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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

Mother Nature threw everything into the mix when creating Hawaii Island -fiery craters, snowy summits, buff beaches. Measuring 4,000 square miles, (nearly ten times L.A.) she gave it the tallest mountain, largest volcano, and all but two climate zones. Seafaring Captain Cook, and volcano goddess, Pele were mesmerized by her makings. And during this 402 km (250 mile) circumventing seven day drive, you will be too.


Photo 1 Playtime at the The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

Rent a flashy convertible, drop the top and connect with the lava-dressed Queen Ka'ahumanu (Highway 19). Haute hotels string along the neighboring Kohala Coast like a necklace of gems, one being The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii . Splurge and go for the Fairmont Gold -a sixth floor sanctuary where pedigree service is topped off by a private lounge and delectable treats. Big adventures are little steps away -grotto pools, massage huts, sandy shorelines. View the sunset from award-winning Brown's Beach House or head into the cattle-dotted hills where ranchers rule. With twenty-five years experience under its chaps, the 11,000-acre Ponoholo Ranch offers an evening ride that will appease any romantic paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy).


Photo 2 Stargazing on Maunakea with Hawaii Forest and Trail

Although the Hawaii Island isn't rimmed with beaches, there are lots of hot spots to spread out that blanket. Ten minutes north of the Fairmont is the popular Hapuna followed by Spencer Beach, a safe haven for snorkelers and sea turtles. Tonight's sunset is followed by stargazing -from the highest volcano on earth. Arctic parkas, home-style cooking and astronomy guides are included in Hawaii Forest and Trail's seven hour Maunakea ascent, a highlight you'll never forget.


Photo 3 Pay homage to the legend-filled Waipi'o Valley.

Take Highway 19 to the island's windward side and after paying homage to the legend-filled Waipi'o Valley, enjoy the 80km (fifty mile) eye-popping journey to Hilo-tropical-rich rainforests, weather-riveted gorges, storm-torn shorelines. Eighty-four inches of annual rainfall creates this ocean-drive oasis -a landscape where sugarcane once survived and blossoms still thrive. Umauma and Akaka are two waterfalls that both provide a scenic splash.

Like a graciously-aged grandma, Hilo finds her way into every soul. Century-old storefronts line the palm fringed Kamehameha Avenue and offer everything from fine eateries to galleries. If you're in search of more seclusion, stay on Highway 11 for another twenty-two miles. ) Kipuka Cottage (a.k.a. oasis with its romantic sleeping loft, deep soaker tub and fully-equipped kitchen is the perfect retreat for silence seekers.


Photo 4 The oasis of Kipuka Cottage

Photo 5 Kilauea Caverns of Fire are billed as the longest and deepest in the world

Five minutes away is the 333,000 sprawling acres of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and home of rising steams, volcanic craters and scorched deserts. And when evening temperatures drop at this 3,500 foot highpoint, you have to remind yourself that you're still holidaying in Hawaii.

Take time to check out the Chain of Craters Road, Halemaumau Crater's evening glow and lava tubes that weave their beneath the earth's surface.

Thurston Lava Tube is included with the entrance fee, but it's pretty much like Grand Central. Warren Costa, owner of Native Guide Hawai will tailor your tour, whether it's exploring the Kaumana caves that wind their way under Hilo's hills or hiking Kilauea's lower east rift zone. To really satisfy that cave craving, check out Kilauea Caverns of Fire. These ancient Kazumura tubes are chock-full of stalagmites, stalactites and vibrantly-coloured flowstone.


Photo 6 Water play at The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa

During the scenic drive back to Kona Coast, laze next to sea turtles on the black sands of Punalu'u Beach Park, meander the ancient refuge of Pu'uhonua o H?naunau National Park and say a prayer in the pretty Painted Church. With the convertible top down, you'll smell the hibiscus, listen to bird song and enjoy face time with the balmy breeze.

Then shack up with royal flair. The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa rises from the lava-caked oceanfront like King Kamehameha's temple and offers treasures of every kind. Its oceanside Ho'ola Spa will definitely make you feel like a queen!


Photo 7 Captain Zodiac provides close up encounters

A visit to the Hawaii Island wouldn't be complete without seeing marine life, and Captain Zodiac provides close encounters with a roller-coaster ride. While skimming the ocean crests you'll learn about sea caves, historical figures and Hawaiian lore. Acrobatic dolphins, breaching humpbacks, snorkel-viewing sea-life -this five hour adventure displays some of Mother Nature's finest works and is a great way to wrap up this seven day Big Island blitz.


Where to Stay

The Fairmont Orchid, Hawai'i
One North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, HI 96743
U.S. & Canada Toll-Free Reservations
Tel: 1 (800) 257-7544

K?puka Cottage
11-3798 Nahelenani
Volcano, HI 96785

Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa
78-128 Ehukai Street
Kona, HI 96740
Phone: (808) 930-4900

PHOTOS by Brent Cassie Day 1 - #1 Playtime at the The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii
Day 2 - #2 stargazing on Maunakea with Hawaii Forest and Trail
Day 3 - #3 pay homage to the legend-filled Waipi'o Valley.
Day 4-5 #4 the oasis of Kipuka Cottage
#5 Kilauea Caverns of Fire are billed as the longest and deepest in the world
Day 6 - #6 Water play at The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa
Day 7 - #7 Captain Zodiac provides close up encounters

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