It was my first trip to Hawaii, and I had chosen the Big Island. The diversity of this island was just incredible, from what I had read before, but my expections were exceeded by far. To walk on an active volcano was a thrill that can't be explained. Seeing nature's and earth's forces at work like that was simply breathtaking. Down that Chain of Craters Road is also the largest petroglyph site on the islands, which is not to be missed!
But it was Puuhonua O Honaunau which blew my mind, and I still don't know why. From the moment we entered this park, I was just stunned by its beauty, history, and vibe. We had our dinner picnic there the first night and again the last night. That place is to-die-for (or, rather, you'd want to die at a place like that).
The most astonishingly magical place was Hawi, a tiny town on the north tip of the Big Island. I felt immediately comfortable and relaxed there. The entire area up there is very desolate, and not many tourists pass through at all. But they have great dining and coffeehouses for such a small town--it's fantastic! If you're looking for peace and quiet and small-town athmosphere totally away from it all, go to Hawi.
Also at the north tip are more ruins to visit, two of them down a dirt road: King Kamehameha I's supposed birthplace, for one, and another big heiau almost right next to it. If you are looking for some of the true history of Hawaii, visit all the ruins you can--they are worth it.
I fell in love with the Big Island and have to return there. It is a place I could never get tired of.