Hilo / Ha­makua Coast

101 Things to Do (Big Island) - - HILO/HAMAKUA COAST -

66. Drive the Ha­makua Coast

The 45-mile Ha­makua Coast road trip from Hilo to Honoka‘a is stun­ning.

High­way 19 rises above high ero­sional cliffs that drop to the foam­ing surf be­low. Above the high­way, the moun­tain­side is blan­keted in green­ery in­ter­laced by rush­ing streams, with two vol­ca­noes— Mauna Kea and Ko­hala— ris­ing in the dis­tance.

Honoka‘a is a post­card-per­fect site, with a main street, his­toric store­fronts, shops, restau­rants and a church steeple. There’s a Satur­day-morn­ing farm­ers’ mar­ket, bed-and-break­fast ac­com­mo­da­tions, a vin­tage ho­tel, bar­ber­shops, restau­rants, bak­eries and a video out­let.

Honoka‘a is a gate­way to Waipi‘o Val­ley, one of Hawai‘i Is­land’s most scenic and sa­cred des­ti­na­tions. Off lim­its to rental cars, it is ac­ces­si­ble by horse­back, bi­cy­cle or foot. To get there from Honoka‘a, take High­way 240 to the look­out above the val­ley.

Other stops along the Ha­makua Coast in­clude Akaka Falls on High­way 220, the Hawai‘i Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Gar­den just out­side Hilo, Kolekole Beach Park and the World Botan­i­cal Gar­dens & Wa­ter­falls, where Umauma Falls is lo­cated.

• Hawai‘i Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Gar­dens (808) 964-5233

• Mauka Makai Ad­ven­tures (808) 640-7557

• Wasabi In­ter­na­tional Tours (808) 987-9995

• World Botan­i­cal Gar­dens & Wa­ter­falls (808) 963-5427

67. Dis­cover Where the Train Stopped

As you travel along High­way 19 on the Hilo-Ha­makua Her­itage Coast about halfway from Hilo to Honoka‘a, keep an eye out for mile marker 25. If you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion, you’ll no­tice a large con­crete side­walk that was once the load­ing plat­form for the old Lau­pa­hoe­hoe Train Sta­tion. The Lau­pa­hoe­hoe Train Mu­seum takes you on a trip back in time. In this hand­somely re­stored rail­road-em­ployee home, there are pho­tos, ar­ti­facts, mem­o­ra­bilia and sto­ries about the many is­land rail­roads, sugar plan­ta­tions and cul­tures that built the Big Is­land. This com­mu­nity-run, all-vol­un­teer mu­seum is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat. and Sun.

• Lau­pa­hoe­hoe Train Mu­seum (808) 962-6300

68. Ex­plore Hilo

Curv­ing grace­fully around the rim of Hilo Bay, the town of Hilo is nes­tled on the slopes of three vol­ca­noes and is home to nearly 41,000 res­i­dents. Hilo also is home to the an­nual Merrie Monarch Fes­ti­val, a ma­jor vis­i­tor at­trac­tion each spring. In 2013, the hula and Hawai­ian cul­ture ex­trav­a­ganza cel­e­brated its 50th an­niver­sary with a week of events.

One of the wettest towns in the United States, Hilo boasts a rain­fall aver­age of about 128 inches a year. All that rain cre­ates gush­ing wa­ter­falls and wa­ter for a myr­iad of ex­otic flow­ers. Tourism may not be as no­tice­able here, but there’s plenty to do. Hawai‘i Vol­ca­noes National Park is a short drive from Hilo, as are the scenic Ha­makua Coast, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut’s vis­i­tor cen­ter and Hawai‘i Trop­i­cal Botan­i­cal Gar­den. The Pa­cific Tsunami Mu­seum and Ly­man Mu­seum are lo­cated in town, along with the Palace The­ater, Big Is­land Can­dies, ‘Imiloa Astron­omy Cen­ter and a fa­mous farm­ers’ mar­ket.

• Big Is­land Can­dies (808) 935-8890

69. Tra­verse a Zoo in a Rain­for­est

Com­ing face to face with a 450-pound white Ben­gal tiger is a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly in Hawai‘i. If you take a stroll through Hilo’s Pana‘ewa Rain­for­est Zoo & Gar­dens, be sure to meet the Ben­gal named Na­maste.

Known as the only trop­i­cal rain­for­est zoo in the United States, this 12-acre habi­tat and botan­i­cal gar­den is home to nu­mer­ous an­i­mals, rep­tiles, monarch but­ter­flies and birds, some of which are na­tive only to Hawai‘i. See gi­ant anteaters from South Amer­ica and bin­tur­ongs (Asian bear cats) from South­east Asia. Also in res­i­dence are two-toed sloths and green igua­nas from South Amer­ica, a minia­ture cow ( zebu) from In­dia and wideeyed lemurs from Mada­gas­car. Feral pigs nest in a stone abode, as do whistling ducks. Na­tive Hawai­ian an­i­mal life in­cludes Hawai­ian gallinules, pueo (owls), ‘io (hawks) and Hawai‘i’s state bird, the nene goose.

The zoo, open be­tween 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily (ex­cept for Christ­mas and New Year’s Day), is lo­cated on High­way 11, about 4 miles south of Hilo.

70. Hope for a Rain­bow at Rain­bow Falls

There’s a pot of gold at the end of one of Hilo’s ma­jor thor­ough­fares. It’s called Rain­bow Falls, named for the rain­bows that ap­pear when the morn­ing sun shines through the mist.

Take Wai‘anu­enue Drive through Hilo and bear right on Rain­bow Drive. A park­ing lot will be on your right. Make the short walk to a look­out and hope for a rain­bow.

• Wasabi In­ter­na­tional Tours (808) 987-9995

71. Pho­to­graph the Boil­ing Pots of Wailuku River

The Wailuku River is an 18-mile path of bub­bling, cas­cad­ing wa­ter that is par­tic­u­larly fear­some dur­ing heavy rains. Wailuku means “wa­ters of de­struc­tion,” an apt moniker for this danger­ous river where con­cealed lava tubes are known to cre­ate haz­ardous swim­ming con­di­tions.

Dur­ing the rainy sea­son, the river churns through a suc­ces­sion of seven or eight “pots,” cre­at­ing the ef­fect of a steam­ing Jacuzzi. Some of the river wa­ter flows be­neath a level of old lava and then sud­denly bub­bles up, as if it were boil­ing.

Boil­ing Pots is about 2 miles past Hilo Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Wai‘anu­enue Drive. A sign to turn right onto Pe‘e Pe‘e Falls Street leads to the park­ing area above the river.

• Keikana Tours (808) 895-4181

72. Visit Akaka Falls & Honomu Town

While the hike to Akaka Falls takes less than half an hour, the view—which at­tracts an es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year—and fun along the way make this des­ti­na­tion a worth­while ex­cur­sion.

Start your ex­plo­ration at the vil­lage of Honomu, 11 miles north of Hilo on the Ha­makua Coast, now known as the gate­way to the falls. It once was a bustling com­mu­nity that catered to the sugar in­dus­try pop­u­lated with saloons, a ho­tel, stores and sev­eral churches.

A stroll through this tiny com­mu­nity quickly calls to mind rem­nants of its past, with wooden board­walks, rail­ings and build­ings with false fronts hous­ing an­tique shops, eater­ies and the cen­tury-old Ishigo’s Gro­cery and Bak­ery.

As you con­tinue along the high­way, keep your eyes peeled for road­side stands such as the Akaka Falls Pit Stop, which of­fers fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles. And once you ar­rive, en­joy the eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble view of the renowned wa­ter­falls.

To get to Akaka Falls from Honomu, fol­low High­way 220 for 3.5 miles. The falls are 442 feet high and pro­vide one of the best photo op­por­tu­ni­ties on the is­land.

• Keikana Tours (808) 895-4181

• Lau­pa­hoe­hoe Train Mu­seum (808) 962-6300

• Wasabi In­ter­na­tional Tours (808) 987-9995

73. Nav­i­gate Sad­dle Road

Sad­dle Road (Route 200) cuts across the high val­ley, or sad­dle, be­tween the is­land’s two mas­sive vol­canic moun­tains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Once con­sid­ered a treach­er­ous route, a se­ries of road im­prove­ments have made most of the trip safer and smoother. It is the short­est route from Kailua-Kona to Hilo, ac­ces­si­ble from Route 190 near Waimea. This route pro­vides ac­cess to the slopes of Mauna Loa and the ob­ser­va­to­ries atop Mauna Kea. In good weather, the trip re­quires about two hours of con­cen­trated drive time. The road passes through a wide va­ri­ety of eco­log­i­cal, cli­mate and ge­o­log­i­cal zones as it climbs to more than 6,000 feet and back down again.

74. Take a Break in Honoka‘a

Sit­u­ated on bluffs high above the ocean on the is­land’s east coast, Honoka‘a once was the hub of the Ha­makua Coast sugar in­dus­try. To­day, it is a lit­tle gem bet­ter known as the gate­way to Waipi‘o Val­ley, a pop­u­lar vis­i­tor des­ti­na­tion less than 15 min­utes away.

The shops and eater­ies along Honoka‘a’s main drag are a com­pat­i­ble blend of old and new. There’s an 80-year-old hard­ware store, a the­ater that has been show­ing films since 1939, a 100-year-old Hong­wanji Mis­sion Tem­ple and the homey Ho­tel Honoka‘a Club.

Honoka‘a is con­sid­ered the gate­way to the north­ern end of the Her­itage High­way (High­way 19), which stretches south to Hilo along the Ha­makua Coast. This spec­tac­u­lar coastal drive is a scenic treat that moves through old sugar plan­ta­tion ham­lets like Kalopa, Pa‘auilo, Lau­pa­hoe­hoe and Papa‘aloa.

Get a hint of the lo­cal cul­ture— and awe­some malasadas— at Tex Drive In. Go hik­ing in Kalopa State Park. Or take a stroll to the Katsu Goto Me­mo­rial, which marks the ap­prox­i­mate spot where Goto was hanged af­ter fight­ing for the rights of his fel­low plan­ta­tion work­ers.

• Lau­pa­hoe­hoe Train Mu­seum (808) 962-6300

• Waipi‘o Val­ley Shut­tle (808) 775-7121

To ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty and ex­cite­ment of the hula—and other dances from around Poly­ne­sia—head to The Shops at Mauna Lani for their thrilling Poly­ne­sian hula shows, 7 p.m. at Cen­ter Stage on Mon­days and Thurs­days. The shows are free and open to the pub­lic. You’ll be en­ter­tained by hula and Tahi­tian dancers, fire knife dancers and per­form­ers of the Maori haka. The large and tal­ented cast ri­vals any you’d see at a lu‘au!

• The Shops at Mauna Lani (808) 885-9501

82. Lis­ten in on Slack Key

If you want to ab­sorb the his­tory and cul­ture of Hawai‘i, head to a nearby slack key gui­tar per­for­mance, a mu­si­cal style unique to th­ese is­lands.

In the 1800s, pan­iolo (Hawai­ian cow­boys) learned rop­ing from Mex­i­can cow­boys brought to the is­land by King Kame­hameha III. Th­ese main­land wran­glers also brought with them their style of gui­tar play­ing. The Hawai­ian pan­iolo be­gan loos­en­ing the strings and adapt­ing the sound to lo­cal mu­sic. From there, slack key was born. If you’re not lucky enough to stum­ble across any back­yard kanikapila (Hawai­ian for “play mu­sic”), you can check out the sound at the fol­low­ing places, among oth­ers:

• Four Sea­sons Hualalai Re­sort’s Lava Lounge, Kailua-Kona; nightly, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (808) 325-8000

• King’s Shops Cen­ter Stage, Waikoloa, Tues­days, 6 to 7 p.m., www.waikoloabeachre­sort.com

• Bam­boo Restau­rant, Hawi, monthly (808) 889-5555

• Red Wa­ter Café, Waimea, typ­i­cally on Sun­days, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (808) 885-9299

83. Get Fish as Fresh as it Comes

You may have seen lo­cals dig­ging into a dish that re­sem­bles cubes of raw fish—this is poke (pro­nounced “poh-keh”), and it is ar­guably the best way to eat freshly caught ‘ahi (tuna) or tako (oc­to­pus). Poke can be raw or smoked and tossed in a va­ri­ety of sauces, from sim­ple shoyu (soy sauce) to orig­i­nal fla­vors like wasabi or se­same.

You can pick this dish up at lo­cal gro­cery stores such as KTA, Food­land, Sack N Save or at fish mar­kets like Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona or Suisan in Hilo. If you want, you also can get a side of white or brown rice.

Visit Da Poke Shack at 76-6246 Ali‘i Drive in Kailu­aKona, or Suisan at 1965 Kame­hameha Ave. in Hilo.

84. Eat Lunch, Hawai‘i-Style

The plate lunch is a quin­tes­sen­tial part of Hawai­ian cui­sine. Two parts rice, one part mac salad and one part meat, th­ese large meals cover the basics and some­times even all three daily meals. Even bet­ter, their prices ri­val those of any typ­i­cal fast-food joint found on Hawai‘i. Just pick up a plate lunch, plop down on a beach, and en­joy what life has dished up for you.

Some typ­i­cal and au­then­tic Hawai­ian plate lunches are: loco moco, a ham­burger steak served over rice and topped with an egg and gravy; kalua pork, tra­di­tion­ally pork that has been slow­cooked in an imu and served with cab­bage; and chicken katsu, which is a Ja­panese-style chicken cut­let. Korean plate lunches fea­ture items such as kalbi and bi bim bap. Plate lunches can be found at lunch wag­ons, drive-ins and small mar­kets around the is­land—you’ll be sur­prised at the places you’ll stum­ble upon them.

Not re­ally look­ing for a take-and-go sit­u­a­tion? Do not fret. Many eater­ies around the is­land of­fer menus filled with com­fort food that pleases the palate of lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike in a causal and com­fort­able at­mos­phere.

• Kona Cof­fe­house & Café (808) 328-2524

• Splasher’s Grill (808) 326-2212

85. Try the Is­land Take on Fine Din­ing

Fine din­ing in Hawai‘i is an el­e­gant meal that is the di­rect re­sult of a chef work­ing from fresh-off-the-farm pro­duce. Here, that com­bi­na­tion is known as Hawaii Re­gional Cui­sine, which com­bines the clas­sic tech­niques of Europe, the savvy style and so­phis­ti­ca­tion of Amer­i­can Re­gional Cui­sine, and the ex­otic in­gre­di­ents of the Pa­cific Rim. Peter Mer­ri­man, owner of Mer­ri­man’s restau­rant in Waimea, was among the orig­i­nal chefs in­volved in de­vel­op­ing Hawai‘i Re­gional Cui­sine.

At Kawai­hae Har­bor, Café Pesto and Seafood Bar & Grill serve great food in fun set­tings, as does Blue Dragon Restau­rant & Spa, which serves pro­duce from Hawi farms and fish from just across the street in Kawai­hae Bay. Head to the Ko­hala Coast for fine din­ing such as ‘ULU Ocean Grill, Roy’s, The Ca­noeHouse and Brown’s Beach House Restau­rant, just to name a few.

86. See Choco­late Made from Bean to Bar

Ever won­dered what goes into mak­ing that mag­i­cal treat called choco­late? Lucky for vis­i­tors to Hawai‘i Is­land, Kona boasts not only cof­fee farms but also a one-stop field-to-bar ex­pe­ri­ence, The Orig­i­nal Hawai­ian Choco­late Fac­tory.

While ca­cao isn’t en­demic to Hawai‘i, the same Kona slopes that are ideal for cof­fee grow­ing also are per­fect for har­vest­ing ca­cao. On South Kona’s Mt. Hualalai, The Orig­i­nal Hawai­ian Choco­late Fac­tory not only farms ca­cao beans but also hand­picks, sun-dries and pro­cesses those beans.

The com­pany also takes it the fi­nal step, turn­ing the pro­cessed beans into au­then­tic Hawai­ian choco­late bars. Dur­ing a sin­gle visit to the farm, guests get to see the en­tire choco­late process in ac­tion!

One hour walk­ing tours run ev­ery Wed. at 9 a.m. and Fri. by phone ap­point­ment. Call (808) 322-2626 or (888) 447-2626.

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