The Big Island is nearly twice as large as the others combined, and it is still growing. Since 1983, the Kilauea volcano has spewed lava and has added more than 70 acres to the island's southeast shore. In fact, offshore, an underwater Mount Loihi is building another Hawaiian island--due to emerge in 10,000 years or so.
Volcanoes in Hawaii are gentle giants. Rather than erupting violently, lava flows slowly and continuously. Groups visiting the Big Island can travel almost to the end of Chain of Craters Road, past lush greenery, lava tubes, cinder cones, and steam vents, and walk to where molten lava spills into the ocean. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Ainahou Ranch offers a pastoral atmosphere in a dryland forest setting for retreats, workshops, and conferences. At night, another show begins atop Mauna Kea, where powerful telescopes allow small groups of attendees to get close to the stars.
Along the South Kohala/Kona Coast, just south of some of the island's largest resorts and prettiest beaches, lies Holualoa Village, an excellent day trip. Start with a tour of Uchida Kona Coffee Living History Farm, where attendees will learn the history of coffee on the island, how it is grown and harvested, and taste fragrant samples. For lunch and shopping, finish the trip in the village, an enclave of Hawaiian art galleries, shops, restaurants, and cafes, where different estate brands of Kona coffee are offered.
For more adventurous groups, the waters off Kona Coast are prime fishing grounds for the most exciting of all big game fish, the Pacific blue marlin. A wide variety of fishing boats is available for group charter.
And don't forget golf. The Big Island is known for its lush green courses in the midst of black lava fields, with Mauna Kea towering in the distance. There are 20 courses on the island, some resort courses and some public, most created by big-name designers. All are wonderful. The newest course, at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is home to the Senior MasterCard.
* Mauna Kea, which means "white mountain," is usually snowcapped from December to May. Don't try to take a group skiing. It's treacherous, ungroomed, and they'll have to herring-bone uphill. Instead, hit the beach, where you'll experience temperatures in the 70s.
* Ka Lae Point, on the southern tip of the Big Island, is the most southerly land in the United States.
* The largest orchid industry in the world is centered around Hilo on the Big Island's east coast. Many of the gardens and nurseries are open for group tours and retail sales