How Big is the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island)?

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Hawaii, nicknamed the Big Island, is the largest of all the Hawaiian Islands The Big Island is located in the Pacific Ocean and is about 4,028 square miles of land… and it’s still growing.

The Big Island is made from five volcanoes – Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualālai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Kohala is extinct, but Mauna Loa, Hualālai, and Kilauea are all active. Kilauea is still erupting and adding to the Big Island. Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest mountain. It’s a dormant volcano now and believed to be sacred land to the people of Hawaii.

Mauna Loa and Kilauea are the reasons Hawaii is still growing. 343 acres were added to the island from 1983 to 2002.

There are submarine volcanoes that are responsible for building the base of the island. Māhukona has disappeared beneath the surface of the ocean. Lō’ihi is southeast of Hawaii and is an undersea volcano that’s still erupting.

The Big Island offers many beautiful sites and experiences, but there are also some dangerous and scary ones. The Great Crack is an eight-mile-long crack in the island. It’s believed to be caused by dilation from magmatic intrusion. The Hilina Slump is a section of the Kilauea Volcano that’s slipping away.

When an earthquake happens on or near Hawaii it can have catastrophic consequences. There was an earthquake in Alaska in 1946 that caused tsunami damage to Hawaii. With all of the volcanoes around the island, earthquakes are always a concern. A strong earthquake might cause an eruption. In 2018, there were several small earthquakes around Kilauea causing evacuations from the towns close by. A few days later, after a 5.0 earthquake, Kilauea erupted.

With eruption or active volcanoes comes volcanic fog. The fog can consume the island when a volcano is active. The fog is very dangerous, and it can damage all living things especially humans and animals. Sometimes the damage is permanent.

Population and Economy

The Big Island has a population of 190,000, with the racial breakdown being:

  • 34.5% White
  • 0.7% African American
  • 22.6% Asian American
  • 12.4% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • 29.2% from two or more races
  • 11.8% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race

Years ago, most of the economy came from sugar cane, but the last plantation closed in the late 1990s. Now, most of the economy relies on tourism. Resorts account for most of the island’s income.

Agriculture also adds to the economy. Popular crops include tropical fruits, coffee beans, macadamia nuts, and papayas. The Big Island also grows and exports orchids, earning it the nickname Orchid Isle.