The Big Island may be big in Hawaiian terms, but when you’re that far from anywhere else the comparisons are always local. Fattest kid in a young, active family of volcanic islands, the Big Island is nearly the size of Los Angeles County. Imagine L.A. with two mountains almost 14,000 feet high and all but 149,000 people gone. A place every bit as desert-dry on the leeward side as L.A., but with drenching rain-forest jungle around the windward bend. A place that is certifiably touristy along one strip but which retains elsewhere an appealing idiosyncratic vibe—in the way of, say, Louisiana or Newfoundland. Lapped by tropical water, and with peaks high enough to hold snow, it is a funky hybrid where the locals blend Japanese cuisine with Spam, and really do give you, many times a day, the thumb-and-pinkie shaka wave.For a cyclist, all this makes the Big Island not so much big as, in a Goldilocksian way, just right. If you crave vertical, there are brutal ascents galore. If you want variety, there are 11 climatic zones, which is one of those tourist-brochure claims that is hard to process but means that the island is a fantastic quick-change artist…. Read full this story
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