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The Big Island is made up of five volcanoes. Kohala in the north is the oldest. Next came Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and finally Kilauea. None of them are truly dead, but only Mauna Loa and Kilauea make regular appearances, with an occasional walk-on by Hualalai. Nearly the size of Connecticut, the Big Island’s 4,000 square miles can easily hold all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. And it’s the only state in the union that can get bigger every year (thanks to Kilauea’s land-making machine).

Big Island Map

Big Island Map

Gentle slopes are the trademark of this young island. It hasn’t had time to develop the dramatic, razor-sharp ridges that older islands, such as Kaua‘i, possess. The exception is the windward side of Kohala Mountain where erosion and fault collapses have created a series of dramatic valleys. Two of our mountains rise to over 13,000 feet. Mauna Kea, at 13,796 feet, is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base, eclipsing lightweights such as Mount Everest and K-2. Mauna Loa, though slightly shorter, is much broader, earning it the moniker as the largest mountain in the world. It contains a mind-numbing 10,000 cubic miles of rock.

Another of our mountains is not really a mountain at all. Kilauea, looking more like a gaping wound on Mauna Loa, is the undisputed volcano show-off of the planet. When it’s erupting, hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of lava per day create and repave the land.

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