THE BIG ISLAND'S BESTfrom Grant Mitchell
BEST SPOT TO TAKE IN VIEWS OF SNOWCAPPED MAUNA KEA: Mana Road, a 48-mile doubletrack ride through upcountry ranch land.
BEST PLACE TO EAT A PANIOLO-STYLE TURKEY SANDWICH: Maha's Cafe in Waimea, 808-885-0693.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP A PAIR OF SLIPPERS (the Big Island's signature $2.99 flip-flops): KTA Supermarkets, island-wide.
BEST PLACE TO WHALE-WATCH: the oceanfront dining room at the Kamuela Provision Company, Hilton Waikoloa Village, 808-886-1234; www.HWVon line.com.
BEST SPOT TO STARGAZE: the free nightly astronomy program at Onizuka Visitor Center, 9,300 feet up the south side of Mauna Kea, 808-961-2180, www.ifa.hawaii.edu.
FROM SEA LEVEL to the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea, the Big Island offers the greatest topographic relief and climatic diversity of any of the Hawaiian Islands. It's also large enough to swallow the other Islandstwice over. So be prepared to clock some miles on that rental car.
WHERE TO STAY: Kona Village Resort has deluxe grass-roof halesall with private lanaisin an authentic Polynesian-village setting on the Kohala Coast. Doubles start at $495 per night; 800-367-5290, www.konavillage.com. The Waipio Wayside B&B, a 1930s plantation house on the rugged Hamakua Coast, deserves raves for its big Pacific views. Doubles $95 per night; 800-833-8849, www.waipiowayside.com. For an upscale base camp close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, try the Inn at Volcano. Rooms and suites, $139-$399; 800-937-7786, www.volcano-hawaii.com.
WHERE TO INDULGE: Ka'upena Ono Hawaiian Food in Hilo is the place to go for a laulau, a Hawaiian-inspired burrito. Try their Super Coma laulau, a taro-leaf-wrapped hodgepodge of steamed pork, chicken, fish, and sweet potato. 808-933-1106. Bamboo Restaurant and Gallerypart island-art showroom, part delicious eateryis located on the hip north tip of the Island in Hawi. Its passion-fruit margarita is the best on the island; 808-889-5555.
MOUNTAIN BIKE: Grant Mitchell offers a variety of guided tours on the Big Island, for all levels of riders, starting at $65. Bike rentals range from $25 per day to $130 per week; 888-682-8687, www.bikehawaii.com.
DIVE: Carlos Eyles, the master of breath-hold free-diving and owner of Diving Free Hawaii, will take you to the Kona Coast's blue edge. Three-day programs start at $300; 808-326-1569, www.divingfreehawaii.com.
HIKE: Hugh Montgomery's Waipio Waterfall Adventure takes you on a 3.5-mile rim trail that loops around the top of 1,200-foot Hi'ilawe Falls. $85 per person; 800-457-7759, www.hawaiian walkways.com.
RIDE HORSEBACK: Na'alapa Stables offers two rides: one down in the vernal heart of Waipio Valley; the other through the open range of Kahua Ranch. $75 for a 2.5-hour ride; 808-775-0419, www.naalapastables.com.