What to do in South Kona: Our top 5 attractions

South Kona has a charm of its own. We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 attractions so you can find out what makes this part of the island so special!

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Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: West Hawaii Today

South Kona is famous for its coffee plantations, spectacular snorkeling, one of the best ancient Hawaiian historic sites, and its arts community. Make sure you get your snorkeling in early – the light is better first thing, and you’ll beat the crowds, especially at popular snorkeling spot, Two Step. Later, head to a coffee farm, like Greenwell Farms, to find out how coffee is produced, shop locally in Kainaliu Town, or just relax by Kealakekua Bay or at a favorite local beach – Hoʻokena Beach Park.

1. Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge) & Two Step

royal-grounds
Royal Grounds. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

This well-preserved historic site is one of the best in the state. The park covers 420 acres and was once a safe haven for those seeking redemption for crimes or the breaking of certain taboos. Once they reached the boundary of Place of Refuge they were safe! The wall still stands and is awe-inspiring.

There’s lots to see at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau but if you’re stretched for time we’ve picked the highlights:

  1. The Great Wall – the wall measures 12 feet tall, 18 feet wide and over 950 feet long. Over 400 years old, the wall is constructed entirely using the dry-set masonry method (uhau humu pohaku) in which are stones fitted together without mortar. 
  2. Hale o Keawe – the main temple housing the bones of the 23 ali’i (chiefs). The temple is only able to be viewed from the outside, but it’s worth an up close visit to appreciate its mana.
  3. Pu’uhonua – take a walk past the Great Wall and into the Pu’uhonua itself. 
  4. Keone’ele – this sheltered cove in the Royal Grounds was only for the ali’i to land their canoes. Look out for turtles here, but make sure to keep a safe distance. 

For more information check out our in-depth blog post on the park here.

NPS Walsh
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

Two Step

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Located just next door to Place of Refuge, is the amazing snorkeling spot known locally as Two Step. Two naturally-formed lava steps make entry into the water incredibly easy (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and not a lot of sand, but the snorkeling is easy, the currents non-existent and the parking is free. It can get busy here, so either try for first thing in the morning, or toward the end of the day. Alternatively, park in the national park next door and walk around to the bay (it’s an easy 5 minute walk).

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

2. Kealakekua Bay

Fair Wind Kealakakua Bay
Photo credit: fair-wind.com

The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to beautiful coral and an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are commonly seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and to sleep.

On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities. 

On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.

There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This means you can kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s monument).

Kealakekua Bay
Yellow Tang. Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com
Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument Trail. Photo credit: Lang Parker

3. Greenwell Farms

Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

Don’t miss out on the internationally famous Kona coffee! We always recommend Greenwell Farms if you’re looking to visit a local coffee producer (and there are many!). The Greenwell Family were crucial in the production of the very first commercial coffee in Kona. Take one of their frequent tours around the property (the tour lasts between 45-60 minutes) and then sample some free coffee afterwards. The gift shop is the perfect place to stock up on Kona coffee or take some back home as a gift. 

No reservations are needed for a tour. The farm is open daily for tours (9am-3pm).

For more details https://www.greenwellfarms.com

Greenwell Farms Hawaii
Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

4. Kainaliu Town

Kainaliu Town Hawaii
Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: thisldu.com

Kainaliu Town is the first town you’ll come across when you head south from Kailua-Kona. It consists of a small stretch of both old stores, that have storied histories, and the new – including clothing boutiques and galleries. The Aloha Theatre is also located in Kainaliu, so keep a lookout for their regular productions and you might be able to catch a show. Stop for a bite to eat at Rebel Kitchen, a local institution. Stretch your legs in Kainaliu and get a feel for small-town Hawaii!

Aloha Theatre Kainaliu
Aloha Theatre. Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

5. Hoʻokena Beach Park

The Hoʻokena Beach Park is located at the end of a 2.5 mile road that winds through classic Hawaiian ranch country. This coastal settlement has quite a history. In its heyday it used to be a bustling port town for steamships. It had its own post office as well as a number of stores. 

The beach park itself is now managed by a non-profit and is a local favorite. The sand is a mix of dark brown and gray, and a stretch of cliffs line one side of the beach. Swimming and snorkeling are both easy to do here. Facilities include showers and toilets. You can even camp nearby. Find out more on our blog post about the beach park here.

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: Millennium Falcon 75192

In the first of a series highlighting Horizon Guest House’s LEGO Star Wars collection, we take a look at one of the most spectacular LEGO Star Wars builds – the Millennium Falcon 75192.

The LEGO Millennium Falcon is one of the largest LEGO models with 7541 pieces. This model was originally released in October, 2017. The model itself includes all the details that have made the Corellian freighter so beloved by Star Wars fans. There’s plenty of amazing exterior detailing, cannons on both the upper and lower parts of the ship, 7 landing legs, a boarding ramp that lowers, and a cockpit with space for 4 minifigures.

There are removable hull plates that showcase a number of interior spaces, including the main hold, rear compartment and also the gunnery station.

Interchangeable sensor dishes allow you to keep the design true to the classic movies with Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO, or modify it to reflect the design of the ship as it was in Episodes VII and VIII with (older) Han, Rey, Finn and BB-8.

Figures include: the classic crew of Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and C-3PO. Additional figures include, (older) Han, Rey and Finn. There is also BB-8, two Porgs and a Mynock.

Main hold: contains a seating area, Dejarik holographic game, combat remote training helmet and engineering station.

Lego Millennium Falcon

Rear compartment: contains the engine room with hyperdrive, hidden floor compartment, two escape pod hatches and an access ladder to the gunnery station.

Lego Millennium Falcon
Star Wars Lego Display in Horizon's library

Gunnery station: contains a gunner’s seat and a detachable hull panel with rotating laser cannon. Another laser cannon is located on the underside of the ship.

The model measures over 8” (21cm) high, 33” (84cm) long and 23” (60cm) wide.

Modifications

A light and sound kit, available from Brickstuff, was added to the model to enhance the overall display.

The kit is remote controlled and includes the following features:

  • Laser cannon lights and sound effects (both top and bottom cannons)
  • Mandible and side lights
  • Rear engine lights and landing lights
  • Magnet controlled ramp and lights
  • Motorized boarding ramp
  • Cockpit control panel lights
  • Circular Pulsing Hyperdrive light
  • Corridor lights and internal flashing lights

Check out the videos for the full demonstration!

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of a week and spent 3 to 4 hours a day putting it together. This was easily one of the more enjoyable builds as there was not a lot of repetition in the build process (apart from the landing legs) and it was a constant surprise to realize how large the Falcon was going to be as I built it.

The interior spaces were also a lot of fun to construct. The cockpit fits 4 minifigures snugly.

Installing the light and sound kit was a two-day process and required a good deal of patience when threading the wires throughout the ship. However, the instructions from BrickStuff were straightforward and it was just a matter of following each step carefully, making sure to use the correct wire with each stage and insert the plugs in the correct direction. Installing the motorized boarding ramp took a lot longer than anticipated.

Lego Millennium Falcon

The kit was missing the small magnet which triggers the light to come on when the ramp is lowered. I improvised with a magnet I found in the garage and this worked fine. Adjusting the motorized mechanism to open and close the ramp to the right degree was the most time-consuming aspect. This meant a lot of testing to get it to close fully and open all the way down. Once it was complete the light and sound features added a huge amount of life to the overall display of the Millennium Falcon. Definitely worth it if you have already splashed out on the Falcon!

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed, these include:

USC AT-AT 75313

Ewok Village 10238

Tantive IV corridor diorama (custom build)

Look for these in the coming months!

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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Horizon Guest House: How it all began

HGH 1997
c. 1997

Horizon Guest House began as a vision Clem had as to what would make the most dynamic and functional bed and breakfast. The idea was that it would be purpose built as a B&B, in which form followed function.

The land in South Kona was acquired from McCandless Ranch in 1994. The 40 acre parcel was originally a coffee lot. The coffee growing had been abandoned prior to WWII and the land eventually reverted to forest, similar to that of the surrounding ranch.

HGH 1997
c. 1997

Clem began the process of clearing the land in 1994. It took 3 months of bulldozing before the land was ready for construction to begin. A warehouse with an enclosed apartment was built first and this was where Clem lived during the design and construction phases of the main house and adjacent suites.

HGH 1997
c. 1997

Clem researched B&Bs for two years prior to designing and building. The most important lesson he learned during this time was that the average rate of burnout for B&B owners was 5-7 years. This was caused by two main factors. The first, that there was not enough privacy for either guests or the hosts, and the second, that it was never ideal to be reliant on the B&B as the sole source of income. Both of these factors inevitably led to a high rate of stress and eventual burnout for B&B owners.

HGH 1997
c. 1997
HGH 1997
c. 1997

Actual construction began in January 1997 and took less than 6 months to finish. The B&B opened officially in September 1998.

HGH 1997
c. 1997
HGH 1997
c. 1997
HGH 1997
c. 1997

Design Elements

The main house was built with the view and privacy as the main considerations. The view was divided into 4 quadrants. The northwest and southwest having the most desirable aspects, followed by the southeast and southwest. The pool was built at a different elevation in order to ensure that views remained unobstructed.

HGH 1997
c. 1997
HGH 1997
c. 1997

Other features included:

  • Custom-made 10 ft. sliding glass doors.
  • Built at grade unlike most houses in Hawaii. The roof and floors are both concrete construction.
  • The house and suites are insulated for sound and the individual suites are staggered to ensure privacy.
HGH 1998
c. 1998
HGH 1998
c. 1998

All suites have amazing views of the Kona Coast and their own private lanai. Click here for rates and here to book now.

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What happened to the sugar? The history of the sugar industry on the Big Island of Hawaii

Hamakua Coast Sugar
Photo credit: hawaiilife.com

Wild sugar cane still grows on the Big Island but the sugar industry was once a big part of the state’s economy, supplying sugar to the mainland and employing large numbers of people.

History

The first sugar mill in the state was built on Lanai in 1802 and the first sugar plantation was established a year later. By the American Civil War the demand for sugar was high. The industry was controlled by five main companies – C. Brewer & Co., Theo H. Davies & Co., Amfac, Castle & Cooke and Alexander & Baldwin. People were brought in to work on the new sugar plantations from a number of different countries including China, Japan, Korea, Portugal and the Philippines.

Hawaii sugar plantation
Sugar cane. Photo credit: hawaiiplantationmuseum.org

But it was the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 between the US and the Kingdom of Hawaii that allowed Hawaii unconditional access to the US market and further fueled the booming sugar economy in the islands. Import tariffs were removed and what had previously been small scale sugar production now exploded. By the end of the 19th century hand milling was replaced by mechanical milling. The raw sugar was then shipped to the California & Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corporation on the mainland.

Sugar on the Kona Coast

The first sugar plantation in Kona was built by Judge C.F. Hart in 1869. By the beginning of the 20th century sugar was seen as a lucrative opportunity in the islands and Kona was no exception. At one point a railway line extending over 10 miles was built to bring sugar cane to a mill near Kona. The Kona Sugar Company was established in 1899, and the first sugar mill built above Kailua-Kona village a few years later.

Kona Sugar Plantation
The Kona Sugar Company mill. Photo credit: konahistorical.org

Sugar cane grew well at the 500 ft. elevation but the requirement for large volumes of fresh water meant it needed to be located near the Wai’aha Stream. The stream would eventually prove unable to provide the amount of water needed by the mill throughout the year and the company went broke in 1903. Over the next two decades other investors tried their luck with the mill but by 1926 producing sugar on the Kona Coast was no longer viable and the mill closed.

Interested in seeing the remnants of the sugar industry? The remains of the old sugar mill can be seen from the top of Nani Kailua and Aloha Kona neighborhoods. Along Hualalai Road, near the intersection with Hienaloli Road, large stone embankments are still visible, all built by hand for the railroad bed. The abandoned stone trestle of the railroad can also be seen in this area. The railbed itself can even be hiked!

Kona Sugar Mill ruins
Remnants of the old Sugar Mill in Kona. Photo credit: Donnie MacGowan
Kona Sugar Mill ruins
Abandoned stone trestle of the railroad. Photo credit: Donnie MacGowan

Sugar on the Hamakua Coast

The Hamakua Coast was perfect for the production of sugar cane. The area’s climate meant sugar cane could flourish without intensive irrigation. Large tracts of land were cleared in order to plant the sugar cane and it was often the native forest that was used as fuel for the sugar mills. Honoka’a and Laupahoehoe sprung up around the newly created sugar mills and plantations.

Along with the sugar cane plantations came great infrastructure investment. The Hilo Railroad Company laid railroad tracks at huge expense. There were over 3,000 feet of tunnels and it was this cost that eventually bankrupted the company.

3 Sugar-Cane Hawaii
Sugar cane. Photo credit: pandaonline.com

There was declining demand for sugar during the Depression in the 1930s but a spike in demand did occur briefly in the 1940s. The very end of the sugar industry in the area came after the tsunami in 1946. The wave effectively destroyed the railroad and marked the end of the industry.

Once used for sugarcane production, the land is now utilized by other agricultural products, such as macadamia nuts and tropical flowers.

Recent past

Sugar production continued on the other islands and as recently as 1980 there were 14 plantations and over 500 independent sugar growers throughout the state, producing a total of about 1 million tonnes of raw sugar each year. At this time the state of Hawaii was supplying roughly 10% of the sugar consumed by the United States.

The last sugar mill – Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company's Pu'unene mill on Maui. Photo credit: Joanna Orpia

By the 90s much of the sugar production had ceased as sugar became cheaper to produce elsewhere. Ka’u Sugar, the last on the Big Island, closed its doors in 1996. The last sugar operation in the state finally closed in 2016 on Maui.

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Shave Ice on the Big Island of Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines Shave Ice
Photo credit: Hawaiian Airlines

The 100% Hawaiian frozen treat has become an iconic part of life in the islands. It’s a simple recipe – super finely shaved ice, drizzled with a selection of rainbow-colored syrups. And don’t forget, it’s shave ice (no ‘d’ required)!

History

Shave ice can be traced back to the original Japanese immigrants who arrived in the Islands to work on the sugar and pineapple plantations in the mid-1800s. They would shave flakes off large blocks of ice and then coat the ice with sugar or fruit juice (shaved ice became shave ice in pidgin).

Eventually shave ice was sold in general stores, including one of the first shave ice stores, Matsumoto’s Shave Ice, which opened in 1951.

Photo credit: Anuenue Shave Ice Big Island Hawaii @moonlitmermaid

The recipe

What makes Hawaiian shave ice so distinctive? Unlike it’s mainland equivalent – snow cones – shave ice is made with finely shaved ice, not crushed ice. This makes for a light, almost snow-like powder, perfect for dousing with syrups! From there the ice is shaped into either a cup or a cone, and drizzled with syrup. 

The extras

Shave ice can also be upgraded with plenty of toppings or extras. These can include, Azuki beans (a red bean and sugar mixture) placed in the bottom of the cup, a scoop of ice cream in the center of the shave ice, mochi balls, fresh fruit or even a topping of sweetened condensed milk.

Where to go on the Big Island

Original Big Island Shave Ice

1. Original Big Island Shave Ice

69-250 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa, HI 
(808) 895-6069
Tuesday – Sunday 11:30am – 6:30pm

Original Big Island Shave Ice Co. takes pride in serving some of the best shave ice on the island since 1957. They use homemade natural syrup recipes and also have a selection of delicious, local-favorite toppings. 

2. Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice

61-3665 Akoni Pule Hwy, Kawaihae Shopping Ctr, Kamuela, HI 
(808) 882-1109
11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Located in the northern part of the island, Anuenue Ice Cream & Shave Ice has been voted best shave ice on the Big Island for five years in a row. This little store has a great selection of flavors.

3. Scandinavian Shave Ice

75-5699 Alii Dr, Kailua Kona, Hawaii, on the corner of Alii Dr. and Likana Lane.
(808) 326-2522
Open Monday – Saturday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sundays 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Known as Scandi to the locals, this iconic store has been serving shave ice since the early 90s. Choose from 65 flavors, ice cream or frozen yoghurt in the middle (ice cream is our favorite!) and enjoy your shave ice as you stroll along the picturesque waterfront.

4. Kula Shave Ice

57 Mamo St, Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 464-4821
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Kula Shave Ice serves the best shave ice in Hilo, with syrups made in-house from scratch, using the highest quality ingredients and plenty of love and aloha. They also serve organic cold brew coffee, tea, açaí bowls, ice cream, and Waipio Valley Poi!

5. One Aloha Shave Ice

75-5711 Kuakini Hwy Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
(808) 327-1717
11:00 am- 6:30 pm

Open since 2015, One Aloha Shave Ice make homemade shave ice syrups lightly sweetened with certified organic cane sugar and organic and local no spray fruits. Voted Best of West Hawaii for 2016 and 2017!

Photo credit: saltandwind.com

Treat yourself! Try one of Hawaii’s signature treats when you’re on the Big Island. Guaranteed to keep you cool on a hot Hawaiian day. 

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Hawaii Island’s Most Endangered Bird: The Palila

Palila Hawaii Judd Patterson
Photo credit: Judd Patterson via birdsinfocus.com

The palila is one of the largest living Hawaiian honeycreepers and one of the rarest. At one time these colorful birds lived on Oahʻu and Kauaʻi but amazingly they are now only found on very small area of land on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea.

Unique honeycreeper

The palila has a distinctive coloring, with a golden yellow head and breast, and a gray back. The wings of the bird are olive-green. The palila grows to approximately six inches in length. Its diet consists almost entirely of māmane tree seeds, supplemented with naio berries, fruits, caterpillars and moths. 

Palila Hawaii Hawaii.gov
Photo credit: hawaii.gov

History

The palila has been in the Hawaiian Islands for over 100,000 years. However, of the original 16 finch-billed honeycreepers in the Hawaiian Islands all are now extinct except the palila. 

Honeycreepers are particular bird species that have a heavy, seed-eating bill like that of the palila.

Palila Mural Hilo
Mural of Palila in Hilo

This mural (9ft x 12ft) was painted by Hilo artist Kathleen Kam, based on a photo by Big Island photographer Jack Jeffrey. 

Limited habitat

The palila is dependent on the māmane tree for its food source (it uses its hooked bill to open the seed pod) and also for its habitat. Unfortunately, this has created a huge problem for the palila. Because the māmane tree, which once grew throughout the islands, only grows at a 6,000 ft location on the slopes of Mauna Kea, the palila’s habitat has been greatly reduced. If there is a drought the palila may not try to breed since they depend so entirely on a good crop of seed pods from the trees.

Their habitat zone is now a 25 square mile area. The last count of the birds totaled 1,000, which was the lowest count in 20 years. 

What caused population decline?

In the past 200 years introduced species such as sheep, goats and cattle have destroyed a lot of the māmane forest that existed in the islands. Feral cats and rats have also had an impact on palila eggs and their vulnerable young. Introduced plants often replace areas that were once dominated by māmane, especially after fire or periods of drought caused by climate change.

Palila Painting Pamela Thomas
'The Endangered Ones' by Pamela Colton Thomas

Conservation efforts

A number of strategies are being employed to try and save the endangered palila.

  • A 6ft fence around Mauna Kea to stop sheep and goats from gaining access to the Palila Critical Habitat zone and causing damage to māmane trees.
  • All sheep are being removed from the Palila Critical Habitat zone.
  • Increased reforestation – planting of māmane trees and other natives.
  • The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center is currently breeding palila in captivity in order to be released into the  wild.

The palila has now been endangered since 1973 when it was added to the Endangered Species Act, while the Palila Critical Habitat was designated a special zone in 1978 .

Hopefully the strategies enacted to help save the palila and its fragile habitat, in particular the māmane tree, will enable the bird to avoid extinction. Find out more at restoremaunakea.org

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Understanding Ahupuaʻa: Ancient Hawaii’s unique land division model

Hawaiian Chiefs 3
Artwork by Native Hawaiian artist Brook Kapukuniahi Parker

In ancient Hawaii land ownership was overseen by the king. An island (mokupuni) was made up of a number of large sections of land (moku). Each of these individual moku were divided into ahupuaʻa (‘ahoo-poo-ah-ah’). Ahupuaʻa are narrow wedge-shaped pieces of land (like a piece of pie) that run from the mountains (mauka) to the sea (makai).

Ahupuaʻa would vary in size and this was dependent on how resource-rich the area was (an ahupuaʻa would be made larger in order to compensate for its lack of agricultural productivity). For example, Kahuku, which contains large tracts of lava fields on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa, was the largest ahupuaʻa on the island of Hawaiʻi with over 184,000 acres. Each of these wedges of land were ruled by a local chief known as an aliʻi.

Honolulu Board of Water Supply
Photo credite: Honolulu Board of Water Supply (Hawaiihistory.org)

Why was it called Ahupuaʻa?

Because the boundary of each section of land was marked by a stack (ahu) of stones where a pig  (puaʻa) or pig’s image (some kind of carving) was often placed as tribute (or tax) to the local chief.

Ahupua'a boundary marker. Photo credit: Thomas Tunsch, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Why was it created?

Each ahupuaʻa is considered to be a self-sufficient community. Those in the mountains or upland forested areas, would trade with those closer to the ocean. The slice of land would stretch from the top of a mountain down to the shoreline in a wedge shape. Rainwater would be diverted into streams in the upper valleys carrying the water down to irrigate the crops grown near the ocean. In this way it was easier to travel up and downstream within an ahupuaʻa than from one stream valley to a neighboring valley. This arrangement ensured that an ahupuaʻa would include fish and salt from the sea, areas of agricultural land for taro and sweet potato, and the forest – to provide timber for construction.

The agricultural system was divided into two groups: irrigated and rain-fed. Within the irrigated systems taro was grown and within the rain-fed systems, mostly ʻuala (sweet potato), yams and dryland taro. Other cultivated crops included coconuts (niu), ʻulu (breadfruit), bananas (maiʻa) and sugar cane (kō). The kukui tree was often used as a shade tree for the dry crops. Alongside the crops, Hawaiians kept dogs, chickens and domesticated pigs.

Local residents who lived under the chief’s rule would pay a regular tax to an overseer (konohiki) who would also determine how the resources in the ahupuaʻa would be used.

HAVO-Ahupuaa-Map
The division of districts and ahupuaʻa in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (adapted from the National Park Service publication "In the Realm of Pele-honua-mea" by M.J. Tomonari-Tuggle)

Traditional subdivision system

The Hawaiian Islands were subdivided in the following way:

Mokupuni (the whole islands, except Kahoʻolawe):

  • Hawaiʻi
  • Kauaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Moloka’i
  • Niʻihau
  • Oʻahu

Moku (is the largest subdivision of an island)

Ahupuaʻa

ʻili (usually two to three per ahupuaʻa)

Ahupuaʻa were not entirely self-contained. While they encouraged a high level of resource self-sufficiency for the inhabiting community, there was still room for regional and even interisland trade.

ahupuaa-boundary.ahu_Cypher
Stone ahu, marking the boundary between Kane`ohe and Kailua, at Castle Junction, Oʻahu. Photo credit: Mahealani Cypher Historichawaii.org

Ahupuaʻa were a way of creating cohesive community networks that allowed resources to be used efficiently and also meant the king retained effective control of the islands via a network of Ahupuaʻa chiefs.

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The Big Island’s wild cattle secret

Wild cattle have a long history on the Big Island of Hawaii. They first arrived as a gift for a king but within a short time they grew to become a widespread pest. The introduction of cattle may have been the reason for the birth of Hawaiian cowboy culture but wild cattle in the 21st century present ongoing challenges to the environment.

History

In the late 18th century cattle were introduced to Hawaii. After a small number of cattle were gifted to King Kamehameha I they were declared protected and no cattle were allowed to be slaughtered. By the middle of the 19th century there were over 25,000 wild cattle on the islands. Eventually the burgeoning cattle population began to damage crops, as well as proving dangerous to the general public. The ban on hunting cattle was lifted in 1832.

Did you know? Kamehameha III invited vaqueros (cattle herders) from the mainland and Mexico to train Hawaiians on how to control the growing wild cattle problem on the islands. This was the beginning of what is now known as the paniolos, or Hawaiian cowboys. Interestingly, the ukulele is a product of this cross culture mix between Hawaii and Mexico.

A wild breed

What is now the modern Hawaiian wild cattle is in fact a fairly distinctive feral breed. Smaller than the average Hereford cattle, the wild breed tends to have longer legs and is thought to have a stronger temperament. They also have a unique capacity to survive without a significant source of water for long periods. In order to survive, the cattle must glean water from dew-covered foliage or wherever they might find sitting pools of water after a rainstorm.

Ecological Damage

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands have identified wild cattle as having a distinct negative impact on the forest environment. Cattle contribute to the spread of Rapid Ohia Death, the devastating fungal infection affecting the Ohia tree population, and even the spread of gorse.

Hunting

Because the state of Hawaii considers wild cattle to have an adverse affect on the Hawaiian forest environment hunting is welcomed. They are not just hunted to control numbers but also as a food source. Wild cattle meat is enjoyed by those locals who make the effort to hunt them, braving the rocky mountain terrain of the forest and the sometimes elusive cattle herds.

A mature Hawaiian bull can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. This means that killing a bull is one thing but carrying the animal out of the forest is quite another. Bulls are also prone to charging when cornered so care is needed, especially as wild cattle tend to be faster and more agile than the average cattle.

McCandless Ranch

Horizon Guest House is bordered by McCandless Ranch (all photos were taken along the boundary fence), one of the many large ranches on the Big island. It’s along this boundary that herds of wild cattle can be seen emerging from the forest to graze beside the fence line. At night you may even hear the calls of bulls in heat from deep within the forest. This unique call almost sounds like it might have more in common with a dinosaur roaming the forest than a common cattle!

Wild cattle on the Big Island have a unique history and are now a well established part of Hawaiian rural life. But controlling the cattle population remains the key to conserving the forest ecosystem and protecting the flora of the Big Island.

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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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Wind and cloud patterns on the Big Island

Clouds 5 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Kona Coast

The Big Island is dominated by a pattern of east-northeast trade winds with an average wind speed of 18 miles an hour for the majority of the year. The terrain of the Big Island, with its high mountain peaks, causes the trade winds to flow around the mountains. This means there is less rainfall on the summits of these mountains. It also means that the leeward side of the island (and the other Hawaiian islands) is typically drier than the windward side of the island – hence Kona is generally dry with low rainfall while Hilo experiences a high annual rainfall.

Clouds 3 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

Wind and cloud patterns on the Big Island

The heating and cooling processes of the islands in conjunction with patterns of trade winds contribute to causing these puffy cloud trails. Scientists have determined that as the sun heats the islands, clouds begin to form over the leeside of the island, with the trade winds carrying the warmed air downstream. The surface pressure downstream drops and the convergence increases. The warm air rises, condenses and the cloud trail extends in length. At night the islands cool and the cold air hinders cloud formation as the air moves downstream.

Clouds 1 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

On the Big Island the Kona Coast has its own unique cloud processes. Typically clouds begin to form along the coast before noon, while the ocean remains free of clouds. By early afternoon cloud along the coast has extended out to sea. By nightfall the temperature has dropped in the coastal area covered with cloud – indicating that a cloud deck (a bank of cloud that has formed a layer at a specific altitude) has formed.

Clouds 2 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

The topography of the Big Island greatly influences the wind and cloud patterns. The strong easterly winds around both the northern and southern ends of the island form a ‘westerly reverse flow’. This flow reaches up to 2000 meters in altitude, just below the dominant easterly trade winds. During the day, as the island heats up, the westerly reverse flow grows stronger and moist air is carried to the Kona Coast. Clouds begin to form on the slopes along the coast, but the reverse flow stops the warmth created by the island from forming the cloud trail typically seen on the other islands.

Clouds 4 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Mauna Kea, Big Island

The Hawaiian names for wind, clouds and rain

Hawaiians have many names for sky and cloud formations. These names demonstrate the Hawaiian culture’s profound connection to the physical environment.

  • ao puaʻa – these are cumulus clouds of different sizes massed together. These types of patterns are common on the Kona coast, and indicate that good weather is ahead and not a storm.
  • ao pehupehu – common in summer, these refer to cumulus clouds increasing in size. Often present with trade winds, these formations grow darker (especially at their base) causing rain on the windward slopes.
  • hoʻomalumalu – sheltering cloud
  • hoʻoweliweli – threatening cloud
  • ānuenue – rainbow, considered to be a favorable omen
  • ua loa – an extended rainstorm
  • ua poko – a short spell of rain
  • Kūkalahale – the name of a type of wind and rain famous in Honolulu.
  • kili hau – an ice-cold shower, or a cold drizzle.
  • makani – a general term for wind. The prevailing northeast trade winds of Hawaiʻi are called moaʻe, aʻe, aʻe loa, Moaʻe Lehua, or moaʻe pehu. A leeward wind is a Kona wind.
  • Kaiāulu – the name of a gentle trade wind famous in song at Waiʻanae, Oʻahu.
  • ʻōlauniu – the name of a wind on Hawaiʻi. The figurative translation means promiscuous, and a literal translation means coconut-leaf piercing.

The Hawaiian Islands’ cloud patterns are influenced by winds and mountain height as well as the heating and cooling processes of the island itself. These factors affect the cloud formation on the leeside of the islands helping to create this puffy cloud trail phenomenon. On the Big Island though, clouds are formed by more complex processes that create a typically sunny morning, followed by a cloudy afternoon with an increased chance of rain.

Further reading

International Pacific Research Center. (2008). The Cloud Trails of the Hawaiian Isles. IPRC Climate, 8(2). http://iprc.soest.hawaii.edu/newsletters/newsletter_sections/iprc_climate_vol8_2/cloud_trails_hawaii.pdf

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