The big island of Hawaii is the one place in the United States that provides a big, bubbly, burning volcano that erupts every year or so. Only thirty-five minutes from Hilo, the state’s second largest city, Kilauea Volcano comes with the Volcano House Hotel located on the rim of a huge crater in Volcanoes National Park. Sulphuric smoke rises from hundreds of tiny fissures and makes the thousands of visitors who walk directly into the crater wonder if it is all that safe. The locals say that their island is the most rapidly growing of all the islands. When Kilauea erupts it often sends lava down the slopes and hissing into the ocean, gradually adding acres to the island’s geography.
The first church built in Hawaii, in 1823, Mokuaihaua Church, sits in Kona. Drawings within the church show Kona as it was soon after King Kamehameha died nearby in 1819. In the drawings the church sits majestically amidst a village of small grass huts. Also nearby is the summer palace of King Kalakaua, more like the home of a middle-class businessman than a palace.
King Kamehameha’s residence was adjacent to what is now the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel. The king, about six feet eight inches tall, was not only respected but feared. One story that survives relates how commoners who fell within his shadow were executed on the spot.
Kona, which now has its own very pleasant little airport a few miles from town, is known worldwide for its Hawaiian International Billfish’s Tournament. More than a dozen Pacific blue marlin weighing over one thousand pounds each are boated within an hour’s run of the Kona pier.