Natural Environment

The Big Island of Hawai‘i takes its name deservedly as it is twice the size of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Its 4,000-plus square miles makes it four-fifths the state of Connecticut. It is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain and Ka Lae at the south tip is the southernmost point in the U.S. states.

The Big Island was formed from five volcanoes and Kilauea has been actively erupting on the isle’s east side since 1983. Mauna Kea, at 13,796 feet, is the tallest peak in the Pacific Basin. The Big Island is almost a mini-continent in itself, with terrain ranging from high mountains to sandy beaches, from dense tropical rainforests to dry pasturelands.

The area known as West Hawai‘i stretches about 100 miles along the western side of the island, from the northern extremity at Pololu in North Kohala to Ocean View Estates in South Kona. The terrain is generally flat or gently sloping along the coast but immediately inland begins sloping steeply upward. This coastal zone, from sea level to about 2,700 feet is home to nearly all of West Hawai‘i’s inhabitants.

The highland terrain – the Kohala Mountains, the flanks of Mauna Kea, Mt. Hualalai in Kona and Mauna Loa further south – blocks most of the strong northeasterly trade winds and creates numerous “microclimates” in West Hawai‘i. Inland higher elevations are usually noticeably cooler than the coast, and wind, rain and sunshine vary greatly according to specific topography and elevation.

In any case, the West Hawai‘i climate is one of the nicest on the planet, with annual temperature variations of just 10 degrees between summer and winter. West Hawai‘i winters are cooler and drier with infrequent rain, while summers are marked by higher temperatures and humidity and often with regular afternoon rain—creating a greenhouse effect for Kona’s coffee. The ocean is relatively calm in summer with only light winds, but winter can see moderate force winds with large waves and crashing on the lava coastline.

The diverse topography and subtropical climate make for an extraordinary variety of botanic life here, with hundreds of varieties of trees, plants, fruits and flowers – both endemic and imported or exotic varieties – thriving in West Hawai‘i. Insert edited Arts and Culture copy here from that document