Big Island (Hawai)

If you're lucky enough, you might see lava pouring into the ocean next to black rock cliffs as the wind howls overhead on the Big Island. Remember the four classic elements: wind, water, earth and fire? It’s rare to see all four occurring naturally at once but when they do, creation – of the island itself – quite literally takes place in front of your eyes. And yet, the Big Island, which is as large as the other Hawaiian islands combined, isn’t just where raw creation occurs. It’s where the fruits of that process are presented in dizzying diversity. Eight of the world’s 13 climate zones exist here, encompassing Martian-like lava deserts, emerald jungle, paradisaical valleys that front black-, white- and even green-sand beaches, snowcapped mountains, coral forests and an enchanting population of locals, hippies, transplants, eccentrics, bartenders, teachers and more. You can easily laze away your time, but the Big Island really shines for adventurers. Its beauty is astounding, and for a little effort – perhaps a short hike, swim, or drive over rutted roads – you'll get enormous rewards on your travel investment.