one of the world’s largest producers of macadamia nuts. Additionally, coffee, papaya, banana, ginger, guava and avocado are grown commercially. The livestock industry consists of some 300 cattle operations on 700,000 acres of grazing land, 80 hog operations, 40 dairy operations, 10 egg operations and 5 honey operations.

Major resort areas are Kailua-Kona, Hualalai, Kohala and Hilo.

Big Island residents treasure their heritage and it’s easy to see evidence of ethnic pride everywhere…in the food, customs, architecture, language, arts and crafts, and lifestyle.

The Wright Company