The heritage of HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND is rooted in the continuum of immigrants which began centuries ago, with waves of intrepid Polynesian voyages first settling the island. In 1779, CAPTAIN JAMES COOK arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii and was soon followed by a succession of immigrants from all directions, each of whom affected the evolution of the Big Island’s population: whalers, adventurers, missionaries and plantation workers.

Each wave of immigrants brought their cultural accoutrements, foods and values to add to the blend of Hawaii’s contemporary culture and lifestyle. Items brought by ancient Polynesians are still important in island diets-chicken, pig, breadfruit, sugar cane, yams, taro and coconut.

Over time, the best each cultural group had to offer has been accommodated, modified and absorbed into the existing society. For the astute and sensitive observer, evidence of ancient, early and recent influences can easily be identified throughout the course of a typical day on the Big Island.

Geography and climatic differences even further distinguish the lifestyle and personality of each district of the Big Island. Today’s demographic patterns reflect ancient ones: population concentrations in HILO, WAIMEA, KOHALA, and KONA districts with small villages in between, amidst vast tracts of forests, ridges, valleys, deserts, gulches and fields of old lava flows.

Like the ALA LOA trail, an ancient shoreline footpath around the island, the HAWAII BELT HIGHWAY encircles the island. Take a drive in any area, and meander about in the friendly towns and villages, and in this way, experience a strong sense of island culture and heritage.