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BIG ISLAND
PROFILE


Hawaii, the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is
nicknamed "The Big Island" because it is
twice the combined size of the other islands.

 

 

 

 
Big Island Travel Guide & Map

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Volcanoes National Park, Big Island


BIOLOGY   Big Island has a wide variety of plant, marine and animal life. Many species are rare and endangered including the giant Pacific Green Sea Turtle (which can grow to 400 pounds), the Nene Goose (the official state bird) and the Humpback Whale (the official state marine mammal). Vegetation zones include: coastal, dryland forest, mixed open forest, rain forest, subalpine and alpine.


CLIMATE     Like most of the Hawaiian Islands, Big Island has only two seasons: "summer" between May and October and "winter" between October and April. Depending upon locale:

  • Average temperature ranges from 71.2 to 77.3 (°F) in the coastal regions.

  • Kailua-Kona average temperature:
    • Jan.-Feb. 72.1 (°F)
    • Aug.-Sept. 77.3 (°F)

  • Average annual rainfall ranges from 10 inches at Kawaihae (near the Kohala coast) to 128 inches at Hilo Airport.


CULTURAL HISTORY
    Big Island is a multi-cultural society with major immigration from:

  • Polynesia - 700 A.D.
  • United States - 1820
  • China - 1852
  • Japan - 1868
  • Portugal - 1878
  • Puerto Rico - 1900
  • Korea - 1903
  • Philippines - 1906

ECONOMY
    
Healthy In 2006! Key indicators are positive for continuing growth in the second half of this decade. 1 However, Hawaii's cost of living is among the highest in the nation and its 2004 per capita personal income below average. In fact, sources indicate a cost of living ranging from 30% above the national average to over 60% depending upon family size and circumstances - see the Price of Paradise!
  • 2005 Visitor Arrivals to the State totaled 7.4 million (a record) 2
  • 2005 Gross State Product was $54 billion 2

Major contributions to the State of Hawaii's economy include:
  • Visitor Expenditures: $11.8 billion (2005) - an all-time high* 2
  • Federal Defense Spending: $4.8 billion (2003) 3
  • Construction (Private Building Permits): $3.5 billion (2005) 4
* Visitor Expenditure figures are deceptive, since a certain percentage of tourism dollars do not remain in the Islands, but are returned to overseas investors.

With the demise of its sugar and pineapple industries in the 1990's, Hawaii is working to diversify its economy with a focus on industries such as science and technology, health and wellness tourism, diversified agriculture, ocean research and development, and film and television production. A Study currently being conducted by the State is looking at the extent to which the benefits from tourism can be maintained, while sustaining the quality of our social, economic and environmental assets.

 
The Big Island's major sources of annual income include agriculture (the majority of the State's fruits, nuts and coffee are produced on Big Island) and tourism. Sugar cane is no longer produced on Big Island - abandoned in 1996.


EDUCATION    Big Island :
  • K-12 students in public schools (2004):  24,201 (excluding Special & Charter Schools) 5
  • Number of Public schools (2004):    54 6
  • Number of Private schools (2005):   21 7
In 2004, there were 3,288 students enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and 2,440 at the Hawaii Community College - part of the University of Hawaii System.8


GEOGRAPHY    Big Island has an area of more than 4,028 square miles with 266 miles of coastline (93 miles long by 76 miles wide).

Big Island is:
  • located in Polynesia
  • near the center of the Pacific Ocean
  • just below the Tropic of Cancer
  • one of the most remote spots on Earth
  • 2,315 miles west of San Francisco, California
  • the largest of the 8 main Hawaiian islands (twice the combined size of the other islands)

GEOLOGY
    Big Island (the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain) was formed by five volcanoes. Two are still active: Mauna Loa and Kilauea, the world's most continuously active volcano. At 13,796 feet and 13,677 feet respectively, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are the highest mountains in the Pacific. Ka Lae in the Kau District is the southernmost point in the United States.


GOVERNMENT
    On Big Island, as throughout the State, there are no separate municipal governments. The County of Hawaii is responsible for local government on Big Island and has a mayor elected for up to two four-year terms and a nine member council with two-year terms. Big Island's county seat is located in Hilo.


HEALTH
    Practices (2004): 327 doctors, 90 dentists, 1,159 nurses and 92 pharmacists.
9


OFFICIAL COLOR AND FLOWER
    The official color is red and the official flower is the lehua.


POPULATION
    Big Island:
  • had a resident population of 162,971 in 2004 10
  • is the second most populous island in the State

In 2003, Big Island's ethnic groups roughly broke down as follows:11

    Unmixed (except Hawaiian): 82,103 (53.1%)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Caucasian - 43,608 (28.2%)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Japanese - 23,350 (15.1%)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Filipino - 12,704 (8.2%)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Chinese - 1,259 (0.8%)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Black - No data (sample size too small)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Korean - No data (sample size too small)
        wbulit.gif - 50 Bytes  Samoan/Tongan - 359 (0.2%)
    Mixed (except Hawaiian) - 27,772 (18.0%)
    Hawaiian/Part Hawaiian - 44,652 (28.9%)


TOURISM
    Big Island had approximately 1.5 million visitors in 2005.
12

Data Sources

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