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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Restaurant review: Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill

Umekes restaurant has become a Kona favorite with locals and tourists. Their menu is a mix of traditional Hawaiian cuisine made with the best in local ingredients – with their own special twist.

We arrived at Umekes for lunch at 1pm on an overcast Wednesday and the restaurant was already a hive of activity. They don’t accept reservations online so make sure you call them directly if you want to reserve a table. 

Umekes is situated in Pawai Place in Kona in what is quickly becoming a vibrant restaurant precinct. Beside Umekes is Willie’s Hot Chicken and HiCo Hawaiian Coffee, while across the road is the popular Kona Brewing Co.

Located in the courtyard of Umekes is a small stage where bands play live music in the evenings, Thursday through Saturday. Check the calendar on their website for more details on what’s on.

There is plenty of seating inside and as well as outside – which is covered. The outside seating is a big plus when it comes to remaining socially distant from other patrons when eating out.

The menu

Umekes has an extensive menu and prides itself on serving dishes using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible. Meat and produce are sourced from local fisherman, farmers and ranchers. 

The restaurant is famous for its poke bowls (umeke is Hawaiian for bowl), like its spicy aioli with Hawaiian salt & onions or creamy avocado, with Hawaiian salt & onions and avocado aioli.

What we ordered

Umekes Fish Tacos ($24) – three cajun grilled (or tempura fried – we chose grilled) ahi tacos with avocado, pineapple lomi salsa, cabbage slaw, crispy fried onions and garlic aioli in a flour tortilla. 

The fish was delicious, and grilled to perfection. This might be a dish to share as they were three good-sized tacos, and one of us couldn’t quite get through them all!

Korean Chicken ($20) – Boneless deep fried chicken tossed in a sweet and savory Korean sauce.

Generous servings and the verdict on this dish? Delicious!

Umekes Kona Hawaii

Seared Ahi Caesar ($20) – Crisp baby romaine tossed in house caesar dressing with fresh blackened ahi and crispy wonton strips.

Perfectly seared ahi and a generous amount of salad.

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Umekes also offers a unique fishing experience. Choose from a number of different packages that include a boat trip and then a dinner afterward in which your catch is cooked the way you want it! For more information on how it all works click here.

Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill

74-5599 Pawai Place

Kailua-Kona

Hawaii 96740

Ph. 808 238 0571

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-9pm

https://www.umekesrestaurants.com

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The Kukui Nut Tree: The State Tree of Hawaii

Can you identify the state tree of Hawaii? Hint: it’s not a palm tree. It’s the Kukui Nut Tree. This tree is widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands and plays an important part in Hawaiian culture and mythology. The Kukui nut has a wide variety of uses including medicinal.

Where did it come from?

When the Polynesians first arrived in the Hawaiian Islands they brought with them the seeds of the Kukui tree, stowed away in their canoes. In 1959 it became the official state tree of Hawaii. 

The many uses of the Kukui nut tree

The Kukui nut

The Kukui nut itself is perhaps the most prized part of the tree. Ancient Hawaiians used the oil derived from the nuts to coat fishing nets, while the outer shells were used in the process of creating natural dyes for tattoos. The oil could also be used as a dressing for treating sore muscles, burns, or other skin complaints. The oil is often an ingredient in soaps, candles, lotions, and even as an oil for surfboards!

Known elsewhere as the Candlenut tree, ancient Hawaiians would burn Kukui nuts in order to use them like candles. Nuts were strung along the middle section of a coconut palm frond, then lit and burnt one at a time. Because each nut burns for approximately 15 minutes, ancient Hawaiians were able to use them to measure time. 

The nuts can also be roasted and the inside of the nut turned into a spice called inamona. This spice is still used in traditional poke recipes. Depending on how the inside of the nut is consumed it can also be used as a laxative(!).

Kukui nuts are also used to create leis by stringing together a collection of nuts. The nuts are sanded, then buffed and polished until either dark brown, black or even white. The leis are often worn by hula dancers, or exchanged by couples during marriage ceremonies. 

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Photo credit: geckofarms.com
The rest of the Kukui Nut Tree

The wood from the Kukui tree was used to make canoes. The trunk of the Kukui needs to be waterproofed before it’s ocean-ready and Kukui nut oil is perfect for this purpose. The roots are even used as part of the process to make black paint which was traditionally used to decorate canoes or tapa cloth. 

The Kukui nut tree can grow up to 80 feet in height, often in an oval shape. The leaves themselves have a distinct pattern, often having three or five lobes (projections of the blade of the leaf with the gaps between them).

Can I eat a Kukui nut?

Since the nut has laxative properties, it’s not recommended that you eat a Kukui nut. It functions more as an ingredient in spice, rather than something to be consumed on its own.

Hawaiian mythology

In Hawaiian mythology Kamapua’a was a wild demi-god, half pig and half man, able to change from one to the other. The kukui tree is known as a kinolau – the physical embodiment of Kamapua’a. You’ll find that if you fold a kukui leaf in half along the stem, the leaf appears in the shape of a boar head. 

The Kukui trees are among the first trees you’ll see on arrival at Horizon Guest House. Look out for them as you drive up the first section of the driveway from the gate – they line either side of the driveway.

Kukui Nut Tree Big Island

The Kukui nut tree was not only an important source of wood for canoes but the nut, and its many uses, became an integral part of ancient Hawaiian life.

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Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau Place of Refuge

Love Big Island Haloe O Keawe
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

Find out what makes Pu’uhonua o Honaunau such a special site on the Big Island of Hawaii. From history to architecture, this is a must-see attraction!

1. Royal grounds

In ancient Hawaiʻi the Royal Grounds were considered the center of power. Within the grounds is the main temple (heiau) where the bones of over 20 chiefs (ali’i) were buried. This gave the temple a special kind of spiritual power, known in Hawaiian as mana. Next to the Royal Grounds is the Pu’uhonua. This area became a place of refuge for those who violated kapu, the sacred laws and beliefs by which all Hawaiians adhered to at the time.

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Royal Grounds. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

2. Breaking kapu & the Pu'uhonua

Kapu could be broken in a variety of different ways. These might include the following transgressions:

  • a woman eats with a man
  • fish is caught out of season
  • a commoner disrespects an ali’i (chief)

For these type of violations you could face the death penalty, unless you were able to escape your captors, get to the coast and then swim to the Pu’uhonua (the area of land bordered by the Great Wall and the coastline). Once there you could seek forgiveness for your crime by being absolved by the priest. 

NPS photo 2
The Great Wall. Photo credit: NPS

The Pu’uhonua also had other uses. During war it became a place for children, elders, and those not fighting, to seek refuge. For those warriors who were defeated in battle they could also seek shelter and sanctuary until it was time to return home. Kapu officially ended in 1819 and with it the tradition of seeking sanctuary at Pu’uhonua Hōnaunau.

3. Chiefly power

The Royal Grounds were the gathering place for local chiefs to meet, hold ceremonies and negotiate during times of war. They also engaged in games like kōnane (a board game) and he’e hōlua (sled riding). Priests were also consulted by the chiefs in times of need.  

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

What to see

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. 
Love Big Island Pu-uhonua-o-Hōnaunau-National-Historical-Park-map
Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

What you need to know

Place of Refuge NPS
Aerial view of Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau. Photo credit: NPS

Where is it? Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located in South Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i. To get there, take Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy. 11) to Kea Ala o Keawe Road (Hwy. 160) between mile marker 103 and 104. Follow Hwy. 160 down to the bottom, the turn off for the park entrance will be on your left.

The visitor center is open daily and there’s lots to do – why not try taking a self-guided tour, attend a ranger program, or walk the 1871 trail to Ki’ilae Village (a 2.25 mile roundtrip hike through ancient sites – including volcanic features). 

Love Big Island 1871 Trail looking north toward the Pu'uhonua, Keanae'e Cliffs to the right
1871 Trail looking north toward the Pu'uhonua, Keanae'e Cliffs to the right. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

Visiting Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau is a great way in gain insight into life in ancient Hawai’i. Make sure you include this national park on your travel itinerary!

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com
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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

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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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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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The cattle egret: Hawaii’s elegant predator

Late summer has brought with it the arrival of a flock of cattle egrets to Horizon Guest House. These brilliantly white birds have found a summer home in the monkey pod tree in the upper pasture. Here they roost at night while during the day they follow the animals, keeping flies and insects at bay.

Cattle egrets originated from Africa, arriving in South America in the late 19th century before spreading through most of the continental United States in the 1940s.

They were first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1959 by the Board of Agriculture and Forestry, in conjunction with local cattle ranchers. The birds were an attempt to try and combat the plague of flies that were affecting cattle herds. The flies were responsible for causing lower than usual weight gain in cattle, as well as causing damage to their hides.[1]

In total, 105 birds were released across the islands. By the early 1980s their population had exploded to approximately 30,000 birds.

Cattle egrets typically grow to around 20 inches and are usually seen in large flocks, within close proximity to wetlands.

Our visiting cattle egrets have quickly found a home in the pasture with the horse, donkeys and goats. The birds are content to follow the herd as it migrates about the pasture during the course of the day. Typically, you’ll find the birds perched on the backs of Sunny (the horse) and Poncho and Lefty (the donkeys).

In this way they provide a useful service to the animals, feeding on the flies that might be bothering them, as well as any insects.

Nest predators

Their impact on other endangered birds though is significant. Cattle egrets are known nest predators. In particular, they prey on the nests of the Hawaiian duck (koloa), Hawaiian stilt (aeo), Hawaiian common moorhen (alae ula) and the Hawaiian coot (alae keokeo). There are even instances of cattle egrets taking prawns from aquaculture farms![2]

The original intention of introducing cattle egrets was to use them as ‘biological control agents’.[3] Instead, these birds have joined a long line of other introduced species that, having failed to solve their original objective, have become part of a bigger problem – causing disruption to indigenous fauna.

Control order

In 2017, a control order was introduced for migratory bird species in Hawaii.[4] This control order targeted cattle egrets and barn owls. It identified them as invasive and threatening to native species. It also concluded that these bird populations could not simply be keep under control by non-lethal means. The order sanctioned the culling of cattle egrets by state and federal employees of specified agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Recognizing the fragile nature of Hawaii’s ecosystem is important to understanding why such action is necessary. Invading or introduced birds like the cattle egret have changed the habitat of some of our most precious and endangered species.[5] Controlled culling of cattle egrets may be the only way Hawaii can safeguard some of its most precious residents from the threat of extinction.

The cattle egret is an elegant bird and provides a service to cattle and other animals, but it’s relationship with endemic species remains problematic.

References

Cattle egret. (n.d). [1] Kaelepulu Wetland. https://kaelepuluwetland.com/birds/cattle-egret/

Cattle egret: Bubulcus ibis. (2012, August 13). [2] Hawaii Forest & Trail. https://www.hawaii-forest.com/cattle-egret-bubulcus-ibis/

Fish and Wildlife Service Interior. (2017, August 24).[4]Migratory bird permits: control order for introduced migratory bird species in Hawaii. Federal register: the daily journal for the United States government. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/07/25/2017-15471/migratory-bird-permits-control-order-for-introduced-migratory-bird-species-in-hawaii

Gosser, R. (2017).[5] From solution to problem: the irony of invasive species. Ke Kalahea, (4). https://hilo.hawaii.edu/news/kekalahea/the-irony-of-invasive-species-2017

Paton, P.W.C., Fellows, D.P. & Tomich, P.Q. (1986). [3] Distribution of cattle egret roosts in Hawaii with notes on the problems egrets pose to airports. ‘Elepaio, 46(13), 143-147. https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/paton/paton6.pdf

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