Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island is in fact on five shield volcanoes that overlap one another. The oldest is the Kohala volcano, which is already an extinct volcano. Two other dormant volcanoes came after one another; that is, Mauna Kea and Hualalai.


The Big Island is the youngest among the islands of Hawaii. It is only half a million years old. The Big Island is said to have been first discovered by travelers from the Marquesas Islands of the Polynesian region.


This was only about one thousand five hundred (1,500) years ago. At around this time, the Big Island had several political divisions (or chiefdoms). These chiefdoms were constantly at war, until they were united in 1791.


The unification of the Big Island tribes was due to the efforts of Kamehameha, who hailed from Kohala. He ruled the Big Island as king until 1804. After that year, he moved to Oahu, only to return to the island in 1812, seven years before he died. Kamehameha is credited as the greatest king to rule Hawaii.


The Islands’ storied past is richer than depicted in any novel, and Hawaii’s Big Island is the origin of all. It began with Polynesians making this island their home long ago. They welcomed countless customs and art influences from Asia and Europe and the rest is history. 


Today, traditions continue with a unique and colorful concoction of cultures. The Big Island definitely has its share of historical and cultural sites, but it’s not short on museums or galleries either. Visit one and you’ll probably get to see the works of local artists – many of whom use the land, sea, and sky as inspiration for their beautifully crafted pieces.


Stop at Hilo’s nationally accredited Lyman Museum & Mission House for a taste of natural and cultural Hawaiian history showcased in an 1839 missionary home. On the Kona side, explore the Kona Historical Society Museum and the Living History Coffee Farm.


By the time the first Europeans arrived in Hawaii, the population had decreased to fewer than 2,000. Within a few years as the sandalwood forests were cut down for shipment abroad, the human population was replaced by the offspring of black longhorn cattle given to Hawaiian King Kamehameha I by British Captain George Vancouver.

Big Island

Lonely beach on the Big Island in stormy weather. Hawaii.

The area’s future was determined in 1809 when nineteen year old John Palmer Parker jumped ship and found himself on the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1815, Parker married Kipikane, the daughter of a high-ranking Hawaiian chief.


The couple had a daughter and two sons and the Parker dynasty began as did the history of Parker Ranch which quickly became the largest ranch in the area.


Legend has it that the Big Island was first discovered by Hawai’iloa. Hawai’iloa was a Polynesian navigator, who eventually lent his name to the state. Other stories have it that the Big Island and the rest of Hawaii was once the realm of Hawaiki.


This is supposedly where people go in their afterlife as this was the gods’ realm. In reality, the Big Island was discovered by explorers from the Polynesian region of the Marquesas Islands.


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