Big Island Hawaii
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guest, George Applegate, Executive Director of the Big Island of Hawaii's Visitors Bureau.
Good day George and thanks for participating in our interview.
George please tell us something about yourself, how long have you been living on the Big Island and what are you responsibilities as Executive Director?
I was born and raised here. I have been in the tourist/hotel business for 30 years and this is my 17th year with the Big Island Visitors Bureau. The first 12 years I worked in Sales and Marketing.
Since then I have been the Executive Director. As Executive Director, I oversee the promotional tourism on the island. BIVB networks and develops marketing strategies with all of our on-island members including hotels, airlines and tour operators.
We also communicate with the visitor industry and the other Hawaiian Island bureaus to try to enhance the tourism industry not only on Hawaii's Big Island, but throughout the entire state.
Where is the Big Island and could you give us a brief description of its topography and climate?
Hawaii's Big Island is the southernmost island in the state of Hawaii. Its southern point at Ka Lae is the southernmost point of the United States. It is also the largest of the Hawaiian Islands with a landmass of 4,028 square miles twice the combined size of the other Islands.
Hawaii's Big Island is also known as Hawaii's Island of Adventure and part of the reason for this is its diverse landscape. You'll find 11 of the world's 13 climate zones, which offer everything Hawaii from chill to sizzle.
From Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world to Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain from its base under the sea to its often snow peaked summit or the rain forests above Hilo to the desert plains of Kaou and Hawaii's Big Island has it all. Average temperature ranges from 71° - 77° F (22° - 25° C) with cooler climates of 57° - 63° F (14° - 17° C) at the 4,000-foot Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park headquarters, and 62° - 66° F (17° - 19° C) at 2,760-foot Waimea.
Rainfall is variable in different sectors, which makes for some beautiful, lush scenery. This is also one of the reasons why it's the ideal place to produce such as macadamia nuts, pure Kona coffee, orchids, tropical fruits and vanilla, to name a few of the agricultural choices.
Hawaii is famous for being a great honeymoon or romantic getaway destination. If you had to choose eight unique romantic venues on the Big Island to celebrate a marriage, which ones would you choose. Please briefly describe each.
Popular ceremonial sights on Hawaii's Big Island include:
*** Waiulua Bay at Hilton Waikoloa Village has a little wedding chapel and beautiful sunshine all year round. You always have a beautiful golden sunset there.
*** Wedding Tree at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is also in an open area where a couple can experience a wedding connected with nature. There is usually a gentle trade wind breeze and it's just beautiful there.
*** The Japanese Garden at Hilo's Liliuokalani Park was named after the last Queen of Hawaii. It was built as a Japanese Yedo-style garden and is one of the biggest outside of Japan. It's in a tropical, lush area next to the ocean.
*** Kahuwai Bay at Kona Village is right on the ocean surrounded by manicured hotel grounds. It's very beautiful and peaceful.
***The Rose Garden at Parker Ranch's Puuopelu is a historical home with a beautiful garden. The rose is a flower that represents love, making this a special and very secluded place for a wedding.
*** Historic Mokuaikaua Church is the first Christian church on Hawaii's Big Island. The building is ancient and built from sand and rocks. It reflects our proud Hawaiian past. Across the street is the Hulihe`e Palace which is where Hawaiian monarchy resided.
*** Seaside St. Peter's Church is so quaint and charming and one of the smallest churches in the world. It sits right on the ocean. The thing that all of these locations have in common is that they provide the association people have with Hawaii and nature. All of these locations allow you to be married outside or in an open space. You can hear the birds singing and the ocean waves and nature is your witness.
The eighth location could really be anywhere on the island. Couples can use their imagination here and can be married at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or atop Mauna Kea or wherever they would like a really unique memorable experience. There are so many places that are really romantic and special on Hawaii's Big Island.
The Big Island provides so many diverse opportunities for weddings and honeymoons it really allows our brides and grooms to personalize their dream experience. They can exchange vows and flower lei, just as a couple, barefoot in the sand. Or they can fill a formal ballroom with family and friends. They can sail into a sunset ceremony at sea, have fun with a western wedding paniolo-style, or stroll through a garden by Hilo Bay and cross a collection of oriental bridges symbolizing their journey together. Hawaii's Big Island can accommodate just about any wish for wedding themes and settings.
What is there to do on the Big Island insofar as sports and cultural activities are concerned?
Hawaii's Big Island is truly Hawaii's Island of Adventure. It's also a place where Hawaiian culture has really been preserved and a lot of traditions are still practiced today. For example, many of the poi farmers in the Waipio Valley still use the same techniques that their forefathers have for generations.
Hula is a cultured art form here. Every year the town of Hilo hosts the Merrie Monarch Festival. It's the most prestigious hula competition in the world and is named after King David Kalakau who was a great patron of the arts. The Festival lasts a whole week and attracts the top halaus (troupes) from across the United States.
This year another major hula festival called Moku O Keawe is debuting on the west side of the island. It will be open to international competitors. So you can see that hula plays a major role in Hawaii's Big Island's culture. Artists have always been drawn here as well. Whether it's Herb Kane's incredible works portraying ancient life on the island or all of the different artists who live and work in Volcano, the island is rich with inspiration. At Volcano Art Center, the local artists who are inspired by the power of Kilauea are showcased in an excellent gallery.
For sports, of course Hawaii's Big Island is known as the Golf Capital of Hawaii. Our island has 18 public and private courses more than any other Hawaiian Island. The golf here is really out of this world. Hiking is a popular activity on the Big Island and for those that are really in top shape, the city of Kona hosts the Ironman Triathlon every year.
There is beautiful terrain to go horseback riding and the fishing here is pretty fantastic too. Every year, off the coast of Kona, Hawaii's Big Island hosts the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, which draws competitors from all over the world.
The Big Island also hosts some terrific tennis tournaments like the USTA Challenger, so there really is a diverse, exciting and virtually limitless variety of sporting and cultural activities here.
When is the best time to visit the Big Island?
Anytime is a great time to come here simply because of the consistency of our weather. The high seasons are typically during the winter holidays and the summer. Really the island has predictably beautiful weather all year long.
The west side of the island sees a lot less rainfall and the east side of the island features several rainforests. The diversity of environmental climates and zones on the island make it so you can literally drive to a different one within an hour.
You can go from a tropical beach to a grassy cattle ranch high in the mountains to a rainforest then to a vast lava field all in the same day.
Price wise, how do accommodations compare to other destinations in the USA?
There is also a lot of diversity in the type of accommodations Hawaii.s Big Island has, which makes it a great place to visit for any price point. There are several world-class resorts. There is also a wonderful selection of small hotels, B&Bs, condominiums, campgrounds and vacation homes that people can reserve. So price wise, the Big Island can fit everyone's budget and compete with just about any other destination in the US at both the high end and budget travel.
Could you tell us something about the food one could expect in the Big Island?
The food is very fresh because of the diversity of produce Hawaii's Big Island yields annually. There is a renowned Farmer's Market every Sunday and Wednesday in Hilo, there are also several operating cattle ranches and farms on the Big Island.
Of course we are known for Kona Coffee. Coffee fans can visit several mills and farms on the island as well as attend the Kona Coffee Festival, which is the longest running festival in the state. Papaya, macadamia nuts, poi and vanilla are also grown in abundance here. The fish on the Big Island is also incredibly fresh and delicious.
How easy is it to get around the Big Island?
It's easier than every before because of the increased airlift we have recently gotten with major airlines. Inter-island flights are very economical and just in the past eight months Delta, US Airways/America West and ATA have all added direct flights from the mainland. The ATA flight flies direct daily from Oakland, CA to Hilo and it is the first mainland direct flight to Hilo in more than 20 years. The flight has been so popular they recently assigned a larger plane to the route so they could fly more people each way.
I understand that the Big Island has a popular art scene. Please elaborate.
The Art scene is flourishing here on Hawaii's Big Island. As I mentioned before, we are really the home for hula with the Merrie Monarch Festival and now the new Moku O Keawe Festival. It's also a place where musicians are inspired. Sonny Lim, who won a Grammy for his slack key guitar album in 2005 and was nominated again lives here.
The Volcano Art Center is also a really unique place to learn about the inspiration of Kilauea and Pele, the goddess of the volcano. Artists featured there work with everything from watercolor to blown glass. It's a really fabulous place. Another artist on-island is Sig Zane. He has turned his artistic inspiration from the plants and flowers on the Big Island into a fashion line. He has a store in Hilo and his clothes have a really distinct, vibrant appeal to them. There are many talented artists who call Hawaii's Big Island their home.
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
I think everyone should know that we say Hawaii's Big Island has Everything Hawaii from Chill to Sizzle and if they come here, they're going to find out what that means and why it's true. It really is a beautiful place with an incredibly diverse landscape that provides infinite possibilities for adventure.