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Big Island Info For Students

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The information below is provided as a service to students and visitors, and Aloha International assumes no responsibility for your personal experience if you use it.

The Big Island (also called "Hawaii Island") is the largest of the eight major Hawaiian islands. It is 4000 square miles in size (10,360 kilometers), almost as large as the US State of Connecticut, and eight times larger than Kauai.

The island can be divided into several areas.

West: This includes the Kona Coast, a primary tourist destination centered on the town of Kailua-Kona, with the main airport, a lot of shopping areas, and many hotels and restaurants of all kinds. Most of the swimmable beaches are on this side, and there are a lot of cultural sites to visit. The weather is usually sunny and warm.

North: There are large resort hotels and cultural sites in the northwest, ranches and the mainly residential town of Waimea in the northeast. The northeast also includes the spectacular valley of Waipi'o and the high volcanic mountain of Mauna Kea. Weather is changeable.

South: The southernmost point in the USA, black sand beaches, the high volcanic mountain of Mauna Loa, and plenty of open country are in the southwest. This area is usually sunny and warm. The southeast includes Hilo, the second largest town in the State of Hawaii, the Hilo airport, natural warm pools on the coast, jungles, rainforest, Kilauea Volcano, and the Heartquarters of Aloha International. The weather is changeable, and frequently rainy.

NOTE: Aloha International courses are located on the Southeast side of the Big Island (Hilo, Puna, Volcano) unless otherwise noted.

Bring shorts, swimwear, sandals, hat, sunglasses, sun lotion, and your favorite mosquito repellant for hot days at the coast, as well as long pants, covered shoes, and jacket or sweater for cool to chilly days in the mountains. Bring good walking shoes (tennis shoes are okay) for hikes. It may rain at any time, so a mini-umbrella may be useful (for too much sun, also). Anything else is optional. Dressing up for dinner or a luau means a shirt and trousers for men and a light dress or slacks and a top for women. Plan to add a sweater or jacket depending on the weather or the location.

Air Transportation
Unless you have your own boat, or are on a cruise, the only way to reach the Big Island is by air. United Airlines, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines, among others, fly to the airport in Kailua-Kona from Honolulu and various airports on the Mainland USA. Flights on some airlines go directly from Honolulu to Hilo, and others go directly to Hilo without stopping at Honolulu. Please note that the Outer Island (all but Oahu) airports do not have any currency exchange services. Also note that Aloha International courses take place on the Southeastern side of the island, and it is about a three-hour drive from Kailua-Kona to Hilo whether you take the southern or northern route.

Local Transportation
Public bus transportation on the Big Island is not bad, but it may not be going where you want to go when you want to go there, so a car rental is strongly recommended, especially for short stays. Taxi service is available, but is very expensive. Uber has begun service on the Big Island, but we do not know the rates. Some airlines have special offers that include a car at a lower price than usual. If you are coming for one of our courses and you do not drive, we will do our best to help you get to the classes, but we cannot guarantee transportation. The town of Hilo is about twenty-seven miles northeast of the town of Volcano. Due to traffic it can take 40-60 minutes to get to or from Hilo, the same for Pahoa, and at least an hour for Kalapana.

There is no airport service for finding lodging, as in many airports near large cities, so it is wise to arrange for lodging before you arrive. Big Island has high-end resort hotels, medium-priced to cheap hotels, hostels, and lots of bed and breakfast lodgings at various prices. Please note that a lot of so-called "bed and breakfast" lodgings do not provide any food, so ask in advance. For specific lodging information see the links below or do your own search on the Web. The most convenient lodging locations for our courses would be in and around Volcano Village. For some courses we may have specific recommendations. Note that areas below 2000 feet(610 m)may have a noise problem with coqui frogs.

The Social Environment
Big Island is mostly rural. The population is about 200,000 scattered mostly around the coast and concentrated in a few small towns. Overall, sidewalks and wheelchair ramps are very limited except in the largest towns. It is the custom of most residents to remove their footgear when they enter a home, but not a store. There is usually some kind of event going on in the evening in the main towns.

The Physical Environment
The Big Island is a tropical island, with a mixture of palm-fringed beaches, lush rainforests, high mountains (Mauna Kea is about 14,000 feet high (4000+ meters), lava deserts, and the most active volcano on earth. The tropical sun can burn even through cloud cover, so bring what's necessary if you have sensitive skin.

At its best, a balmy 77F (25C), with blue skies, puffy white clouds, soft breezes and gentle waves. At its worst, either stormy and rainy with high waves, or very hot and humid with waves doing whatever they feel like. The weather is very changeable, and there is no guarantee of any kind for any season. Evenings in the higher elevations (Volcano Village is at 3700 feet or 1128 meters) can get chilly (50F or 10C, and lower).

You must always use caution, because the waves and currents are unpredictable, even on a calm day. The rules are "If in doubt, don't go out" and "If you do go out, look about." People are lost every year, either by large waves they weren't looking at or by riptides, especially in the winter season from November to March. If you should get caught in a riptide (a strong current that pulls you out to sea for up to a hundred yards or so) just go with it until it weakens and swim along the shore until you can get back in.

No snakes and nothing larger than wild boar, which you are unlikely to see unless you go hunting for it in the mountains. Lots of birds, and lots of insects. You are most likely to encounter mosquitoes, geckos (small lizards that often live indoors), cockroaches, spiders of various sizes, and, possibly, a centipede or two. You may also encounter wild chickens and coqui frogs. When you come for a course you will learn how to deal with insects using Huna.

Big Island Bus Information - General information, plus specific schedules for download, including Volcano stops.

County of Hawaii Visitor Site - Sites, attractions, camping permits, and bus schedule.

Big Island Travel & Tourism - Just what it says. - More of the above.

Hawaii Island B&B Association - Bed and breakfast links.

Big Island Hawaii Bed and Breakfast - Bed and breakfast links.

Hilo Hotels - Hotels in Hilo.

Coconut Grill Restaurant - next to Hilo Bay Hotel, low key, good food, a great place for trying local dishes. Look for the tsunami lines on the inside window.

Big Island Travel Guide - getting around the Big Island, itineraries, and activities.

(Some of these cottages are not in walking distance of our center, even though the main office might be, so check on the location of your rental if you can)

Volcano Lodging - A variety of cottages in Volcano Village, close to our center. Owner is offering a 10% discount to our students for their entire stay.

Volcano Inn - Clean, comfortable, reasonable cottages.

The Holo Holo In - Inexpensive hostel in Volcano Village.

Aloha Junction B&B - "Very good group rates."

Volcano Hale is NOT recommended because of poor security.

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