101 Things to Do (Big Island) - - TOURING -

Scout Out an 18th-Cen­tury War Tem­ple

Two cen­turies ago, Hawai­ian rulers wor­shipped a pow­er­ful war god called Ku. King Kame­hameha I, who fought numer­ous bat­tles to unify all the Hawai­ian Is­lands, sought Ku’s sup­port by build­ing a mas­sive stone tem­ple 400 feet above Kawai­hae Har­bor in North Ko­hala.

Con­struc­tion of the 20-foot-high lava rock tem­ple, or heiau, be­gan in 1790 and was com­pleted a year later. By 1810, Kame­hameha had con­quered the Is­lands and es­tab­lished a monar­chy. He died in 1819, af­ter which his son aban­doned the re­li­gious prac­tices that had ruled Hawai‘i and or­dered de­struc­tion of the heiau.

Pu‘uko­hola, the last re­li­gious heiau built in Hawai‘i, is now a 77-acre Na­tional His­toric Site op­er­ated by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice. One of the most im­pos­ing and dra­matic Hawai­ian tem­ples in the is­land chain, the tem­ple has been largely re­stored.

Pu‘uko­hola heiau, which means Tem­ple on the Hill of the Whale, is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free.

Stroll Through a Botan­i­cal Garden

The park is lo­cated 1 mile south of the har­bor at Kawai­hae on High­way 270.

Not far from Hilo, two pub­lic gar­dens are laid out in ex­quis­ite nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments: the Hawai‘i Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Garden and the World Botan­i­cal Gar­dens & Wa­ter­falls.

Hawai‘i Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Garden, opened in 1984, is nes­tled in a 40-acre val­ley edged by the Pa­cific Ocean. Here you’ll find more than 2,000 species that in­clude or­chids, palms, he­li­co­nias, gin­gers, bromeli­ads and other ex­otic plants. Lo­cated on High­way 19, it is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

World Botan­i­cal Gar­dens of­fers great fun for ev­ery­one. Fly through the rain for­est on Zip Isle’s seven-stage Zip Line Eco Tour. Glide past beau­ti­ful gar­dens and mag­nif­i­cent wa­ter­falls on Hawai‘i’s only botan­i­cal Seg­way tour. Get up close to amaz­ing Hawai­ian beauty, im­mers­ing your­self in lush gar­dens with hun­dreds of or­chids and ex­otic plants on the guided tour (reser­va­tions re­quired). Don’t miss the im­pres­sive Ka­mae‘e Falls and other wa­ter­falls. Open daily, 9 a.m. -5:30 p.m.

On the other side of the is­land, Pua Mau Place is a botan­i­cal garden and ar­bore­tum laid out on the west slope of the Ko­hala Moun­tains near Kawai­hae. The gar­dens fea­ture a maze planted with 250 species of hi­bis­cus, an aviary pop­u­lated by about 150 ex­otic birds and a col­lec­tion of orig­i­nal sculp­tures. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fi­nally, take a jour­ney back to a time be­fore Cap­tain Cook landed at Kealakekua Bay, to visit (what is now re­ferred to as) the Kona Field Sys­tem—a rich, agri­cul­tural com­plex teem­ing with gar­dens and groves. The Amy Green­well Eth­nob­otan­i­cal Garden is a 12-acre garden built to re­flect the plant life be­fore for­eign con­tact in Hawai‘i. Here you can learn about how

Hawai­ians cul­ti­vated var­i­ous species, and what uses they served, from ma­te­ri­als for tools, clothes, fish­ing, cook­ing and build­ing.

The Garden of­fers guided Plant Walks at 1 p.m. daily. Lo­cated in Cap­tain Cook, 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona on High­way 11 at the 110 mile marker.

• Hawaii Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Garden (808) 964-5233 • World Botan­i­cal Gar­dens (808) 963-5427

or (888) 947-4753 • Amy B.H. Green­well Eth­nob­otan­i­cal Garden

(808) 323-3318

Find Eden in Waipi‘o Val­ley

Lo­cated north of Honoka‘a on the Ha­makua Coast, Waipi‘o val­ley is the largest and south­ern­most of the seven val­leys on the wind­ward side of the Ko­hala Moun­tains. Mea­sur­ing 1 mile wide at the coast and al­most 6 miles deep, the Eden-like val­ley is shel­tered by cliffs reach­ing al­most 2,000 feet. Wa­ter­falls and flow­ers cas­cade from the walls of the cliffs, and a stun­ning black-sand beach de­fines the coastal area.

Waipi‘o is known as the “Val­ley of the Kings” be­cause it was once home to many an­cient Hawai­ian rulers and is said to be the place where King Kame­hameha the Great re­ceived his train­ing. An­cient burial caves are lo­cated within the walls of the cliffs, and the val­ley in­spired many myths, chants and songs.

Reach­ing Waipi‘o is dif­fi­cult. Ac­cess is lim­ited to four­wheel-drive ve­hi­cles—most car ren­tal com­pa­nies pro­hibit use of their ve­hi­cles on the steep road. You can get there in a mule-drawn wagon with a com­pany called Waipi‘o Val­ley Wagon Tour. This nar­rated tour wan­ders past wa­ter­falls, taro patches and herds of wild horses. It de­parts from the Nep­tune Gar­dens/Last Chance store off High­way 240.

The most con­ve­nient and ac­ces­si­ble view of the val­ley is from the scenic point at the end of Route 40, about 10 miles out­side of Honoka‘a. Take an ATV tour with a com­pany called Ride the Rim, hike the rim with Hawai‘i For­est & Trail, or see it from horse­back.

• Na‘alapa Sta­bles Waipi‘o (808) 775-0419 • Waipi‘o Ridge Sta­bles (808) 775-1007 • Waipi‘o Val­ley Shut­tle (808) 775-7121 • Waipi‘o Ride the Rim (808) 775-1450

or (877) 775-1450 • Hawai‘i For­est & Trail (808) 331-8505

Dis­cover the Ele­gant Mac Nut

More than a cen­tury ago, a Big Is­land sugar plan­ta­tion man­ager in­tro­duced ma­cadamia nuts to the is­land. Although na­tive to Aus­tralian rain­forests, mac nuts thrived in Hawai‘i, and the state be­came the site of the world’s first com­mer­cial plan­ta­tions. To­day, th­ese de­li­cious, hard-shelled nuts are one of the Big Is­land’s largest crops.

Ma­cadamia nuts aren’t picked from the tree; in­stead, they fall to the ground fully ripened. How­ever, don’t pick one up ex­pect­ing to shell it and pop it in your mouth—it re­quires 300 pounds of pres­sure per square inch to crack a mac nut shell.

Mauna Loa Ma­cadamia Nut Corp., 6 miles south of Hilo on Ma­cadamia Road, wel­comes vis­i­tors. Here, you’ll find a 2,500acre or­chard, pro­cess­ing plant and a choco­late fac­tory.

For more in­for­ma­tion, look up the Great Hawai­ian Mac Nut Trail, a self-guided tour of Hawaii’s ma­cadamia nut in­dus­try. You’ll find ev­ery­thing from pro­cess­ing plants to small fam­i­ly­owned farms and bed-and-break­fast stops where vis­i­tors can pick ma­cadamia nuts.

Travel a Scenic By­way

Hawai‘i has only two of­fi­cial “scenic by­ways” (des­ig­nated as part of the Na­tional Scenic By­ways Pro­gram) and the Big Is­land is home to both of them: The Ma­mala­hoa Kona Her­itage Cor­ri­dor and Royal Foot­steps Along the Kona Coast.

The Ma­mala­hoa Kona Her­itage Cor­ri­dor takes you through an area of his­toric im­por­tance, telling the story of the area’s evo­lu­tion from a path­way for an­cient Hawai­ians to its most re­cent devel­op­ment.

The Royal Foot­steps Along the Kona Coast un­cov­ers the his­tory of the area that’s hid­den in plain sight. Travel along Ali‘i Drive, and you’re no doubt taken in by beau­ti­ful vis­tas on one side and bustling en­ergy on the other. How­ever, Iook a lit­tle closer and you’ll see that this seven-mile stretch is also home to many

im­por­tant sites of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, like Hulihe‘e Palace, Pa o Umi (the res­i­dence of the ruler Umi-a-lil­ioa [ca. AD 1490-1525]), breath­tak­ing bays and beaches, churches the Holu­aloa Royal Cen­ter and more.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Hawaii Scenic By­ways, log on to www.hawai­iscenicby­

Where the Ocean Melds with Sci­ence

Lo­cated at Kea­hole Point, one mile south of the Kona In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the Nat­u­ral En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory of Hawai‘i Author­ity is a sprawl­ing, 800-acre com­plex pop­u­lated by en­trepreneurs en­gaged in in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy and prod­uct devel­op­ment.

Here, the State of Hawai‘i is de­vel­op­ing an ar­ray of re­new­able en­ergy sources. Sci­en­tists ex­plore geo­ther­mal en­ergy (stored at the Earth’s core), wind power, hy­dro­gen en­ergy (pol­lu­tion­free en­ergy car­ri­ers) and var­i­ous biomass en­ergy (a re­new­able re­source drawn from plant mat­ter).

NEHLA is also the only place in the world where the vast nat­u­ral re­sources of sun­light and sea­wa­ter are har­nessed to sup­port ex­cit­ing new aqua­cul­ture tech­nolo­gies. Huge in­take pipe­lines are used to de­liver cold, deep-sea water from 3,000 feet be­low and trop­i­cal-warm, sur­face sea­wa­ter. “Techno-ma­gi­cians” use the cold sea­wa­ter to cool build­ings as well as grow crea­tures like cold-water abalone, lob­ster, Ja­panese floun­der and more— all crea­tures that couldn’t ex­ist in Hawai‘i’s warm wa­ters. The abalone farm con­ducts reg­u­lar tours in con­junc­tion with a gen­eral pre­sen­ta­tion and of­fers a taste of the fresh del­i­cacy.

For more in­for­ma­tion about NELHA or tour reser­va­tions, call (808) 327-9586 or visit

Es­cape to an An­cient Refuge

Pu‘uhonua o Honau­nau was, in an­cient times, the des­ti­na­tion for peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum from se­vere penal­ties im­posed on all who broke kapu (taboo) laws.

Once in­side the com­pound’s 10-foot walls, sanc­tu­ary was guar­an­teed. The res­i­dent kahuna, or priests, were ob­li­gated to of­fer ab­so­lu­tion to all fugi­tives no mat­ter how great or small the in­frac­tion.

Refuges like Pu‘uhonua o Honau­nau ceased func­tion­ing in the early 19th cen­tury, when the kapu sys­tem was abol­ished. But this site re­mains in­tact to pro­vide a glimpse into a time when peo­ple could be sen­tenced to death merely for eat­ing with their hus­band or walking in the shadow of a chief.

Now a na­tional his­tor­i­cal park, Pu‘uhonua was re­con­structed by lo­cal ar­ti­sans us­ing tra­di­tional tools. One of the ma­jor features of the com­plex is a re­con­structed tem­ple. Fierce, wood-carved stat­ues known as ki‘i guard this oft-pho­tographed tem­ple, called Hale o Keawe. The orig­i­nal tem­ple, built around 1650, housed the bones of at least 23 chiefs.

Pu‘uhonua o Honau­nau is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; the vis­i­tor cen­ter is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. There is an en­trance fee of $5 per car. To get there, drive south from Kailu­aKona on High­way 11. Turn to­wards the ocean on Route 160 at the Honau­nau Post Of­fice and watch for the his­toric park sign.

Ex­plore an Ahupua‘a

Early Hawai­ians used a sys­tem of land man­age­ment that was de­fined by wedge-shaped di­vi­sion that stretched from the up­lands to the ocean. Called ahupua‘a, th­ese land di­vi­sions were en­vi­ron­men­tally sound and fos­tered good ste­ward­ship prac­tices among the oc­cu­pants of each di­vi­sion. One of the best ways to grasp ahupua‘a land man­age­ment is to visit La­pakahi State His­tor­i­cal Park, which is lo­cated about 14 miles north of Kawai­hae on Route 270.

Here you’ll find the re­con­structed vil­lage of Koai‘e. Hawai­ians first set­tled in the La­pakahi area dur­ing the 1300s, and the fish­ing vil­lage of Koai‘e served as the cen­ter of ac­tiv­ity in the La­pakahi ahupua‘a un­til the late 1800s. The 265-acre park en­com­passes a va­ri­ety of par­tially re­stored sites, num­bered to co­in­cide with in­for­ma­tion in a free brochure avail­able in the park’s vis­i­tor cen­ter.

Mov­ing through the vil­lage, it’s not hard to imag­ine life in this ahupua‘a with farm­ers grow­ing crops in the moun­tains and trad­ing and other goods for fish caught by fam­i­lies liv­ing closer to the sea. There are ex­am­ples of games like ko­nane (some­times called Hawai­ian check­ers) and ‘ulu maika (a form of bowl­ing us­ing stones) that chil­dren are en­cour­aged to try. Through­out the area, flow­ers, shrubs, and trees are iden­ti­fied. Park guides are in at­ten­dance daily be­tween 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The Eyes of Mauna Kea

The largest as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory in the world is lo­cated at the 13,796-foot sum­mit of Mauna Kea. Here, in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tists work with a so­phis­ti­cated ar­ray of tele­scopes to gather data about the vast ce­les­tial uni­verse.

The moun­tain cur­rently houses 13 work­ing tele­scopes and plans have been an­nounced to build an­other—slated to be the largest on Earth. The new $1.2-bil­lion tele­scope will be built by a con­sor­tium of Cal­i­for­nia and Cana­dian univer­si­ties and will be ca­pa­ble of track­ing stars and gal­ax­ies some 13 bil­lion light years away.

Mauna Kea means “white moun­tain,” named for the snow that cov­ers its slopes. It is the high­est is­land-moun­tain on Earth, ris­ing 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor. The view from the sum­mit is like step­ping out of an air­plane just above a bank of clouds.

The last stop be­fore the sum­mit is the Onizuka Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional As­tron­omy. Lo­cated at the 9,300-foot level, this is a good place to stop for a while to ac­cli­ma­tize for the rest of the trip. From there, it’s a 30-minute trip to the sum­mit nav­i­gat­ing a mostly un­paved road.

A guided tour of the sum­mit is the safest and most ed­u­ca­tional way to go. Sev­eral com­pa­nies con­duct tours, which can last 7 or 8 hours. Be­cause of the very thin air at the sum­mit, chil­dren un­der 16 years of age and peo­ple with res­pi­ra­tory, heart and se­vere over­weight con­di­tions are not ad­vised to go be­yond the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter.

• Hawai‘i For­est & Trail (808) 331-8505 • Mauna Kea Sum­mit Ad­ven­tures (808) 322-2366

Take a Road Trip to Hip Hawi

The hip lit­tle en­clave of Hawi is only about an hour drive north of Kailua-Kona, but this up­coun­try ham­let (pop­u­la­tion 938) is worlds apart from its neigh­bor­ing city.

A ma­jor piece of Hawai‘i’s his­tory is tied to this tiny vil­lage. Hawi is the birth­place of King Kame­hameha I, the great war­rior king who united the Is­lands and laid the foun­da­tion for to­day’s state. A plaque des­ig­nat­ing the king’s birth­place is lo­cated on the grounds of an an­cient sac­ri­fi­cial tem­ple near a small coastal air­field.

Be­yond its his­toric sig­nif­i­cance, Hawi demon­strates a pro­cliv­ity for a self-suf­fi­cient life­style spiced with a sense of hu­mor. Find a trea­sure cre­ated by lo­cal ar­ti­sans at El­e­ments Jew­elry and Fine Crafts. The store features jew­elry cre­ated by owner John Flynn, as well as pot­tery, paint­ings, prints pho­tog­ra­phy by other artists.

Light­house Del­i­catessen is a buzzy NY-style deli that can cure hunger pangs both small and large with choices from a house-made soft baked pret­zel or a salad to a meat­ball parme­san hero. The Ko­hala Cof­fee Mill churns out 100-per­cent Kona cof­fee, gourmet ice cream and an ar­ray of sand­wiches, pas­tries and Hawai­ian gifts.

The Bam­boo Restau­rant is a Hawi in­sti­tu­tion. The pop­u­lar restau­rant and gallery is a taste of vin­tage Hawai‘i that never grows old.

•El­e­ments Jew­elry & Fine Crafts (808) 889-0760

Visit a Vin­tage Palace

The vin­tage palace at the heart of Kailua-Kona has un­der­gone a $1.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion and is re­ceiv­ing guests again. Dam­aged in a 2006 earth­quake, Hulihe‘e Palace has re­sumed its full sched­ule with pub­lic self-guided tours.

Gov. John Adams Kuakini built the palace, lo­cated on Ali’i Drive, in 1838 for his daugh­ter-in-law, Princess Ruth. The princess used the palace pri­mar­ily for en­ter­tain­ing vis­i­tors. When she wasn’t en­ter­tain­ing, the princess pre­ferred sleep­ing out­side in a large grass house she had con­structed on the grounds.

In 1884, King Kalakaua bought the stately oceanside man­sion. It was then re­mod­eled to in­clude a kitchen and fur­nished with dis­tinc­tive koa wood and com­mis­sioned Vic­to­rian pieces. The palace was used as a va­ca­tion spot for Hawai­ian roy­alty un­til 1916, when it was sold and all its con­tents were auc­tioned off. In 1925, it was pur­chased by the Ter­ri­tory of Hawai‘i and leased to the Daugh­ters of Hawai‘i, who tracked down many of the orig­i­nal pieces of fur­ni­ture and con­vinced the own­ers to re­turn the items for dis­play.

To­day, there are more than 1,000 ar­ti­facts on dis­play, in­clud­ing javelins, spears and a 180-pound lava rock, used by King Kame­hameha the Great as an ex­er­cise ball.

The palace is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wed­nes­day through Satur­day.

Bik­ers: Sad­dle Up, Ride ’Em Out

Just be­cause you’re on the seat of a Har­ley doesn’t mean you’re ready to go ev­ery­where. Even the most sea­soned bik­ers need to plan their Big Is­land trips care­fully.

Think of the is­land as cir­cu­lar in shape with a few zigzag­ging con­nec­tor roads. There are two key high­ways (11 and 19), while Sad­dle Road (High­way 200) pro­vides the short­est route from Kailua-Kona to Hilo.

Hawai‘i Is­land of­fers great day trips. You’ll find the road­ways well-marked and sig­nage easy to fol­low.

Ki­lauea Vol­cano is a must-see and a unique drive. You can see snow on Mauna Kea and ex­pe­ri­ence 90-de­gree tem­per­a­tures on the Chain of Craters road all on the same day! Parker Ranch is a great step back in time and a nice cruise up the coast. Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona is the best place to cruise at night.

• Is­land RV (808) 334-0959

Ka‘u: South by South

The sparsely pop­u­lated Ka‘u District, at the south­ern tip of the is­land, is known for its rich en­vi­ron­men­tal di­ver­sity. A large chunk of Hawai‘i Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park is lo­cated in this district, as are wind farms, high­land forests, the parched Ka‘u Desert and en­tic­ing black, white and green sand beaches.

But the area is largely distin­guished by its ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion. South Point, at the bot­tom of the district, is con­sid­ered the south­ern­most tip of the United States, and the vil­lage of Na‘alehu, the south­ern­most town. South Point, more prop­erly called Ka La‘e, is lo­cated at a latitude that’s 500 miles far­ther south than Mi­ami. Its roots go back to 150 A.D., when it is be­lieved the first Poly­ne­sian ex­plor­ers set foot on the is­land.

Na‘alehu, pop­u­la­tion 900, is lo­cated 19 de­grees north of the equa­tor on Route 11. It’s a good place to take a break on the drive to Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park. Check out Pu­nalu‘u Bake Shop, which is, of course, the south­ern­most bak­ery in the United States.

• Pu­nalu‘u Bake Shop (808) 929-7343


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