Bees on the Big Island

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: hawaiimagazine.com

Bees are big business on the Big Island. It’s where 90% of all hives in the Hawaiian Islands are located. Beekeeping happens year round. Between November and January there is a reduction in the available nectar but soon after January the Macadamia nut trees flower, the nectar is plentiful again, and the bee populations increase!

Kona Queen Hawaii Photo by Ronit Fahl
Kelly O’Day, Kona Queen Hawaii. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

Did you know

European bees were introduced to the islands in the late 1800s. 80% of food production on the Big Island requires bee pollination. Producers of coffee and macadamia nuts need the help of honey bees. Those who supply avocados, lilikoi and other crops to farmers markets are also reliant on bees for helping propagation.

  • Sales from bee-pollinated crops in Hawaii are more than $200 million.
  • There are approximately 15,000 hives in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii’s honey production was $3.2 million in 2018.
  • Hawaii supplies 25% of the queen bees on the Mainland and 75% of those in Canada.
bees3 Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: HomesteadinHawaii.com

Queen bees are exported from Hawaii to the rest of the world. Hawaii exports more than $10 million a year in queen bees. Because of the climate Hawaii is able to supply queen bees all year round. 

Queen bee shipping cage. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

The majority of the queen bee producers are here on the Big Island. These include Kona Queen Hawaii. While Kona itself provides the perfect weather for cultivating queen bees – warm weather, not much rain – Hilo, with its high annual rainfall is less ideal. However, this environment still produces some unique nectar flows.

Photo credit: Big Island Beekeepers Association

Plants that help the bees

The Big Island’s many climatic zones create numerous areas for beekeeping to take place.The amazing variety of flowers means there are a large number of specific nectar flows, resulting in some amazing honey varieties. There are a number of artisan honey producers that supply these type of niche flavors, including those produced from the Ohia Lehua and Christmas Berry trees.

Varroa Mites

In the 2000s varroa mites almost completely destroyed the beekeeping industry on the Big Island and Oahu. As a result, importing bees into Hawaii is now illegal.

Bee Culture Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: beeculture.com

What do bees need in the tropics?

Bees need the morning sun and then later in the day they need some shade. If bees are grown at slightly higher altitudes, then full sun may be suitable since the overall temperature may be cooler. Bees also need easy access to water. This might be as simple as a bird bath or a shallow dish of water. Shelter from the wind is also needed, since wind can cause rain to be driven into the hives, disrupting the temperature of the hive. Bees also like their privacy, and flourish when kept away from heavy foot traffic or other human activity.

Big Island Bees Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: manoahoney.com

Types of honey

Pure Honey: This means it’s 100% honey, no other ingredients (such as corn syrup).

Raw honey: Is pure honey that has not been heated to the point of pasteurization – retaining all the extra goodness of honey, such as the natural enzymes and vitamins.

Organic honey: Organic honey is produced using pollen from only organically grown plants (no pesticides).

Unfiltered honey: Is honey that has not been filtered – the process by which very small particles are removed. This makes the honey close to the honey that is removed directly from the hive.

Where to get it!

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: Jeffsetter.com

The Big Island Bees honey farm is only a short drive from Horizon Guest House. Visit the farm and experience a beekeeping tour, visit the museum and enjoy a free honey tasting! 

The Big Island is the home of Hawaiian honey, so make sure you try some of Hawaii’s best kept secret!

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Humpback whales on the Big Island

Humpback whales are magnificent creatures and seeing them for the first time makes even the most jaded traveler giddy with excitement. If you’ve booked your trip to Hawai’i during humpback whale season, make sure to pack your binoculars and keep a look out for the whales as you make your way around the Big Island.

Where do they migrate from? And when?

The north Pacific humpback whales make the journey all the way from Alaska, appearing in Hawaiian waters between January and March. The journey is more than 3000 miles and takes the whales more than a month to complete in one direction.

Why do the whales come to Hawai'i?

Humpback whales leave Alaska for Hawai’i in order to mate, give birth and then raise their young calves. The warmer waters are more conducive to breeding, while the oceans around the islands lack the natural predators found in the northern Pacific. There isn’t much food for the whales in sub-tropical oceans and they spend their time in Hawai’i fasting while surviving off their fat reserves. Because it takes almost a year from conception to birth, humpback whales mate during one visit and then give birth the following year when they return to the Hawaiian Islands. Hawai’i offers a relatively safe training ground for new calves to learn the skills they’ll need to survive on their return migration to Alaska.

How do they know how to get to Hawai'i?

Humpback whales have a metalloid substance in part of their frontal lobe. This substance allows the whales to distinguish any changes in the earth’s magnetic field, enabling them to migrate directly to their usual breeding areas.

Fun facts about humpback whales or koholā

6 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: scubadiving.com
  • The Hawaiian word Koholā refers to both reef flats and the humpbacked whale. This is because of the connection between the spray of the surf on the reef and the spray from a whale’s blowhole.
  • Their numbers are on the increase. In the 1960s there were only 1,400 but by 2014 their numbers had grown to 21,000.
  • The average life expectancy of a humpback whale is 50 years.
  • They can weigh close to 40 tons and can reach almost 60 feet in length.
  • They migrate from Alaska to not only Hawai’i but also to the waters off western. Mexico and the southern island of Japan.
  • Almost 10,000 humpback whales visit the Hawaiian Islands every year.
  • Humpback whales can blow bubble nets in order to snare fish.
  • They don’t have teeth, they have bristles (baleen) made from keratin (very similar to the structure of human hair and fingernails).
  • Humpback whales can be identified by their unique markings on the underside of their tail fluke. This makes it relatively easy to identify returning whales.

In 2020, the numbers of whales visiting Hawai’i was the largest it had been for five years. There was also a distinct increase in whale singing activity as tracked by researchers at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary includes the shorelines of Maui, Kaua’i, O’ahu and the Hawai’i Island’s Kona and Kohala coasts.

Whales in Hawaiian Culture

5 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries

Whales feature prominently in Hawaiian culture. The koholā migration to Hawai’i from Alaska is interpreted as a homecoming to the islands. The humpback whales are born in Hawai’i and are therefore considered native born (kamaaina) as well as family guardians (aumakua).

Where to see humpback whales on the Big Island

4 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: viator.com

There are a number of places to view whales on the Big Island. They are often visible on the Kohala Coast and Hilo Bay – where they can be seen from the shore. On the west side of the island, try Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, which has great views over Kawaihae Harbor, and of course here at Horizon we have binoculars and a panoramic view of the ocean from which to spot breaching whales. Your best chance to see whales is in the morning. Be patient and look for the blow, the first indication that a whale has surfaced (when it blows air through its blowhole, forcing a spray of water into the air).

Otherwise, for a more up-close experience try a whale watching tour.

Humpback whales are part of the unique marine ecosystem of Hawai’i. Donʻt miss out  – if you’re on the Big Island during whale season keep an eye out for the majestic humpback whale!  

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Off the beaten track: Ho’okena Beach Park

South Kona has many hidden treasures and one of them is Ho’okena Beach Park. Tucked away at the end of a winding road through ranch land and quietly grazing horses, this hidden beach is an understated local favorite.

Ho’okena Beach Park is located in South Kona on the west side of the Big Island. Camping, swimming, snorkeling or boogie boarding – Ho’okena has it all. Nestled at the end of Kauhako Bay near the cliffs, the beach consists of a mix of black and white sand. The sand can get hot so make sure you pack your flip flops. A line of large trees along the beach edge creates an oasis of shade, making it the perfect spot to spread a blanket and have a picnic.

Where is it?

Hoʻokena Beach Park is located 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Highway 11.

Directions from Kailua Kona

Turn right onto Hoʻokena Beach Road just after the 102 mile marker. Follow the road down to the beach park (approximately 2.5 miles). When you reach the end make sure you take a left down a narrow road to the parking lot.

Directions from Hilo & Volcano

Head north on Highway 11. Continue past the 101 mile marker and Kealia Ranch Store. The next left will be Ho’okena Beach Road. Look for the big green road sign.

Amenities

Concession stand with ice, food, cold drinks, ice cream, camping and beach supplies (credit cards accepted)
. Outdoor showers, county restroom facilities, 
camping
 parking
 and picnic tables. 
No pets allowed.

There are sites available on the beach for tent camping. A permit is required. For more information, check out Camp Ho’okena.

The History of Ho'okena

In the 1880s Ho’okena Beach Park was the location of a steamship mooring site. At the time Ho’okena village was a vibrant port, with trade bringing prosperity to the area. There was a wharf, school, courthouse, livery stable and jail. Robert Louis Stevenson stayed a week in Ho’okena when he visited the Big Island in 1889. He mentions Ho’okena in ‘Travels in Hawaii’.

In the early 20th century Ho’okena village began to decline as steamship visits were reduced. By the late 1920s the wharf was receiving so little in the way of regular freight that stores as well as the local post office were forced to close. Storms in the 1930s permanently damaged the landing at Ho’okena and gradually the town’s population dwindled as residents moved further inland to be closer to the highway.

Termites and then an earthquake in 1951 caused the Puka’ana Church to collapse. Take a hike north along the beach to view the old church ruins, stone house platforms and what remains of the old wharf.

Support Ho’okena

The Friends of Ho’okena Beach Park (FOHBP) was formed with the express purpose of preserving the cultural integrity of the beach. Part of this objective is developing sustainable business opportunities that both enhance the beach and provide employment to the local community.

Ho’okena Beach Park is steeped in local history. The site of a once important commercial port as well as the site of one of the last Hawaiian canoe fishing villages in Hawaii. The beach itself offers great swimming as well as snorkeling without the crowds seen at nearby Two Steps. Bring your lunch and make a day of it or camp out overnight – sunsets at Ho’okena Beach Park are worth getting off the beaten track for!

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Top 7 native birds on the Big Island

Hawaiian Owl 2020
Photo credit: Jack Wolford

The Big Island is a great place to whip out the binoculars and get to bird watching. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve profiled seven of our favorite Hawaiian native birds so you’ll know them when you see them. From the striking Hawaiian hawk to the brilliant colors of the ‘Akekeke, these seven represent some of the most unique birdlife you’ll see in Hawaii or around the world!  

We’ve also included a helpful link to where you’ll most likely be able to see these birds on the Big Island.

1. Hawaiian Owl (Pueo)

Hawaiian Owl 2020
Photo credit: Pride of Maui

The pueo is endemic to Hawaii and is commonly found in upland forest and woodland areas on the Big Island. The owl is one of the physical forms taken by ‘aumākua, the ancestor spirits in Hawaiian culture. The pueo tend to nest on the ground, making them easy prey for their eggs and their young. The Asian mongoose is one of their main predators.

They are also attracted to car headlights which they mistake for prey. As a result many are killed in vehicle accidents. Recently they have also been found in large numbers in a confused state on public highways. This phenomenon has been called ʻsick owl syndromeʻ, or SOS. The cause of this syndrome remains unknown but may be related to pesticides.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/puu-waawaa-halapepe-and-ʻohiʻa-trails/

2. Hawaiian Hawk ('Io)

Hawaiian Hawk 2020
Photo credit: Jack Jeffrey

The Hawaiian Hawk, known as the ‘Io, is only found in Hawaii and is a symbol of royalty in Hawaiian culture. It is considered taboo to harm or kill this bird. The ʻIo have a shrill, high-pitched call, almost like an echo of their name!

Deforestation has caused the biggest changes to the habitat of the Hawaiian hawk, and the ‘Io remains the only native member of the hawk family in the Hawaiian Islands. The ‘Io is sometimes seen on Maui, Oahu and Kaua’i but they breed only on the Big Island. The ‘Io often nest in native ‘ōhi’a trees. Their small population, as well as ongoing threats to their native habitat, mean they remain endangered.

Where to see them: At Horizon! We see the ‘Io on a regular basis here at the property. Otherwise, another popular location is https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/honuaula-forest-reserve-makaula-ooma-section/

3. 'Apapane

Apapane
Photo credit: Owen Deutsch

The ‘Apapane feed heavily from the ʻohiʻa flowers and have special brush-tipped tongues in order to get to the nectar. Itʻs the males that have the distinctive calls. They have at least six different calls, composed of a variety of squeaks, whistles and clicking sounds, all interwoven with melodic sequences. 

Key to the future protection of the ‘Apapane is protecting the native forest from development, whether itʻs conversion to agriculture or suburban encroachment. The ʻApapane is found on the Big Island, Maui, Lanaʻi, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Oʻahu. But the Big Island is where the bulk of the Hawaiian population is situated.

Where to see them: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

4. Hawaiian Goose (Nēnē)

Photo credit: Jack Jeffrey

A local favorite, the nēnē is endangered but has had a remarkable journey from near extinction in the 1940s. The nēnē are found on the Big Island as well as Maui and Kauaʻi. They are related to the Canadian goose, although the nēnē are smaller in size and are white with black streaks across the neck.

The nēnē population is currently 2,500, making it the world’s rarest goose. It is likely that there were about 25,000 Hawaiian geese living in the islands when Captain James Cook arrived in 1778. Subsequent hunting as well as the impact of introduced predators, such as the Asian mongoose, pigs, and cats, reduced the population to 30 birds by the end of the 1940s.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/puu-waawaa-halapepe-and-ʻohiʻa-trails/

5. White-tailed Tropicbird (Koa'e Kea)

The Koaʻe kea have long white tail feathers allowing them to gracefully glide over the ocean. They have a wingspan of three feet and are white with black streaks around the eyes and on the edges of their wings. They feed from the ocean on a diet of fish and squid, and at night they nest on cliffs and in rocky crevices. 

Originally their long tail feathers were used in the making of kahili, the feather standards that surrounded Hawaiian royalty.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/keahole-point/

6. Hawaiian Petrel ('Ua'u)

The endangered ‘uaʻu have a 36 inch wingspan and are usually seen near land during their breeding season which is between March and October. This oceangoing bird was originally valued as a source of meat when populations were abundant. 

The ‘au’u are a sooty color on their head, wings and tail, while the underside remains white.

The ‘au’u remains vulnerable to loss of habitat from development and predators such as feral cats, the Asian mongoose, and rats. The Hawaiian petrel was at one time considered to be the same as the Galapagos petrel, and both were known as the dark-rumped petrol. In 2002 the two species were considered to be independent of each other based on genetic and morphologic distinctions.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/keahole-point/

7. Ruddy Turnstone ('Akekeke)

The ʻakekeke, or ruddy turnstone, visits Hawaii from August to May. For the rest of the year they live in the arctic. They measure about 9 inches and are brown with white undersides as well as black markings on their heads and chests. During breeding season their bright orange legs and distinctive plumage are hard to miss.

They feed along shorelines and fields when in Hawaii, often turning over rocks, shells and other debris – hence their common name, turnstone! And donʻt forget, their call sounds exactly like their name, ʻakekeke!

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/kaloko-honokohau-np/

There are plenty more birds to discover on the Big Island. For more details on birdlife on the island check out Hawaii Birding Trails.

Let us know in the comments if you sighted any of our listed birds during your Big Island adventure!

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Discover the amazing Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

If the Big Island is the orchid isle then Hilo is the capital of the everything orchid. Just outside Hilo is the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, a great place to view an amazing variety of spectacular orchids. Whether you’re an orchid aficionado, a part-time gardener, or just curious about what makes these flowers such a special part of the Big Island – be sure to make this a stop on your road trip.

Where is it?

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens are located between mile markers’ 22 and 23 on Highway 11 near Volcano National Park on the Big Island. It’s about a 25 minute drive from Hilo and a 10 minute drive from Volcano.

When can I visit?

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens are open limited hours in 2020 due to the pandemic. Currently they’re open Tuesday and Thursday between 10am – 3pm (closed between 12pm-1pm for cleaning). Access is easy and is wheelchair accessible (check their website for the latest opening hours).

A popular stop for tour buses, the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens features a large showroom – an open warehouse-like space displaying an amazing variety of colorful orchids. There are over 500 blooming orchids on display! These include dendrobiums, oncidiums, phalaenopsis, miltonia and odontoglossums. There are also anthuriums, bromeliads and tillandsia plants.

History

The Akatsuka Orchid Gardens have been specializing in the cultivation of orchids on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 30 years. The founder, Moriyasu Akatsuka, moved to Hawaii from Japan and started the gardens as a family business in 1974. It began life as a cymbidium orchid farm before Moriyasu changed direction, growing the more vibrant Cattleya orchid.

The first garden showroom opened to the public in the 1980s. It was at this time that Moriyasu began creating his own original Cattleya orchids.

By the 1990s the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens had grown in popularity, attracting many visitors from around the country and around the world. The gardens expanded, adding a gift shop and gaining the required certification to ship orchids to customers.

In 2000 the gardens renovated the showroom and a modern greenhouse was also added.

In 2016 the gardens created the world’s first orchid maze! You can experience the maze on a self-guided tour of the gardens (all 8,000 square feet!). There is also a 45 minute tour through the maze and the greenhouse growing facility (COVID-19 may have postponed this tour, please check their website for the latest details).

The tillandsia (above and right) are air plants, native to northern Mexico, the US southeast, and Mesoamerica. They have the ability to cling to precarious locations on trees and rocky outcrops. A minimal root system means they can survive easily on even a small piece of bark! They do not require soil in order to survive, are easy-care and low maintenance. Tillandsia typically produce a brightly colored flower.

Tillandsia
One of our recent acquisitions from Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

The Volcano Queen orchid

If you’re on the Big Island during the months of April and May make sure you check out the Volcano Queen orchid. This orchid only blooms once a year and is the gardens’ most famous resident, worth approximately $20,000! The orchid is originally from Thailand and is not a hybrid. It can’t be cloned, so propagation can only occur through division.

Volcano Queen Orchid
Photo credit: Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
Purple orchid
On our last visit we added this amazing purple anthurium to our growing anthurium collection here at Horizon Guest House

Take the time to visit the orchid gardens and you’ll understand why the Big Island is also called the orchid isle!

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A day trip to the Hilo Farmers Market

Hilo Farmers Market Horizon B&B Kona

Make sure you stop by the biggest and most popular farmers market on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hilo farmers market runs every weekday but it’s the ‘market days’ on Wednesday and Saturday – with over 200 farmers and local crafters selling fresh produce, crafts, gifts and assorted flowers – that make it a must-visit during your stay on the Big Island.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii Horizon B&B

First started in 1988, the Hilo farmers market began with only 4 vendors and grew rapidly. The open market is now held on the corner of Mamo Street and Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo. Contained within the space of approximately 3 city blocks, the market has free parking nearby. The biggest (and best) days are Wednesday and Sunday. Get there early to get the best of the produce and the freshest flowers.

The market opens at 6am and runs until 4pm. Most of the market is situated under large tents and includes sections with produce, food and flowers, as well as an arts, crafts and retail section. Deal direct with the farmers, the growers, the crafters and the bakers. And don’t miss out on the amazing range of food on offer from the food trucks. There is even an indoor food court.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon
Long squash

What you'll find

A favorite with locals and tourists alike, the Hilo farmers market sells a huge range of produce. Whether you’re on the look-out for some locally-grown coffee or fresh fruit and vegetables, the market has a huge selection. Find jack fruit, longan, mangos, papayas, pineapples, rambutan, strawberries, white pineapples, dragon fruit, passion fruit, apple bananas, lychee, sapote and much more! Vegetables you’ll encounter include – baby ginger, bok choy, eggplant, taro, avocados, hydroponic lettuce, organic spinach, sweet corn and more.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon B&B

The market also sells jams, jellies, macadamia nut butter and honey as well as bakery treats like butter mochi, malasadas, coconut pastries and Portuguese bread. A number of vendors also serve breakfast and lunch.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii

A wide range of flowers are sold at the market. Orchids and anthuriums of all shades pack the flower stalls. Bonsai plants, protea and assorted herbs are also sold. The craft sections are full of amazing creations – handmade jewelry, etched glass and items carved from koa wood. If you’re looking for a special gift or souvenir, you’ll be sure to find something well-crafted to take home from the farmers market.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Horizon B&BJPG

The market’s central location makes exploring the historic downtown of Hilo easy. After the market walk to the nearby shops, restaurants and museums. Check out the nearby Lyman Museum and the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

Hilo Farmers Market Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Hot tip: Bring the kids on the first and third Saturdays of each month and make use of the free art booth for kids (keiki). Open 1-3pm.

Can’t make it on a market day?

Don’t worry. The market is still open on all other days of the week but at a much reduced capacity. Expect approximately 30 vendors on these days.

Hilo waterfront Horizon B&B Hawaii

After you’ve finished shopping at the Hilo farmers market why not visit the nearby Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. The waterfront location is the perfect place to enjoy a farmers market-inspired picnic lunch by the sea.

Hilo is approximately a 2 hour drive from Horizon Guest House.

Hilo waterfront Horizon B&B
Looking toward Mauna Kea
Hilo waterfront banyan tree Horizon B&B
Banyan tree

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Farmers Markets on the Kona Coast

Kona Farmers Market 1
Photo credit: alohadreams.com

Make time during your stay on the Big Island to experience the best of the island’s locally grown produce, and locally made arts and crafts. There are many farmers markets on the Big Island – check out our favorites on the Kona Coast.

1. The Kona Farmers Market

This market is located in central Kona near Kailua Bay. One of the busier markets on the Big Island with over 40 vendors, you’ll find a wide range of produce and goods – from locally grown fruit and vegetables to assorted arts and crafts.

Kona Farmers Market 2
Photo credit: https://bit.ly/3993dpc

You can also expect to find flowers and leis, locally made jewelry, wooden bowls and carvings, 100% Kona coffee, locally made soaps, shaved ice, locally made honey and even hand-blown glass (look out for the amazing glass blowing demonstrations).

When and where?

The Kona Farmers market operates from Wednesday to Sunday between 7 – 4pm near the corner of Ali’i Drive and Hualalai Road.

2. The Pure Kona Green Market

Pure Kona Market 3
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

This popular market is committed to providing locally sourced produce and goods, and handmade arts and crafts – with a special emphasis on products that contribute to sustainable living. The market’s motto is ‘From the Land, by Our Hand’ and has grown rapidly over the last few years and now boasts 80 vendors.

Pure Kona Market 4
Photo credit: afar.com

Amongst the abundance of local produce, including Kona coffee, honey and macadamia nuts is a large contingent of local arts and crafts vendors. Food stalls and live music make this a great day out for everyone.

Hot tip: The Pure Kona Green Market is the closest farmers market to Horizon Guest House, making it a great place to stock up on fresh fruit, or even some vegetables if you decide to grill out by the pool.

Vendor profile: Big Island Moonbow Farms
Wai Meli honey 5
Photo credit: waimeli.com

This farm uses organic methods to produce their raw honey called Wai Meli. The honey is not heated or processed in any way. For more information about their honey and their process – waimeli.com

When and where?

The Pure Kona Green Market is held every Sunday from 9 – 2pm at the Amy Greenwell Botanical Gardens, 82-6188 Mamalahoa Highway, directly opposite the Manago Hotel in Captain Cook.

3. Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market

Ho'oulu Farmers Market 6
Photo credit: hooulufarmersmkt.com

The Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market has between 20 to 40 vendors selling everything from local produce, coffee and macadamia nuts to arts and crafts.

In order to support the local community the market has a strict policy that all materials and produce must come from the Big Island. You’ll find fresh produce, nuts, jams, jellies and sauces. So whether it’s lilikoi delicacies, organic honey, frozen fruit popsicles or fresh cold cut coconuts – it’s all available at this local market.

Ho'oulu Farmers Market 7
Photo credit: Sonia Martinez
When and where?

This market is held every Wednesday between 9 – 2pm at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa, Keauhou Bay, on the lawn beside Kaleiopapa Street.

4. Keauhou Farmers Market

Keauhou Farmers Market
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Held in the parking lot of the Keauhou Shopping Center, this is a small market with everything you need. Committed to selling only produce grown on the Big Island, you’ll find delicious honey, coffee, macadamia nuts, meat, eggs and fresh bread.  

Keauhou Farmers Market
Photo credit: afar.com

The Keauhou Farmers Market works with a number of local farm vendors to bring you the best in local quality produce.

Vendor profile: Earthly Delights Farm
EarthlyDelights-KeauhouFarmersMarket 8
Photo credit: keauhoufarmersmarket.com

Earthly Delights Farm – a certified organic farm, they produce Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, tropical fruit, Kona chocolate, tropical dried fruit and tropical pastries!

When and where?

Every Saturday between 8–12pm at the Keauhou Shopping Center in front of Ace Hardware, 78-6831 Ali’i Drive, Kona. 

Support 100% Big Island!

Visiting a farmers market during your stay is not only a great way to sample the delights of the Big island but it’s also a great way to support the local community. 

To make a reservation at Horizon Guest House click the Book Now button below.

Author: Angus Meek

The Kona Street Market & Sunset Saturdays

Kokoua Village Stroll Kona Street Market
Photo credit: www.historickailuavillage.com

For one Sunday afternoon every month Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona’s historic village is closed for traffic and the street transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-only marketplace. The Kona street market is known as the Kokua Kailua Village Stroll and makes for a great way to shop, dine and buy locally made produce – all while supporting a special community event.

Kona Stroll Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: www.bigislandguide.com

When is it?

The Kona Stroll is held on the third Sunday of every month between 1–6pm. This year the dates for the Kona street market are as follows:

Kona Stroll 2020

January 19, February 16, March 15, Saturday, April 4 coincides with Hawaiian Mission Bicentennial celebration, May 17, June 14, July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18, November 15, December 13.

Kailua-Kona Stroll Big Island Hawaii Kona Street Market
Photo credit: www.bigislandguide.com

Where is it?

75-5677 Ali’i Drive. This stretch of Ali’i Drive runs along the waterfront in Kailua-Kona’s historic village. This picturesque location, overlooking Kailua Bay, gives locals and tourists alike the opportunity to stroll the marketplace, as well as adjoining shops and restaurants.

What to expect at the Kona Street Market

Stalls sell a range of merchandise including koa wood products, natural oils, and plenty of other homemade creations – including jams and chutneys. There are also food stalls and arts and craft sellers.

 

Fun fact: Kokua is a Hawaiian word that means to help others. In this context it encompasses the idea of helping others in the community by giving your time. Think of your stroll amongst the marketplace as a way to help support the local community.

Kona Street Market
Photo credits: www.historickailuavillage.com

An Afternoon at Hulihe'e Palace

Hulihee Palace Kona Street Market
Photo credit: www.wheretraveler.com

In the heart of Kailua-Kona’s historic village is Hulihe’e Palace. Originally built as a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty in 1838, the palace is used today to showcase Victorian-era artifacts from the reign of King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi’olani. Also on show – koa wood furniture, portraits, kapa*, feather work, Hawaiian quilts and other royal artifacts.

On the same Sunday as the scheduled Kona Stroll the palace holds an ‘Afternoon at Hulihe’e Palace’ – a festive cultural afternoon with hula and mele (chants, songs or poems). This is a great way to experience local Hawaiian culture – suitable for the whole family.

Hulihee Palace Kona Coast Big Island Street Market
Photo credit: www.bigislandguide.com

The concert, held on the palace lawns, features free music and performances from the Hulihe’e Palace Band and the Merrie Monarchs Chorale as they perform traditional and modern Hawaiian music. The music starts from 4pm.

Did you know? *Kapa is the Hawaiian word for barkcloth. Usually made out of paper mulberry, hibiscus or even breadfruit bark, Hawaiian kapa is different. Hawaiians use a watermark to decorate kapa. These watermarks are small designs that can be seen clearly when the kapa is held up to the light. Kapa was often used for clothing, or even bed covers for those lucky enough to be of a chiefly caste.

For more information on this fascinating subject: https://www.mauimagazine.net/beauty-in-the-bark/

Missed the Kona Stroll?

Hawaiian Sunset Saturdays
Photo credit: www.thisweekhawaii.com

If you missed the stroll why not head along to another great free event held on Ali’i Drive in the historic village. Hawaiian Sunset Saturdays is held on the last Saturday of every month from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. This community event is a great way to celebrate the amazing Big Island sunsets with live music and hula.

Bring a beach blanket or a lawn chair and enjoy the view.

Where? The lawn at Coconut Grove Marketplace, 75-5809 Ali’i Drive.

To see a complete listing of all the dates for the Kokua Kailua Village Stroll and Hawaiian Sunset Saturdays, download the PDF here.

Hawaiian Sunset Saturdays Kona Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: www.thisweekhawaii.com

To make a reservation at Horizon Guest House click the Book Now button below.

Author: Angus Meek

Manta Ray Diving on the Kona Coast

Last Updated on January 4, 2021 by Horizon Guest House
Manta Ray Kona Hawaii Big Island Horizon B&B
Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

The Big Island of Hawaii is famous for many things but perhaps one of the most popular and unique attractions is the manta ray night dive. Don’t worry if you’re not a certified diver – snorkelers can still experience the thrill of being close to these majestic creatures.

Why are manta rays so special?

The manta rays inhabiting the Kona Coast are reef manta rays, one of the largest species of manta rays in the world. These amazing creatures can grow in size to anywhere between 12 and 18 feet. Life expectancy can be anywhere up to 50 years.

Manta rays are filter feeders – they survive on plankton. By gliding through the ocean with their giant mouths open they filter the plankton out of the water. The reef manta rays are so-called because they prefer to stay close to the coast of the Hawaiian islands.

Did you know? Manta rays derive their name from the Portuguese and Spanish word for ‘mantle’ which is a blanket-shaped trap historically used to catch this type of fish.

Manta Ray Night Diving Kona B&B Horizon
Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Why night dive with the mantas?

A night dive with mantas is essential in order to see these great creatures up close. Their prey, the plankton, are light sensitive and are drawn to the glow of dive flashlights – providing a perfect meal for the manta rays.

This creates the perfect environment for a close encounter with the mantas. If you choose to scuba you will be weighted so that you can sit comfortably on the sea floor around a collection of dive lights, a kind of ‘campfire’, while the mantas circle above – almost like a scene out of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

If you choose to snorkel you’ll have a very similar experience at approximately 30 feet above. Snorkelers gather around a floating raft with bright lights that also attract the mantas. The dive itself lasts for approximately 45-60 minutes. The mantas will swim very close, but don’t worry they’re too focused on enjoying their meal to worry about you!

Fun fact: Don’t be afraid! The manta rays are large but harmless. They do not have stingers, barbs or teeth.

Where are the mantas?

There are two principal dive sites. The main dive site is near the Kona Airport runway, about a 25-30 minute boat trip from Honokohau Harbor. In this location there can be as many as two dozen mantas congregating during a night dive. The other, less well-known site is near the Sheraton Hotel in Keauhou Bay.

Several companies run charters out to these dive sites – we recommend Big Island Divers https://bigislanddivers.com/

Sustainable manta ray snorkeling

If you prefer a less crowded snorkel experience then Manta Ray Advocates might be for you. They adhere to strict guidelines to make sure the manta rays don’t get disturbed by your presence. They approach the mantas from the beach, an eco-friendly alternative to sightseeing boats. Experience the thrill of the manta rays in a safe, private setting, and in a small group (each group is limited to 6).

Manta Ray Dive Kona

 

Did you know? In Hawaii the manta rays are a protected species – it is illegal to hunt or fish them. Hawaiian mythology depicts the manta as catching the setting sun in their mouths before swimming to the other side of the island to deliver the sunrise. Find out more about manta ray preservation and protection from Manta Ray Advocates https://mantarayadvocates.com

What else might I see when diving on the Kona Coast?

Open Ocean Ray Kona Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Open ocean manta - Chill Ray / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

While it’s almost guaranteed* that you’ll see reef mantas during the night dive, there’s plenty to see during the day too. If you’re lucky you might see the pelagic or open ocean manta. I was lucky enough to spot one (see above), an individual that had never been photographed before.

*Big Island Divers offer either a 50% discount on a seat for another manta charter, or a 100% discount on standby availability seats for another one-tank manta charter, if no mantas are seen during a dive.

Did you know? Mantas, like humpbacks, have individual markings. These markings are catalogued by marine biologists. Let me know if you see the manta I photographed – it’s officially named ‘Chill Ray’.

Open Ocean Ray Chill Ray Kona B&B Horizon
Open ocean manta - Chill Ray / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Whether scuba or snorkeling you’ll see plenty of yellow tang (a surgeon fish).

Yellow tang Kona Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Yellow tang / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Almost as equally prevalent is the raccoon butterfly fish.

Raccoon butterfly fish
Raccoon butterfly fish / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Don’t forget the turtle! An encounter with a sea turtle is an unforgettable experience.

Sea turtle Kona Hawaii Big Island
Sea turtle / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

When scuba diving at the Kona Airport dive site you may encounter Hawaiian garden eels. These eels rise out of the sand to feed but keep part of their body in their burrow in order to instantly pop back down when threatened.

Anthias damsel fish Kona Hawaii Big Island
Bi-color anthias and black and white damsel fish with Hawaiian garden eels in the background / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

There is also plenty of cave diving on the Kona Coast – some near the manta dive sites. Here you’re likely to see fish that feed at night like the menpachi, see below.

Menpachi Kona Hawaii Big Island Horizon B&B
Menpachi with a solitary cleaner wrasse / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

You may also see soft coral on cave ceilings and walls.

Soft Coral Kona Hawaii
Soft coral / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

If you’re lucky you might even see a ‘ruby’ among the coral – a flame angelfish.

Flame angelfish Kona Hawaii
Flame angelfish with kole surgeon / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Count yourself extremely lucky if you spot our endangered monk seal. Rarely seen anymore, but it’s still possible.

Monk Seal Kona Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Monk seal / Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

Don’t forget to book your dive trip early – the manta ray dives and snorkel tours can book up fast.

To make a reservation at Horizon Guest House click the Book Now button below.

Author: Angus Meek

Top 5 hiking trails on the Kona Coast

Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument trail / Photo credit: Lang Parker

Stretch your legs and work off those holiday cocktails by taking a hike during your stay on the Big Island. There are plenty of spectacular hiking trails on the Kona Coast – these are our top 5

1. Captain Cook Monument Trail

The Captain Cook Monument trail is 1.8 miles each way. We recommend you start your hike early, taking care on the trail as you descend down into the bay – look out for wild pigs and goats. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) will be visible once you emerge from the tall elephant grass that surrounds the trail for the first mile or so. Toward the end of the trail there are two paths – one directly down to the bay, and the other to the monument. The change in elevation is 1300 ft. so be prepared for the return hike by making sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen and appropriate footwear. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear – Kealakekua Bay has some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii.

Fun fact: The land within the chained-off area surrounding the Captain Cook Monument is actually the only remaining British territory in the United States.

Getting there: The Captain Cook Monument trail is approximately 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona. Turn onto Napo’opo’o Road from Highway 11 and the beginning of the trail is around 50 yards from the turn off. Parking is on the roadside.

Drive time from Horizon: 20 minutes north

Captain Cook trail
Photo credit: Horizon Guest House

2. Makuala O'Oma Trail

Makuala O'Oma Trail Kona Hawaii
Photo credit: https://bit.ly/2Dw9NrN

The Makuala O’Oma trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail located at the Makahi Street trailhead above Kailua-Kona. There are a number of additional trails accessed from this starting point but this loop is perfect for hikers of all abilities. The track cuts through lush forest, remaining shaded and cool the entire way – the temperatures are significantly lower at this elevation (3500 ft.) than in Kailua-Kona. We recommend using a map (alltrails.com provide comprehensive maps) or GPS on your phone, since some of the trails are not well marked.

Fun fact: In the mid-1990s the Hawaii State Department of Forestry and Wildlife, in partnership with TREE (the Tropical Reforestation & Ecological Education organization), began a reforestation program for koa trees in the area.

Getting there: Head out of Kailua-Kona on Kaloko Drive and turn onto Makahi Street. The trailhead is at the end of the street. Park on the side of the road.

Drive time from Horizon: 55 minutes north

Makuala O'Oma Trail Kona Hawaii 2
Photo credit: Hawai'i Birding Trails https://bit.ly/2Dw9NrN

3. Makalawena Beach Trail

Makalawena beach Kona Hawaii 2
Photo credit: Erin Hinz

What could be better than a hiking trail to one of the most beautiful beaches on the island! Makalawena Beach is part of Kekaha Kai State Park and the hike is approximately a 4 mile return journey. From the parking area (see the Getting there section below) walk west on the road where you’ll eventually find a gate just north of Makalawena. The beach is another quarter mile from the gate. Don’t forget to stay on the beach as the surrounding area is private property.

Fun fact: Kekaha Kai State Park comes from the Hawaiian phrase ke kaha kai, which means ‘the shore line’.

Getting there: You can hike to Makalawena Beach from the north or the south. We recommend the hike in from the north. From Highway 19 north of Kailua-Kona turn off onto the dirt road just south of the road to Kua Bay – between mile markers 88 and 89. Park just off the highway before the road conditions get rough (4WD vehicles may travel farther but we don’t recommend it).

Drive time from Horizon: 57 minutes north

Makalawena beach trail Kona Hawaii 1
Photo credit: Donnie MacGowan

4. Pu'u Ku'ili Trail

Pu’u Ku’ili is the cinder cone clearly visible from highway 19 north of Kona. An easy hike, this short walk is perfect to begin or end the day – and an incredible location to view the sunrise or the sunset. The trail approaches the cone by ascending the western ridge to the summit. From the small parking area below, this hike is less than half a mile, with an elevation change of only 175 feet. Tip: Combine this mini-hike with the longer hike to Makalawena beach.

Fun fact: Don’t stay too late, the gates to Kua Bay shut at 7pm. If you want to arrive for the sunrise, park on the side of the road near the locked gates and walk in.

Getting there: From highway 19 take the paved road to Kua Bay, between mile markers 88 and 89. Follow the paved road for a half mile until you pass Pu’u Ku’ili. There is a small parking area to the left – either park here, or farther down at the Kua Bay parking area and walk back up the road.

Drive time from Horizon: 59 minutes north

5. Manukā Nature Trail

Manuka Nature Trail
Photo credit: W Nowicki CC BY 3.0, Link

The Manukā Nature trail is part of the Manukā Natural Area Reserve and the trailhead is at the Manukā State Wayside Park. This is a 2 mile loop trail, and includes a pit crater. Take care on the track, the terrain is quite rocky and can be challenging. Allow a couple of hours to complete the loop.

Getting there: Manukā State Wayside Park. Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 11), 19.3 miles west of Na’alehu.

Fun fact: The Manukā State Wayside Park contains an arboretum (a botanical collection of trees) originally planted in the mid-19th century and now boasts more than 40 species native to Hawaii.

Drive time from Horizon: 28 minutes south

Manuka Trail Hawaii Pit Crater
Photo credit: Jeremy Dye

To make a reservation at Horizon Guest House click the Book Now button below.

Author: Angus Meek