Big Island What is known for

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Fly nonstop from San Francisco (SFO) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Kona (KOA) on United Airlines. united.com

Stay at A Piece of Paradise's Shangri-La, which is as luxuriously hidden as any resort one could ever find. Sleeping just 8 guests at one time, the Bali-style private estate is located on Kapoho Beach and boasts geothermal heated tide pools that average 90 degrees year round -- waters always prime for snorkeling, fish watching or just therapeutic bathing, apoparadise.com/shangrila.html. The Shipman House Bed and Breakfast Inn in the Hilo area is owned by a fifth-generation island family. The house has five rooms to choose from, hilo-hawaii.com. Another bed-and-breakfast is the Waipi'o Wayside Inn, a historic sugar plantation in Honoka'a, waipiowayside.com. For a different kind of getaway, Mauna Lani Point is situated on the Kohala Coast, where Hawaiian royalty once vacationed, maunalanipoint.com.

Eat a private dinner concocted by veteran chef Olelo pa'a Faith Ogawa. Ogawa's "conscious Hawaiian cuisine," overflowing with genuine aloha spirit, is highly sought-after on the island, mixing creativity with healthful local ingredients. Ogawa cleanses her thoughts before cooking in order to serve the food in its purest form, and she constantly creates new dishes, each designed to help clients erase toxic memories so they can experience joy, abundance, peace and understanding. glowhawaii.com

Explore the natural beauty of Hawaii's native flora and fauna with the guides of Hawaii Forest & Trail, which is on the 2009 ISLANDS Blue List as one of the world's best eco-adventures. hawaii-forest.com

Hike through the Waipi'o Valley with Hawaiian Walkways and gain access to private trails that lead to sparkling waterfall pools and breathtaking ocean views 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The half-day route covers three and a half miles, takes about four and a half hours, and costs $95 per adult. hawaiianwalkways.com

Soar above active volcanoes in a three- to seven-seat airplane -- not a helicopter. Stare down at Kilauea and the waterfalls of the Gold Coast (Kohala), conversing with your pilot via two-way head- set to learn about the terrain below. Island Hoppers offers every- thing from 50-minute flights to full island circle tours. Flights leave out of the Hilo and Kona airports. From $149 per person. fly-hawaii.com

Trot on locally bred horses through the Waipi'o Valley (or "land of curving water") with an experienced guide to lead the way. Pass black-sand beaches, lotus ponds and farmers tending their taro patches as you learn the valley's legends and lore. A four-wheel- drive van takes you from your starting point in the Kukuihaele village to the riding stable in the valley. Two-and-a-half-hour horse- back rides start in the morning and afternoon. Prices from about $89.

Gaze at the star-filled sky as seen from the world's largest astronomical observatory atop Mauna Kea, but without having to climb to its 4,200-foot summit. The planetarium at the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii offers live Mauna Kea sky viewings in the comfort of its 3-D-capable facilities in Hilo. imiloahawaii.org

Learn more about the authentic Big Island at bigisland.org.