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.

100_Kona_Coffee_Heavenly_Hawaiian_2
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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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

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.

Parking

Parking is available only within the beach park area. Please note: respect the residents – do not park alongside the roadway, or in anyway that might block the one lane road from the top of the hill down to the beach, or prevent access to nearby residential homes, properties, or cause damage to exposed water lines (that supply water to residents). 

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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