Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Kailua, the heart of the Kona Coast on the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii has a lot going on. A museum and church date from the first missionary settlements in Hawaii in the 1820s. The venerable King Kamehameha Hotel honors the nation's first king, at a spot where a heiau (temple) marks the site where the Great One chose to spend the last ten years of his life.
Kona has alleyways of tourist shops, some bars that rocked in the glory days of deep sea fishing, and a dock that hauls boatloads of visitors on sunset cocktail cruises. Okay, fine. But don't overlook the "beach," which is a huge pool of protected clear water that runs along the breakwater that protects Kona's main drag, Ali'i Drive. A wooden rack of cubbyholes is nearby to store towels and flip flops. Steps lead to sandy entries on either end of the breakwater, so you just glide on in for snorkeling and swimming. Then get out, dry off, and take your pick from many places to enjoy a beverage and Hawaiian grinds. That's aloha style, brah.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Heading south from Kailua Town, just as busy Ali'i Drive swerves uphill and heads toward the remote south Kona Coast, you want to to veer right into Keauhou Bay: This is where Kamehameha III was born—a small bay with good snorkeling, local canoeists, and where low-key charters depart for various seagoing adventures.
You can also take off north and south on coastal trails along rugged lava to see some big-wave action. The last great battle among Hawaiians took place just south of Keauhou, when Kam III backed the queens (one of whom his mother) and ended the male-dominated Kapu system of punishment that had ruled the emerging monarchy for centuries.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Where's the beach?
Arriving at the airport, especially on days when the vog (volcanic smog) is creeping down the barren lava fields and traffic is jammed, Kona newcomers may be disappointed with the absence of a glitzy run of sand that is normally associated with a resort area of such high repute. Don't despair. Remember that the big guy himself, King Kamehameha the Great, could have lived any where in the Hawaiian Islands and he chose to spend his final decade on the shores of Kailua-Kona.
You'll find Old-Hawaii charm remains—alongside a run of restaurants, tourist shops, and mid-level resorts along Ali'i Drive. Along the seawall on the bay is Hulihe'e Palace, now a museum, built in 1838 as a home for the Big Island's second governor, John Adams Kuakini. Across the street from the palace is Mokuaikane Church, a stone edifice with towering steeple that was built a year earlier. The church, is an upgrade of the thatched-roof model built in 1820 by Reverend Asa Thurston, who was among the first missionaries to arrive in Hawaii. On the other side of the small bay (at a great swimming beach) is Aheuna Heiau, a recreation of Kamehameha's post-conquest place of worship, dedicated to Lono, the god of peace and fertility.
Just down the palmy drive from these landmarks is Kona Inn Shopping Village, a boardwalk full of cubby-hole shops centered around the Kona Inn Restaurant, which dates from earliest days of tourism, in 1928. And a few steps from the village is Hale Halawai Park, with more shops of Waterhouse Row. This is where the sport of bodyboarding was invented and a front-row seat to watch today's surfers ride waves into Oneo Bay. (See Hawaii the Big Island Trailbazer, pages 88-90 for more details.)
Like much of the Big Island, Kona may not deliver the tropical stereotype, but it offers much more after you've taken the time to let the magic work.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The 1,100-plus acres just north of Kailua-Kona were a horn o' plenty for Kamehameha the Great and his retinue, a lovely patchwork of terraced gardens—until a massive lava flow from Hualalai Volcano covered most of the site. The great king died shortly thereafter ,in 1819, and his remains are rumored to be the the rubble, along with those of thousands of other Hawaiians who died from diseases after the Western world arrived throughout the 1800s.
In 1978, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park was established, but only in recent years have improvements been made, including a new visitors center and a largely completed effort to restore the 750-foot-long, 12-foot-wide seawall that encloses the 11-acre Kaloko Pond, which was the fish store for the ancients. Also included in the vast park are petroglyphs and tall rock mounds (a mystery to anthropologists), heiau and shrine remains, and Aiopio Fishtrap (pictured) a dreamy place to pack the sand and take a refreshing dip.
The historical park borders Honokohau Harbor, hotspot for deep sea fishermen, and Alula Beach, a locals' haunt, both of which add interest for visitors. See page 84 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer. Take care not to disturb any ruins when visiting the park; many of its treasures are still being catalogued.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
This sandy-bottomed ocean pool in the lava reef is just around the point from all the hubbub of Kailua-Kona, a quick getaway for local parents and keikis (kids) to take safe dip and log some beach time. Private property next to King Kamehameha Hotel in Kona prevents tourists from stumbling upon this fun place.
To find it, you have to drive a short distance around to Old Airport Beach, park at the swim center, and walk across a soccer field to the shoreline public access. The tranquil spot has seen its turmoil: In the 1980s locals had to fight developers to keep the access in tact, and way back in late 1700s, King Kamehameha named the nearby point Kukailimoku, after his war god.