360 Magazine Culture Editor Tom Wilmer reports from the Big Island of Hawaii
The reason the 4,000-square-mile island of Hawaii is fondly dubbed the “Big Island” is because it’s the size of Connecticut—it’s so big, all of the other Hawaiian Islands would fit within the boundary of the island.
The island’s recent volcanic activity has impacted the economy due to substantial cancellations by vacationers. But there are major resort destinations far from the adverse effects of the lava flows and attendant air pollution.
For example, the Kohala Coast—with a large enclave of homes, condos, and resorts—is situated approximately 100 miles from the East Rift Zone.
Join the conversation with three islanders as they share their thoughts about the positive aspects of island life today. Simon Amos is the hotel manager at the Hilton Waikoloa Village; Vicky Kometani works at the historic Mauna Kea Resort in the heart of the Kohala Coast; and Laura Aquino is with Island Events based in Kona.
Many local businesses island-wide are experiencing a downturn in business, and some workers have had their hours cut back or been laid off due to the decrease in tourism.
International news reports have been surgically focused on the Kīlauea volcano’s East Rift Zone volcanic eruptions and seismic activity—leaving many people with the false impression that the entire island is a disaster zone.
Paradoxically, Volcanoes National Park has been the island’s number one tourist draw for decades.
150 years ago, 31 year-old Mark Twain put the island’s volcanism on the world map when he came to the island specifically to experience and write about the island’s volcanic activity as a correspondent for the Sacramento Union newspaper in 1866.
Helicopter flightseeing companies, such as Paradise Helicopters, cater to tourists and locals alike signing up for over-flights of the volcano. Adventurous tourists and locals are hopeful that a viewing platform will open in the near future for up-close observation of the flows.
Volcanism and its attendant vog (volcanic fog) have been an intermittent part of island life for more than 30 years. Vog is definitely an issue in the Kona Kailua area, but most days up the coast along the Kohala Coast the sky is often bright blue and clear.