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North Kohala - Big Island Adventure Guide

King Kamehameha Day - North Kohala

Attractions and Adventures on the Akoni Pule Highway

Honoipu Landing

This interesting modern historical ruin can be found at the end of Old Coast Guard Station Road, makai off of Akoni Pule Hwy between mile markers 18 and 19 on Hwy 270. From the small, potholed parking lot, the view of the tumultuous waves tumbling into the rocky shoreline makes the short side-trip worthwhile. The landing itself is a hundred yards or so down a trail to the south, marked by the brown Na Ala Hele (a Hawaiian trail organization) sign.

This is a beautiful place with a compelling history. As an alternative to the railroad terminus at Mahukona, John Hind, the man behind the Kohala Ditch, reestablished Honoipu Landing, which had been an ancient Hawaiian canoe landing and surfing spot, as a modern loading facility. Originally, boats and rafts were sent ashore to attempt the rough landing. Eventually, an ingenious set of cables and pulleys were installed, which allowed boats to be unloaded while they remained safely anchored offshore; cargo was then hauled to a concrete landing on the bluffs above. The landing was abandoned in 1912 when Hind cut a deal to become part-owner of the railroad.

One of the significant historical events that took place here was the landing of several boats transporting Puerto Rican immigrants who came to work the sugar cane fields in 1901. While that immigration ceased soon afterwards, there remains a significant Puerto Rican population in Kohala even today. A small plaque near the site marks the landing.


Where to Shop

Mother’s Antiques, Imports & Fine Cigars (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-0496). In addition to cigars for the aficionado in your life, Mother’s has unusual items like Australian didgeridoos and Chinese dragon heads. Open 9 am-5 pm Mon- Thurs, 9 am-6 pm Fri, 11 am-6 pm Sat, 11 am-3 pm Sun.

Kohala Winds of Change (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-0809, www.immortaltea.com) is a store of soothing scents and sounds, selling Chinese teas and tea sets. A physician who practices traditional Chinese medicine works in a space behind the gift shop. Open 9 am-4 pm Mon-Fri, 11 am-3 pm Sat.

Star Light (Akoni Pule Hwy, 884-5429) is a sparkly little shop with gems, gemstone jewelry, fairy and nature notecards and agate chimes. Open 10:30 am-6 pm Mon-Sat, 10:30 am- 4 pm or by appointment.

It’s So Different (Akoni Pule Hwy, 884-5001). A 100-yearold Tibetan pipe ($4,500) hangs high on a wall at It’s So Different, and hand-painted ceramic clocks and hand-blown glass soap dispensers are not to be touched, but a sign declares, “Please feel free to bond with the jewelry.” The Kashmir silk shawls ($150-$300) are delicate and lovely. Open 10 am-7 pm daily, until 6 pm on Sun and Mon. HAWI FARMERS MARKET The vegetable stand at the corner of Akoni Pule Highway and Hawi Road has good produce at good prices, and tropical flowers like anthurium and heliconia. Usually open every day. Parked behind it is Lolo’s Shave Ice, open 11 am-5ish Wed- Sun. Happy hour starts at 4. Buy five hot dogs and get the sixth – or a shave ice – free!

Where to Eat

Hula La’s Mexican Kitchen (Akoni Pule Hwy in the Kohala Trade Center, 889-5668, toll free 866-HULA-LAS). The best thing about Hula La’s is the fresh salsa – it’s hot! No. 2 (of four heat levels) is called “Uncle Marty’s Middle of the Road Salsa” and will probably be enough heat for most. The Kick Butt Kilauea Salsa (No. 4) will smoke you out! Their salsas go for $10/lb. The rest of the food at this take-out joint is good enough – tacos, burritos, enchiladas, taquitos and other hearty favorites. The Mexican rice and red enchilada sauce are surprisingly bland but, as mentioned above, salsa is a quick remedy. Local guitarists sometimes wail in the outdoor seating area. They also serve breakfast until 1 pm on weekends. Margarita lovers should know that they don’t serve alcohol. Open 11 am-8 pm Mon-Thurs, 11 am-4 pm Fri-Sun. $- $$

Kohala Coffee Mill (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-5577). This popular spot across from Bamboo serves all sorts of goodies: ice cream, smoothies, Kona coffee and espresso. They have more substantial fare such as build-your-own bagel and croissant sandwiches, chili dogs, deli sandwiches and burgers, ranging from Black Angus and teriyaki chicken, to an unusual choice for vegetarians between Boca or Gardenburgers. Yeah! Gift items include local coffees and teas, kava, mugs, jam, Hawaiian honey and miniature enamel teapots. There’s live music on Sundays. Open 6:30 am-6 pm Mon-Fri, 7 am-5:30 pm Sat- Sun. $

Kohala Diner (54-3615 Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-0208). This local joint looks somewhat dilapidated from the outside but is clean, cheap and popular. There is seating indoors where you can watch the game on TV, or outside at picnic tables. Breakfast (omelettes, steak and eggs, spam and egg sandwich, etc.) is served until 10:30 am; lunch and dinner items include $3 burgers, saimin, plate lunches like tempura salmon, chicken nuggets and grilled cheese. The curly fries are actually waffle fries (still good, though); regular fries are nice and crisp. Open 5:30 am-9 pm daily. $

Aunty’s Place (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-0899). With a ceiling whimsically decorated with dollar bills, Aunty’s Place specializes in German fare – and pizza on weekends. Both are good. German dinners include wiener schnitzel, bratwurst, and the uber-German (yeah, right) cordon bleu. But we’re pizza people, so we like to eat at Aunty’s on Saturdays and Sundays after 4 pm, especially when we’ve worked up an appetite hiking. The bubbly crust stays crisp and, paired with a mug of cold Kona Brewing beer, you feel like you’re celebrating a well-earned treat. Karaoke fans (you know who you are) should eat at Aunty’s Friday nights for Karaoke Night. There’s also a coin-op pool table out back. Open 11 am-9 pm Mon-Fri, 2:30-9 pm Sat, noon-9 pm Sun. $$



Kamehameha Park is a civic dream: baseball, soccer, football and gateball (think Japanese croquet) fields, a 25-yardoutdoor pool, a gymnasium, tennis courts, public restrooms, picnic tables and more. And when the kids start to get fidgety, you can unleash them on Keiki Kingdom, behind the tennis courts. This is one of those wacky amalgamations of slides, swings, rings and ladders that kids can’t resist. The newest addition to the park is the six-hole golf course. The course is geared toward juniors, but at $6.25 a round for adults, it’s not a bad deal for mom or dad, either. The course is open 7 am to 6 pm every day.

Kamehameha Park Golf Learning Center (345-4393). John Mauro, Jr. was the Director of Golf at Waikaloa Beach Resort for 12 years before he conceived of a new dream. He has transformed a former driving range in Kapa`au into the Kamehameha Park Golf Learning Center. Mauro ran the backhoe and bulldozer himself, and now stands proud over his creation. The course, which consists of five par threes and one par four**(s&r par 4), is largely geared toward kids interested in the game, but Mauro points out that the existing course record is one over par, so scoring well requires skill. Mauro loans youngsters a set of clubs, which are kept on the premises and logged by their bag number. Greens fees for keiki (children) are $3.15 per round, but kids can play free all day on Mondays, as well as for an hour after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mauro says his goal is to field a winning golf team for the high school within three years. His shorter-term goals include planting a large number of palms around the course, and getting back in the seat of the bulldozer and building another three holes, which he hopes to have completed by the time you read this.

Where to Shop

Rainbow-Jo (54-3854 Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-5114, toll free 888-575-2804, www.rainbowjo.com). Designer Michele Thornton of Rainbow-Jo has been selling her designs around Hawaii since 1986 – there are two retail stores on the Big Island. The colors are island-inspired and the cotton and rayon material is very soft. Open 10 am-6 pm Tues, and Thurs-Sat.

Vea Polynesian Gifts/Kathleen’s Creations (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-5395, www.hulainstruments.com). Two independent business owners share space here in the Sakamoto Building. Kathleen specializes in jewelry and beading supplies, while Ika Vea carves hula drums, makes traditional Polynesian weapons, and sells other specialty items like hula dresses. Other finds include Kathleen’s colorful “rag hats,” and brightly painted sandals, whose creator, a local artist named Blake, aims to “spread joy with every step.” Open noon-4 pm Mon-Fri.

Sue Swerdlow Art Gallery (Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-0002, www.sueswerdlowart.com). Hawaiian images by Sue Swerdlow – paintings and etched glass. She also will paintings on commission. “Attempted Hours” 11:30 am-5 pm Tues- Sat and by appointment.

Ackerman Galleries (studio on Akoni Pule Hwy, toll free 800-484-9924, www.ackermangalleries.com). Artist Gary Ackerman’s bold use of color is his trademark, and is evident in his paintings in this gallery, such as one of an erupting Kilauea, or of sunflowers in Ode to Gogh. Open 10:30 am- 5:30 pm Mon-Sat.

Adventures in Yoga

House of Motion (Akoni Pule Hwy, 884-5700). This “yoga and movement studio,” in the Sakamoto Building, has a class schedule available at www.gokohala.com. Lately, fliers around the island have promoted free classes for a month, offered by a yogi who wanted to pay for everyone’s lessons in order to share yoga with the public. Good vibes and good karma.

Where to Stay

Kohala Club Hotel (54-3793 Akoni Pule Hwy, 889-6793, kohala-club-hotel.com) .The well-situated Kohala Club Hotel promises to become quite a find. Built in 1890 and later known for its hard-drinking clientele, it is now under extensive renovation. New owner Grant Wilson has already done a lot of work to restore the once infamous property and grounds (about six acres, with a huge monkeypod tree in the front yard). Though they are now painted a cheery yellow and blue, only three of the eight rooms are ready for occupancy, but are a bargain at only $50 a night (the other rooms will cost up to $75). There are TVs and sinks in each room – one room has two single beds, which parents like to get for the kids, while they relax next door. $

Where to Eat

J&R’s (Kohala Town Center, 889-5500) serves chili, burgers and local grinds like plate lunches and loco moco, as well as whole pizzas with usual toppings like pepperoni and pineapple. The pricing structure for toppings is rather bizarre; for example, mushrooms cost $1.44 on a small pie, or $4.09 on a large one. Open 10 am-7 pm Mon-Thurs, 10 am-8 pm Fri-Sat. $

Nearby Attractions and Adventures

Kauhola Point Lighthouse

The bright white spike of the lighthouse on the flat peninsula of Kauhola Point makes for a satisfying and picturesque reward to the often difficult trip to get there. A smaller, wood-framed lighthouse stood here from 1897 until it was replaced by the existing structure in 1933. This is a lovely, windy spot. The point was a favorite surf spot of King Kamehameha I, and it’s said that this is where Queen Ka`ahumanu, his favorite wife, learned to surf. Be careful around the cliff edges, as they are apt to erode beneath the overhangs and collapse when weight is applied. Turn makai on Old Kohala Mill Road (also called Lighthouse Road) between mile markers 24 and 25, on the east side of Kapa`au (look for signs for ATV Outfitters Hawaii). Follow the road until you hit a T, then turn hard right and look for the gate by the wood workers. From here, the dirt road is deeply rutted, and sometimes impassable if it’s been raining. Don’t even think about trying this without four-wheel drive. The ruts make for a fun/alarming crawl down the hill, as you try to avoid getting stuck or flipping your ride. You may be better served parking at the gate and walking the mile or so down to the lighthouse. Remember to turn hard left just past the gate when leaving, or you may end up driving aimlessly through the maze of roads criss-crossing through the high, wild sugar cane.

Did you know? In 1987, Bob and Sandra Shanklin set out to photograph every lighthouse in the United States. In February of 1999, they completed their quest by photographing Kauhola Point Lighthouse in North Kohala. For more info, visit www.thelighthousepeople.com.

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