Big day out: renting a boat and exploring the Kona Coast

What could be better than cruising along the Kona Coast? We took the plunge. We rented a boat from Kona Boat Rentals for the day to find out how it works, what it costs and, crucially, is it worth it?

Big day out

We all arrived at the parking lot in front of Kona Boat Rentals at 9am sharp to find that two of our friends couldn’t make it, so the group of 6 was now reduced to 4. We had originally booked a six person boat, but quickly found that while it could easily accommodate 6 people, it was very spacious with just 4. 

After a comprehensive orientation and question and answer session with Eric we were ready to go – some of us more nervous than others, but who could resist the calm inviting waters of the harbor as we gently motored out toward the ocean.

Kona Boat rental 3
Clem and Angus
Kona Boat rental 3a
Leaving the harbor

What to bring

We all packed an assortment of snacks, lunch and plenty of water. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses (reflection off the ocean can be intense), and a sweater – just in case you get chilled.

Each boat comes with the following:

  • GPS & charts of the coast
  • Directions to locations of interest
  • Snorkeling and fishing equipment.
  • Fishing Gear: Penn Rods & Reels, Fishfinder, Lures, Fighting Belt, Leader Gloves, Fish Bat & Gaff
  • Snorkel Gear: Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Boarding Ladder/Swim Step (Scuba gear is available).
  • Each boat also has electronics: Global Positioning Satellite Receiver (GPS), VHF radio, Tri-Beam Fish finder and Depth Gauge.
  • Anchor, mooring & dock lines and fenders. All Coast Guard required and inspected equipment.
  • Detailed Charts with GPS coordinates for over 30 moorings sites located along the Kona Coast.
  • Captains, Guides, and Scuba Instructors are available for hire with 48-hour notice.

     

Kona Boat rental 5
Out in the open ocean!

Heading north

Most boat renters make the decision to head south, in the direction of Kealakekua Bay and the well-known snorkeling hotspot. We decided to venture north towards Makalawena Beach, a white sandy beach just south of Kua Bay (read about our recent hiking trip to Makalawena Beach here).

We had rented the boat for 6 hours, giving us plenty of time to explore the coast, drop anchor somewhere picturesque and have lunch before returning to Kona.

Kona Boat rental 6
Makalawena Beach with Hualalai in the background

After a smooth journey north we dropped the anchor (making sure to drop it into the sand and not the coral reef) and jumped in the water. We were careful not to get too close to shore due to the currents. Snorkeling is also possible in this location and the water is incredibly clear.

Kona from the sea

Kona Boat rental 9

After lunch we still had plenty of ocean-going time on the clock so we headed south past the harbor to Kona, cruising along the waterfront  and enjoying a very different perspective of Old Kona and the downtown area.

Kona Boat rental 8

So far none of us were sea sick – the Kona waters were living up to their reputation for being relatively calm and easy to navigate, and we all took turns at the wheel. There wasn’t time to include a further trip to Kealakekua Bay – we recommend deciding which direction to head and work out your timing based no that. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your return journey.

Back to the harbor

A day spent on the boat went incredibly quickly and it was soon time to head back to the harbor and get used to walking on dry land again! Once we reached the outer buoy near the harbor entrance we called Eric, and by the time we reached the dock he was waiting with the trailer to bring us in. 

Is it worth it?

Hiring a boat won’t be for everyone. The cost of doing so for just a short period of time is relatively expensive. But it is a fantastic experience and a great way to have your very own private tour without the crowds. So if you’re looking for a different way to enjoy the Kona Coast, consider renting a boat for a few hours, or even the day!

Kona Boat Rentals

Kona Boat Rentals is located at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona. They offer full and half-day rentals. The new 21-foot center console boats are large enough for 6 adults and have a bimini top for shade. Don’t worry you’ll be given an orientation prior to sailing, covering everything from boat operations to tips on where you should go. A license is not necessary! And don’t worry, the Kona Coast has some of the calmest and most easily navigable waters in the Pacific.

Cost: 4 hours $425 or 6 hours $555 for the boat we chose – 21 foot, 150 HP. Find out more here.

(This is not a paid promotion for Kona Boat Rentals but we definitely do recommend them!)

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Off the beaten track: Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach is located in Kekaha Kai State Park on the west side of the Big Island. The beach park is located north of Kona and is one of the lesser known and little-visited of the white sand beaches on the island, and is well worth the hike!

Makalawena Beach is nestled in Pu’u Ali’l Bay, between Kua Bay and Mahai’ula Beach. Makalawena means ‘mischievous winds’ and legend has it that the Hawaiian wind goddess Laamaomao irritated the other gods causing them to cut off her nose. The nose is Pu’u Ku’ili – the cinder cone within the state park.

Fun fact: Kekaha Kai derives from the Hawaiian phrase ke kaha kai which means ‘the shore line’.

What to take

Your hiking gear – and sensible shoes (flip flops are not very practical on the rocky trail). Take lots of water and enough (reef-friendly) sunscreen.

How to get there

Take Hwy. 19 north of Kailua-Kona. Access to Mahaiula Bay and Makalawena Beach is between mile markers 90 and 91 on Highway 19, there is a sign on the Highway at the intersection. The lava road is rough so take care, especially if you are driving a regular car and not a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. If your car has low clearance, you may want to walk it. The end of the road is 1.5 miles from the highway entrance. Follow the road until you arrive at a locked gate on the side of the road and park there.

The trail

At the parking lot is the beginning of the first part of the trail. It’s signposted ‘Makalawena Trail”. It’s approximately a 20 minute walk from here to Mahai’ula Beach. Find the trail head to Makalawena Beach at the end of Mahai’ula Beach. Continue on from here until you come to Pu’u Ali’l Bay and Makalawena Beach. The hike is about 2 miles in total.

Makalawena 2a
Mahai'ula Beach
Makalawena 4
Historic home c.1880s
Makalawena 7
Mahai'ula Beach
Makalawena 6
Mahai'ula Beach

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena 11
Makalawena Beach

The white sand beach is perfect for snorkeling and boogie boarding (depending on the time of year – winter brings the better surf). Swimming is great when the water is calm, but stay out of the water if the surf is rough as there isn’t a lifeguard on duty.

Makalawena 10
Makalawena Beach

History

The area around Makalawena Beach is an important Hawaiian site. It used to be a busy fishing village and the nearby Opaeula Pond (opaelua means red shrimp) is a national natural landmark and was used by the Hawaiians as a fishpond.

Makalawena 12
Makalawena Beach

Pu'u Ku'ili

Looking for another hike? Try hiking to the top of the nearby Pu’u Ku’ili cinder cone. Continue to hike north through the park on the historic coastal trail, Ala Kahakai, which leads to Kua Bay. At the midway point hike up the cinder cone (342 feet high) for some great views of the Kona Coast. Alternatively you can drive to Kua Bay and hike south, climb the cinder cone and then walk on to Makalawena Beach.

The beach park is open daily 8am-7pm. During humpback season (November – March) Makalawena Beach can be a great place to watch the humpback whales breaching offshore.

Makalawena is one of the best kept secrets of the Big Island. An easy hike in is worth it for what awaits you –  a classic white sand beach, clear water and fewer people than your average Hawaiian beach!

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Off the beaten track: Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site

Puukohola Heiau Tclf org
Photo credit: tclf.org

Located beside the small port town of Kawaihae, the Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site is an impressive structure. Built in the late 18th century by Kamehameha I, this site is inextricably linked to the founding of the Hawaiian kingdom. Hiking trails and birdwatching make this well-worth a visit.

History

Pu’ukohola Heiau played a critical role in uniting the Hawaiian Islands. Kamehameha I built the temple due to a prophecy from a priest named Kapoukahi. The priest, told Kamehameha that if he constructed a heiau (temple) on the hill called Pu’ukohoā, and dedicated it to the war god, he would then be able to conquer the islands. The temple was originally built by Kamehameha I in 1790-91. Thousands of men worked for almost a year to build the temple. Upon completion of the temple a chief rival was sacrificed to the war god. Kamehameha I then gained control over the Hawaiian Islands. The monarchy he started lasted from 1810 until 1893.

Where is it?

Photo credit: hawaiitribune-herald.com

The Park is located at 62-3601 Kawaihae Road, Kawaihae. The town of Kawaihae is small with only a few shops and places to eat. This area is the driest part of the entire state of Hawai’i – there is less than 10 inches of rain a year here. 

Directions from Kona International Airport:

Take Highway 19 North for 27 miles. Turn left (north) onto Highway 270 (Kawaihae Road) and go 1/2 mile to the Park entrance (on the left side of highway). Turn left off the highway onto the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

Directions from Hilo:

Take Highway 19 North 67 miles. Continue on Highway 270 (Kawaihae Road) to the Park entrance (on the left side of highway). Turn left off the highway on to the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

Directions from North Kohala (Hawi/Kapa’au):

Take Highway 270 South 20 miles to the Park entrance (on the right side of highway). Turn right off the highway on to the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

Arrival of Keoua Below Puʻukoholā by Herb Kane

What to do

Pu'ukohola and Mailekini heiaus
Photo credit: JustyCinMD / flickr.com

Entry to the historic site is free and the visitors center is open 7:30am – 5pm daily. The visitor center contains a museum with some great exhibits, including an amazing traditional koa wood spear display, and a popular rock-lifting display. There are also some original paintings by artist and historian Herb Kane (the museum is due to reopen to the public November 15). There is also a great view of Puʻukoholā Heiau from the visitor center itself.

There are also a number of hiking trails.

  • The Parkʻs loop trail (1/2 mile)
  • From the Park to Mau’umae Beach (about 3/4 mile) along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
  • From the Park to Hāpuna Beach (about 3 miles)

Depending on the time of year the Park is a great place to watch the sea life near the shoreline. In the winter it’s a great place to spot humpback whales, while sometimes black-tipped reef shakes and spinner dolphins can also be seen. Or get to the Park early and enjoy the wide variety of bird life.

Pu'ukohola Heiau 2021
Photo credit: nps.gov
Photo credit: nps.gov

Fun fact: Puʻukohola Heiau is best viewed from Kawaihae Harbor Road in the late afternoon. This aspect, with Mauna Kea in the background, makes for a great photo.

Other sites

Also in the Park are some other historical sites of interest.

  • Mailekini Heiau – this was a temple converted into a fort with mounted guns to protect the port.
  • Hale o Kapuni Heiau (Shark Temple) – submerged just off the shoreline of the Park, this temple was for worshipping the shark god that protected the local area.
  • John Young Homestead – the remains of the home of a British sailor who became stranded on the island and then became an advisor to the King.
  • Pelekane (The Royal Courtyard) – just below the temples is the courtyard where foreign dignitaries were received.

If you’re interested in Hawaiian history a visit to the Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site should be near the top of your list. The majestic structure is a fascinating legacy of Kamehameha I’s reign. While its close proximity to nearby Hāpuna Beach makes it the perfect place to visit before a day at the beach. 

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Top 3 coffee farm tours on the Kona Coast

Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

The Kona Coast is home to a thriving coffee growing industry. The Kona Coffee Belt stretches from the hills above Kona down the coast into South Kona. Learn all about Kona Coffee and how itʻs made! We’ve selected our favorite coffee farms to visit on the Big Island.

Kona Coffee Belt Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: our38ftlife.com

What makes it Kona coffee?

Only coffee grown in the districts of North and South Kona is defined as Kona coffee. The coffee trees grow well on the slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa Mountains, in rich volcanic soil, afternoon cloud cover, and cooler temperatures.

Check the label to be sure it’s 100% Kona coffee. If it’s labeled as Kona blend it means that it contains as little as 10% Kona coffee beans with the rest being a mix of beans from Brazil, Central America, Africa and Indonesia.

How does the coffee process work?

Kona coffee is picked by hand, then pulped, dried and hulled. The beans are then dried and roasted. The key to good coffee is perfecting the art of roasting. After roasting is when oxidation begins and the coffee is at its freshest.

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Photo credit: heavenlyhawaiian.com

1. Heavenly Hawaiian Farms

Located 20 minutes from downtown Kona, Dave & Trudy Bateman have been operating their coffee farm since 2005. Take the tour, and enjoy a free sampling of their coffee, or enjoy a coffee in their very own coffee bar on the property – the first farm side coffee bar in Kona!

The Tour

Monday – Saturday, every hour from 9am – 4pm. All Ages. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm.

Tour Length: 1 hour

Cost: $6 each

Heavenly Hawaiian Farms

78-1136 Bishop Rd.
Holualoa, HI 96725

(808) 322 7720

https://heavenlyhawaiian.com

Heavenly Hawaiian
Photo credit: our38ftlife.com
gw-view-of-farm
Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

2. Greenwell Farms

The Greenwell Family has a rich history of farming and ranching in Hawaii dating back to the 1850s. Greenwell Farms is also renowned for Kona Coffee. Spread over 80 acres, the coffee farm is one the biggest on the island.

Greenwell Farms has a free 45 minute guided tour, daily from 9–3pm. The tour includes a sampling of Kona Coffee. Private and group tours are also available. The farm is located 25 minutes south of Kona.

No reservations are required for these tours. Make sure you arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of the tour.

The Tour

Farm Tours: 9am – 3pm 
(last tour departs at 3pm)

Tour Length: 45 minutes

Cost: Free

Greenwell Farms

81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway
Kealakekua, Hawaii 96750

(808) 323-9616

https://www.greenwellfarms.com

free_farm_tour
Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com
hula-daddy-kona-coffe-beans
Photo credit: inspiredimperfection.com

5. Hula Daddy Kona Coffee

Lee and Karen Paterson have been running Hula Daddy since 2002. Take the private 1 hour tour with coffee tasting or book a private group tour. Visit the orchard and the roasting room. Hula Daddy coffee comes very highly rated by coffeereview.com.

The Tour

Open: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Hours: 10am to 1pm (except for major holidays)

Closed: Monday, Friday and weekends. Minimum of 2 people to book a tour. 

Tour Length: 60 minutes

Cost: $20 each

Hula Daddy
74-4944 Mamalahoa Hwy
Holualoa, HI 96725

(808) 327-9744

huladaddy.com

hoodie-logo-250x250-circle
Photo credit: huladaddy.com

There is nowhere better to enjoy coffee in Hawaii than the heart of the Kona coffee belt. So if you’re a coffee addict then be sure to make time to visit one of the many coffee farms along the coast and enjoy the unique taste of 100% Kona coffee.

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What you don’t know about Green Sand Beach

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Photo credit: explore-the-big-island.com

Green Sand beach is one of the must-see attractions on the Big Island. The beach consists of green crystals, known as olivine, mixed with black and white sand, which give the beach the green tinge it’s well-known for. A trip to Green Sand beach makes a great day trip from Kona, or Hilo. We’ve got all the details on how to make your trip to this amazing beach a memorable one.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Photo credit: explore-the-big-island.com

About the beach

Green Sand Beach in Hawaiʻi is one of only two Green Sand beaches in the US (the other is in Guam). The beach is part of a bay carved into the side of Pu’u Mahana, a cinder cone which first erupted over 50,000 years ago. The lava flows were heavily concentrated with olivine (a heavy green silicate) and were not easily washed out to sea (hence their presence on the beach). Over time the cone has degraded causing more olivine to move onto the beach.

Note: The beach itself is not patroled by a lifeguard and the currents can be unpredictable.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Olivine. Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

History

Nearby Ka Lae, Hawaiian for South Point, is thought to be the original landing point of the first Polynesians that arrived in Hawaiʻi from Tahiti. Ruins of an ancient Hawaiian temple can be found in the area.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Remnants of a Hawaiian temple at Ka Lae near the Green Sand Beach. Photo credit: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

When to go

As with a number of attractions on the Big Island (and throughout the Hawaiian Islands) the earlier you go, the better your experience will be – fewer people and cooler temperatures. The hike to the beach can be hot and windy so make sure you have enough water, adequate sun protection (shade is limited to non-existent), and sensible walking shoes. Be aware, you’ll need to take your trash with you – it helps to take your own trash bag!

Help preserve the natural environment – don’t take the green sand home with you, it belongs in Hawaiʻi.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislandhikes.com

How to get there

Green Sand beach (also known as Papakōlea beach) is accessed by taking Highway 11 and then turning off at the road to South Point (between mile markers 69 and 70). Drive down the road until you reach the end. You’ll find a parking lot on the left hand side.

From the parking lot, hike toward the ocean and turn left. Follow the road which runs parallel to the beach for approximately 2.5 miles. The road ends above the bay. Navigate the lava cliff carefully on your way down to the beach.

Green Sand Beach Hawaii
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

What not to do

It’s important to respect the land adjacent to the beach as well as the beach itself. The Department of Hawaiian Homelands owns the land and actually does not permit access via vehicle to the beach (those offering rides to the beach are violating this mandate). Please be aware that your car rental agreement will not allow you to drive on the road to Green Sand beach – please don’t drive any further than the parking lot (the hike is well worth it!).

Be part of helping to preserve the natural Hawaiian environment when you visit Papakōlea beach!

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Kona’s secret garden: the Makaʻeo Walking Path

Looking for a short hike in Kona? Why not try the Makaʻeo Walking Path. Located within the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area beside the beach, this trail is an easy hike through some colorful Hawaiian flora.

The loop path itself is less than a mile long and part of the trail has been paved. The garden itself is maintained by the local community and features a wide variety of plants – from natives to unique succulents.

Fun fact: Makaʻeo means “point of the piercing eye” and was named after the nearby point.

Makaʻeo Walking Path Kona Hawaii

The Old Airport

The Old Kona Airport was originally built in 1947. By the 1960s it was apparent that a new airport was needed as Boeing 707s and DC-8s were not able to take off on such a short runway. The new Kona International Airport was built at Keahole Point in 1970 and by 1976  the old airport was converted into a state park.

Fun fact: Walk the loop 3 times and you’ll have walked 2 miles!

Old Kona Bay

Directly opposite the garden, across the old airport runway landing strip, is a long sandy beach. There are plenty of picnic tables on the main part of the beach, or you can try the more private beach cove at the far end of the runway.

Local community support

After its conversion, the State in conjunction with the local community worked together to turn the area into multi-use path and garden space. The Kona Farm Bureau began a planting program at the north end of the proposed path, while the Kona Outdoor Circle oversaw the planting of larger trees and a grassed area.

Eventually other local community organizations became involved with the garden, including the Friends for Fitness. Facilities such as an outdoor workout space (including a chin-up bar, balance bars and stretching post) and drinking fountain were added. Members of the Friends have taken responsibility for different sections of the garden. Look out for volunteers working in the garden on Thursday mornings.

It isn’t just the Friends for Fitness who are involved with the garden. Under the Adopt-A-Park Program, members of the community, whether individuals or businesses, can take responsibility for a part of the garden. This community approach to the garden makes room for a wide variety of spaces including a Japanese garden, a Thai pavilion house and a number of sculptures.

Where? Makaʻeo Walking Path – 755560 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona

Take a tour amongst the fragrant plumeria in this unique seaside community botanical garden.

South Kona restaurants: the 5 best places to eat in 2021

Like most of the country the pandemic has caused a number of restaurants on the Big Island to close – some permanently and others just temporarily. Our up-to-date guide for summer 2021 profiles the best of what’s open again in South Kona. From Kainaliu to Captain Cook, these eateries are great places to enjoy a meal along the picturesque Mamalahoa Highway. Whether it’s pizza, tacos, fried fish, burgers or coffee and a sandwich at sunset, it’s all on the Kona Coast.

1. The Coffee Shack

There’s no place better to sit and have a coffee than The Coffee Shack. With a panoramic view over the Kona Coast (26 miles of uninterrupted horizon line) it’s the perfect pit stop on your way to or from Kona. The Coffee Shack serves its very own coffee grown on the slopes below the restaurant, where 85 year old coffee trees produce Kahauloa Estate Coffee.

Menu highlights include the Pan Sautéed Ono Fish sandwich, the Papaya Special (Half Papaya filled with mixed fruit, lilikoi yogurt & coconut, served with two scrambled eggs with cheese, and coconut pound cake). And don’t forget the French Toast (made with homemade Luau Bread and sprinkled with powdered sugar) or the Kona Lime Pie!

Open Thursday through Monday, 7am to sunset. Closed Tuesday & Wednesday

83-5799 Mamalahoa Hwy,
Captain Cook, HI 96704

808-328-9555

https://www.coffeeshack.com

Drive time from Horizon: 15 mins (8.8 miles)

2. Black Rock Pizza

Newly established, Black Rock Pizza has quickly become a popular eatery with both locals and tourists. Pizzas are made with fresh artisan dough (made daily) and gourmet sauces. Dine in or take out, they have a large menu of pizzas and salads, along with local craft beer on tap.

Menu highlights include the Local Boy pizza (Kalua Pork, Ham, Bacon, Red Onions, Mushrooms, Topped w/Smoked Mozzarella) and the Mexican (Refried Bean Base, Mozzarella, Seasoned Taco Meat, Red Onions, Black Olives, Topped with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Cold Tomato, crushed Crunchy Tortilla and a Spicy Sour Cream Drizzle).

Open Monday through Thursday 11 – 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11-9pm and Sunday 10-8pm

82-6127 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

808-731-6162

https://blackrock.pizza

Drive time from Horizon: 18 mins (10.3 miles)

3. Shaka Tacoz

Shaka Tacoz has quickly become the best place to get the tastiest tacos on the Big Island. You can’t miss the big blue sign right on the highway in Captain Cook. Order at the food truck and then eat inside with a great view out over the ocean. The perfect place for a quick stop when the hunger pains hit after a day of snorkeling or relaxing at the beach!

Menu highlights include everything taco! Choose from pork, chicken, beef, veggie or fish. All tacos are served with onion, cilantro, cheese, lettuce, pickled onion, Shaka sauce, and lime crema.

Open Sunday through Thursday 11-8pm and Friday and Saturday 11-9pm

82-6167 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

(808) 896-7706

https://shakatacoz.com

Drive time from Horizon: 18 mins (10.5 miles)

4. Rebel Kitchen

Rebel Kitchen prides itself on fresh flavors, local ingredients and their very own hot sauce! Hawaiian-inspired burgers and sandwiches are served along with salads. The menu is sourced as much as possible from local farmers, butchers and fishermen.

Menu highlights include the Blackened Ono sandwich, the Rebel Burger (made with Big Island grass fed meat) and the Thai Steak salad. And don’t forget to try their amazing sauces – Kona Ketchup, Hawaiian Fire Sauce and Mauka Mustard (also available to purchase in-store or online).

Open Tuesday through Saturday 11-8pm. Closed Monday & Tuesday.

79-7399 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750

808-322-0616

https://rebelkitchen.com

Drive time from Horizon: 24 mins (13.8 miles)

5. Teshima’s Restaurant

This Big Island institution is still going strong. Originally a family-owned store, this eatery has been operating as a Japanese/Hawaiian fusion restaurant since 1957. Specialties include shrimp tempura and sukiyaki.

Menu highlights include the Japanese breakfast (fried fish, egg, fish cake and Japanese tea), sukiyaki (thin slices of meat, tofu, and vegetables cooked in soy sauce and sugar) and “Kona Up-Country” Chop Steak! Drop in and find out why Teshima’s continues to be a local favorite.

Open Monday through Sunday – 7-2pm for breakfast and lunch and 5-9pm for dinner.

79-7251 Mamalahoa Hwy
Kealakekua, HI 96750

808-322-9140

https://www.teshimarestaurant.com

Drive time from Horizon: 25 mins (14.5 miles)

All these great restaurants are just a short drive from Horizon Guest House and located along the stunning South Kona Coast section of Mamalahoa Highway. 

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The Big Island Cycling Experience

Cycling the Big Island is a great way to see the island and connect with its unique natural environment. One of the best ways to do this is with a customized biking tour of the island with Lifecycle Adventures who specialize in custom cycling vacations.

Lifecycle offers either self-guided tours, which give you the flexibility of determining your own route and schedule with support in the background, or fully guided tours with on-hand full-time support.

How does it work?

Choose when you want to start and the duration of your tour, as well as the type of accommodation that suits your needs (budget, classic or luxury).

1. Self-guided tour

The self-guided tour focuses on the northern and the western parts of the Big Island. This package includes a transfer from Kona, bicycle setup, followed by an outline of the route by your guide.

2. Private Guided Tour

A private guided tour means you’ll have a local guide and a dedicated support vehicle. Along with GPS units and maps, your guide will take care of all the details of the tour from advice on the route to washing your bottles!

Both types of tours include luggage transferred between accommodations, and transfers back to Kona at the conclusion of your trip.

Customizable itinerary

Day 1: Waikoloa to Honoka’a

Day 2: Honoka’a Loop Day

Day 3: Honoka’a to Hawi

Day 4: Hawi to Captain Cook

Day 5: Captain Cook Loop Day

Day 6: Captain Cook to Kailua-Kona

This route suits all riders from beginners to experienced. Choose from hybrid bikes (a cross between a moutain bike and a road bike), a road bike, a premium road bike (light and fast racing bikes), or an eBike. You can even organize to bring your own bike to the island!

South Kona and Horizon Guest House

What does an average day on tour look like?

Day 4: The Hawi to Captain Cook Leg

Head to the Kona coffee district and take in the expansive sea views of the South Kona coast as you cycle south.

You determine what type of cycle ride you want to attempt. 

Choose Leisure and you’ll start above Kona at Holualoa and sail down to Captain Cook on the downhill. Opt for Intermediate, and you’ll start just north of Kailua-Kona and end your day in Captain Cook. Looking for something more? Try the Challenge option and cycle from Waikoloa Village to Captain Cook over a distance of 75 miles, or boost it further with the Epic option and cycle the entirety of Hawi to Captain Cook. Note – where you choose to stay will affect the overall distance of your route.

Day 5: Captain Cook Loops

Choose from a variety of local rides to explore the area. An easy cycle ride to Kealakekua Bay, or an intermediate ride to Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park).

Horizon Guest House has been an established Lifecycle Adventures accommodation partner for many years. Choose Horizon Guest House for your stay in Captain Cook and end your day of cycling at Horizon with a sunset soak in the hot tub, and a restful sleep in one of our comfortable private suites.

Your guides

3-Cycle-tour-arrival-Horizon-Guest-House-Hawaii-768x576
Bruno at Horizon Guest House

Bruno & Gabi will be your Big Island guides. Residents since 2011, they are passionate about cycling and the Big Island. 

Cycling and COVID

Lifecycle has taken all necessary steps to protect your health. By it’s very nature the private tour means you won’t be exposed to strangers on your tour and all guides wear masks and adhere to social distancing. Bicycles and equipment undergo regular sanitation between guests and all accommodations have been pre-screened to ensure they follow COVID precautions.

For your peace of mind Lifecycle has modified its cancellation policy to be more flexible due to ongoing changes related to COVID measures. Please check here for more details.

Traversing the Big Island by bicycle is a great way to view the island up close. Build your own tour and enjoy your vacation with the knowledge that you have on-call support and a place to relax at the end of the day. Find out more about Lifecycle Adventures.

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The Art of Hawaiian Rock Wall Construction

Ancient Hawaiians were prolific when it came to building walls. Remains of these ancient rock walls date back to the 12th century, and can be found in places like Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) as well as along highways and in commercial and residential areas.

Kona Rock Wall Hawaii
Kona

The Big Island has a plentiful supply of lava rock, making it the perfect place for residents to build a rock wall. Hawaiian blue rock is the staple for use in creating the walls, and although they can be created using the dry stacking method (see below) most are constructed using a mix of cement and sand in order to hold the rocks together. Placing the rocks is like building the perfect jigsaw, and it’s a skill that takes stone masons years to perfect.

Entrance to Horizon Guest House

Not just walls

There are two main types of rock walls. Moss rock walls and blue rock walls. Moss rocks have a particular rugged, aged appearance and often come in different color tones, giving the wall an interesting patchwork aspect. The Hawaiian blue rock is so-named for its natural blue color. Other types of lava rock include a’a lava, and pahoehoe lava. Lava rock can be used to build retaining walls, terraces, garden paths, driveways – the list is endless. The interior of rock walls are usually filled with rubble. The top of a rock wall is either finished with cement or flat pieces of lava rock are found and fitted together to form an even, flat finish.

Horizon Guest House Rock Wall Hawaii
Horizon Guest House

Ancient Hawaiians

Walls that have been created using the dry stacking technique litter the Big Island. They run across ranch land, form the remains of important ancient Hawaiian cultural sites and remind residents and visitors of the skill of ancient Hawaiian stone masons.

Dry stacking or uhau humu pohaku (pohaku means rock) is to make a construction without any mortar or joinery. Dry stacking requires a high degree of skill as the rocks must be fitted in such a way that they lock together like a series of interlocking teeth.

Dry stacking, as it’s practiced today, involves setting foundation rocks into the ground at a depth of about half a foot. The exterior of the wall is created by stacking the rocks on either side while filling in the center with smaller stones. All of these rocks are wedged together without any assistance from cement.

Place of Refuge
Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) (Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov)

The Great Wall

Place of Refuge is the site of the Great Wall, or Pā Puʻuhonua. This wall stretches along the eastern and southern sides of the puʻuhonua, the ancient site where Hawaiians who broke the law could avoid almost-certain death by seeking refuge within the walled space. The wall itself is about 12 feet in height and 18 feet wide, with a length of almost 1000 feet!

9-Top-of-South-Wall
Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) (Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov)

The wall served to protect the ancient Hawaiians within the area from the outside world. The wall is especially notable for it’s evidence of two dry stacking techniques. The first is paʻo (caverned), a technique involving laying lava slabs on top of columns. Evidence of this technique has not been discovered anywhere else in Hawaii. The second is the classic haka haka construction technique in which stone rubble is used to fill the interior space between the two outer walls.

Rock wall construction has a strong tradition in the Hawaiian Islands and continues to remain a popular choice for walls and gardens. Get up close to an awe-inspiring example of an ancient Hawaiian rock wall with a visit to Place of Refuge on the Kona Coast.

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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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