Restaurant review: Izakaya Shiono

Izakaya Shiono is a sushi and Japanese resturarant, serving fresh fish dishes with locally sourced fish, all prepared by experienced Japanese chefs.

We arrived on a weekday in the early afternoon. The restaurant was about half-full and we didn’t have to wait long for a table.

Izakaya Shinono’s is in the same district as Kona Brewing Company, Umeke’s Fish Market Bar and Grill, and right next door to HiCO (Hawaiian Coffee). There is a parking lot behind the restaurant that serves a number of local restaurants.

There is outdoor seating alongside the restaurant, and also a separate patio area where we found a table in the shade.

The menu

The menu is a mix of sushi, ramen and tempura. We decided to order off the lunch menu and had one main dish with a side of miso soup (included).

What we ordered

(Above). Sushi Nigiri Set – unagi cucumber ($20.50). The unagi was delicious and the sushi was excellent. Extremely tasty!

(Above). Sushi Nigiri Set – Spicy Tuna ($20.50). It was the perfect amount of tuna and the flavors were wonderful.

Unfortunately, the miso soup could have been a little hotter but this is a small complaint. The service was great, the sushi was exceptionally good, and the fish tasty and fresh.

Izakaya Shiono sources the freshest locally caught fish as well as importing the best fish from Japan. Note: the restaurant uses Tamaki Gold Koshihikari, which is considered by many to be the best short-grain rice in the world. All very good reasons to visit Izakaya Shiono for some of the best Japanese on the Big Island.

Izakaya Shiono

74-5599 Pawai Place B4 & B5

Kailua-Kona

Hawaii 96740

Ph. 808 657 4388

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.sushishiono.com/izakaya-shiono/

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Reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii and why it matters

Kealakekua-Bay-HI
Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: dolphin discoveries.com

Ingredients in sunscreen having been doing damage to the coral reefs in Hawaii for years. These chemicals cause damage to the DNA of the coral, resulting in deformities, bleaching and sometimes even the death of the coral itself.

What's in the sunscreen that causes the damage?

Coral bleaching Hawaii
Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

In January, 2021 SB2571 came into effect in the state of Hawaii. This bill banned the sale of any sunscreen that contained oxybenzone or octinoxate (unless prescribed by a healthcare provider). The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources had banned the use of these sunscreens a year earlier in Kealakekua Bay. This specifically targeted the tour boats that operate in the bay every day.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are both FDA-approved compounds and are present in approximately 80% of all sunscreens. 

Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biolog

Sunscreens that also contain petrolatum, also known as mineral oil, often take years to biodegrade and are also harmful to marine life.

Titanium Oxide does not easily biodegrade either – in fact it reacts to warm water by forming hydrogen peroxide which causes damage to marine life. However, reef-safe sunscreen that contain low concerntrations of the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide are considered safe.

Environmental Impacts

Coral reefs in the Hawaiian Islands are flooded with 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen every year. 

It doesn’t take much to cause harm to the coral reef. Only a very small amount of oxybenzone (the equivalent of one drop of water into an area the size of 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools) can cause harm. Unfortunately, testing has revealed that some Hawaiian beaches show levels 10 times that amount.

Impact from sunscreen chemicals is only one factor among many causing ongoing damage to marine environments. Ocean acidification, water pollution and rising sea temperatures are all causing systemic problems to the ecosystem.

More changes ahead

In January 2023, a new law will ban the sale of sunscreen containing the ingredients avobenzone or octocrylene.

Maui has also passed a law which will come into effect October 1st, 2022 which will ban all non-mineral sunscreens.

What can you do to help?

Photo credit: Cindy Ellen Russel / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Make a concerted effort to buy reef-safe sunscreen. Look for the label on all certified sunscreens. Alternatively, try to reduce your reliance on sunscreens:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10am – 2pm
  • Use an umbrella
  • Wear a sunhat
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses
  • Wear sun shirts and other UV protecting clothes where possible

The following are a list of some of the available reef-safe sunscreens in Hawaii:

  • Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian
  • SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
  • Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Check out our sunscreen review! We test and rate five different sunscreens. 

Make sure you buy reef-safe sunscreen and do your part to reducing the human impact on the fragile coral reefs and the larger Hawaiian marine ecosystem.  

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The Big Island from the air: helicopter and fixed-wing tours

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Photo credit: volcanotours.com

What could be better than seeing the Big Island from the air! There are a number of options when it comes to helicopter and fixed-wing tours of the island.

Book a tour and get a better idea of the natural landscapes on the island, see the volcano from a unique perspective, or perhaps create your own custom tour of the island.

1. Paradise Helicopters

Circle Island Private Helicopter Tour in the Big Island (Paradise Helicopters)
Photo credit: paradisecopters.com

Paradise Helicopters is Hawaii’s largest locally owned and operated helicopter company and is committed to caring for the local community – you have the option of offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight via the planting of native and endemic trees. They even hold a sustainable tourism certification! 

Choose from a large number of different tour packages depending on the location of the airport (they have offices at Kona, Waimea and Hilo airports).

Selected tours include:

  • Circle Island Experience Tour – the tour starts at Kona airport and heads south over the Kona Coast coffee district, over the western slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern tip of the island, before heading for Kīlauea Volcano, Hilo and then the Kohala valleys and waterfalls. ($795 per person – 2 hours).
  • Kohala Coast Waterfalls & Remote Hike – explore the Kohala valleys and hover over huge waterfalls. At the halfway point the helicopter will land at a remote location and you’ll enjoy a short hike in the forest. ($564 per person – 1 hour plus 45-60 mins hike).
  • Experience Hawaii – explore all five volcanoes, fly over the island’s amazing beaches, valleys and coastlines. Departs from Kona, and heads south to the volcano before skirting the Kohala Coast ($725 per person – flight time varies).

For more information paradisecopters.com

EcoTourismCertified_anpwta
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

2. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Big-Island-Heli
Photo credit: bigislandhelicoptertours.com

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is known as one of the premier aerial tour operators on the island. Super quiet, eco-star helicopters and knowledgeable pilots make for a great experience. 

Blue Hawaiian offer three main tours of the island:

  • Big Island Spectacular – Get a bigger picture of the island with this island tour. You’ll see tropical rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and of course the volcano ($649 per person, 1 hour 45 minutes). There’s also an option to add a waterfall landing. Departs from Waikoloa.
  • Circle of Fire – Take in the amazing Hawaii Volcano National Park and experience Kīlauea in all its beauty ($369 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Hilo.
  • Kohala Coast Adventure – Explore the breathtaking Kohala coast on the island’s northwest. Stunning sea cliffs, Waipi’o Valley, and the dramatic valleys of the Kohala Mountains make this an amazing experience ($359 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Waikoloa.

Got something else in mind? Why not book a private charter! Create your own itinerary ($3200 per hour).

For more information bluehawaiian.com

bluehawaiian
Photo credit: bluehawaiian.com

3. Safari Helicopters

Photo credit: safarihelicopters.com

Top rated by Trip Advisor, Safari Helicopters has been operating since 1987. They fly tours on the Big Island and on Kauai. 

They have just one tour on the Big Island and that’s the Volcanoes National Park & Waterfalls Safari. This tour takes in the park and the amazing waterfalls nearby (As low as $264 per person, check the website for the latest rates, 55 minutes).

Book as a private tour for $1450 and get better value per seat.

For more information safarihelicopters.com 

safari-helicopters
Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

4. Big Island Air Tours

big island air
Photo credit: bigislandair.com

Big Island Air has been operating fixed-wing tours of the Big Island for over 35 years. They use a Cessna P337H Spymaster which is air conditioned and pressurized. Every seat is a window seat and the plane holds three passengers, pilot and co-pilot.

There are four tours available to choose from:

  • Premier Island Tour – this tour takes in the entire island and departs daily from Kona Airport ($598 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Twilight Tour – Timed to take in the amazing Big Island sunset, this is a unique tour. Includes the volcano, valleys and coastline ($688 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Summits & Waterfalls Tour – This tour takes in the Kona Coast and heads first to Mauna Loa and the Volcano, before flying over Mauna Kea and then the Kohala Coast ($599.99 per person, 1 hour flight time).
If you’re in Maui you can also try the VIP Air Adventure tour. This tour takes in Maui and the Big Island before returning to Maui.
 
For more information bigislandair.com
 

Aerial tours are a great way to explore the island and for those wanting a close-up view of volcanic activity there is nothing better than a flight over the crater! 

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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!

web1_Kainaliu-Kalikimaka_0044
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, instead when you arrive you check in via tablet setup outside and they send you a message when your table is ready (there is a seating area out front).

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
Vege Stir Fry ($18)

Tofu and seasonal veggies stir fried in our house teriyaki sauce in a crispy lumpia basket.

Update: August 2022

We went back for lunch and tried out some of the other items on the menu. We chose the ono for the fish and chips and it was perfectly done.

Umekes 3
Fish and Chips ($17)

Beer Battered and Deep Fried Fresh Catch with our Homemade Furikake Rémoulade & Fries.

Umekes
Seared Ahi Caesar salad ($20) and Poke Lettuce Cups ($18)

Update: November 2022

We went back for lunch. This time we chose the Big Boy Plate and Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs.

Boneless Ribs
Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs ($24)

Tender beef braised in a Korean sauce, garnished with green onion and sesame seeds. The beef was a bit on the dry side but the sauce helped.

Big Boy Plate ($25)

The Big Boy plate is your choice of two poke sides and two salad sides with your choice of white or brown rice. I chose the Ho’io salad and the Lomi Lomi salmon side, to go with the ‘Da Ava’ poke and the ‘Sweetie’ poke selections. Good flavors – though there is quite a lot of sauce used for the poke which does tend to overshadow the flavor of the fish itself.

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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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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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.

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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.

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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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Top 3 coffee farm tours on the Kona Coast

Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

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

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

What makes it Kona coffee?

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

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

How does the coffee process work?

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

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Photo credit: heavenlyhawaiian.com

1. Heavenly Hawaiian Farms

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

The Tour

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

Tour Length: 1 hour

Cost: $6 each

Heavenly Hawaiian Farms

78-1136 Bishop Rd.
Holualoa, HI 96725

(808) 322 7720

https://heavenlyhawaiian.com

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

2. Greenwell Farms

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

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

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

The Tour

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

Tour Length: 45 minutes

Cost: Free

Greenwell Farms

81-6581 Mamalahoa Highway
Kealakekua, Hawaii 96750

(808) 323-9616

https://www.greenwellfarms.com

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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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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.