Every year as we round the corner into spring and get hit with one or two last snowstorms in NYC, it's like clockwork. My brain starts its annual obsession with visions of palm trees, hikes across steam-warmed black lava fields, and boogie boards at my all-time favorite Hapuna Beach. I start googling phrases like "tips for moving to Hawaii" and "how do I bring my cat to Hawaii?" I'm convinced this longing will never go away until we finally pull the trigger.


Of the hundreds of thousands of miles I've traveled over the last dozen or so years, the one destination we return time and time again is the Big Island of Hawaii. The southernmost and easternmost island in the chain, the Big Island is larger than all the other Hawaiian islands combined and is a sparsely populated, laid-back heaven of ecological diversity. The island is made up of five volcanoes, three of which are still active, and tons of microclimates that range from arid deserts of young black lava on the leeward side to tropical rainforests on the windward side where more than 200 inches of rain falls annually. It's a dream come true for all photographers.

In addition to the enormous Volcanoes National Park where you can do an incredible day hike into lava tubes and an enormous crater, there are four National Historic Trails, Sites and Monuments where you can go to learn more about the Hawaiian culture, its people, and its phenomenal natural beauty. I promise no one will judge you if you skip the historic sites, because you can stay busy for ages exploring beaches of all colors - black sand, white sand, salt and pepper, pebble and stone, even a beautiful green beach made of sand mixed with olivine. Just be sure to pack your boogie boards, snorkel gear, a good book, and TONS of sunscreen. And sick of lazing around on the beach? We love heading up north to either Pololu Valley or Waipi'o Valley and hiking down some of the most breathtaking cliffs anywhere in the world. In Waipi'o you can even join a horseback tour and go into parts of the valley where you can see a waterfall taller than the Empire State Building. WHAT.

Oh, and did I mention you can drive from sea level to nearly 14,000 feet to watch the stars at the Mauna Kea Observatory? Just try and run your medium format camera, backpack of lenses and tripod up a hill to catch the moonrise when you get to the top. I dare you.

Excuse me while I go search for airfares and stare longingly at this photo of spicy tuna poke.

Most photos shot with my medium format Pentax 645N, 35mm lens and Kodak Portra. A few iPhone snaps in the mix too because I just can't help myself.