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Keahole | HualalaiMakalawena Beach - North Kona - Big Island Adventure Guide

Where to Shop

Mac Pie (74-5035 Queen Ka`ahumanu Hwy, _ 329-7437, www.macpie.com). Long before Sheila Everitt became the reigning Miss Hawaii Senior, she was selling her rich, delicious macadamia nut pies at local farmers markets – they’re a Hawaiian take on the pecan pie, using mac nuts instead. As her pies grew more famous, restaurants around the island clamored to sell them and her business went into high gear. Today, Mac Pie’s signature creations have been rated among the top 10 pies in America by the Food Network, and they once sold 2,000 pies in seven minutes on the QVC shopping network. The bustling factory floor, viewable through glass right at the store, testifies to how appreciated these pies have become by the American palette. Even our leaders can’t resist these sweets: Mac Pie has shipped orders to the last three White House administrations!

Available in several flavors, including Choco Nilla, Caramel Mac, the ever-popular Kona Coffee and the Original Vanilla, you can’t go wrong here. For the record, we like the Mocha pie the best. You can stop in for a sampling of several different flavors, order mini-pies to go, or pick up several to take home. They’ll package your pie in a pizza box for easy carrying, and it will remain fresh for two weeks at room temperature, so you can take it home on the plane with you (which is a lot cheaper than shipping it home). Located behind the Chevron gas station on Queen Ka`ahumanu on the way to the airport. Open 10 am-6 pm Mon-Fri, and 12-5 pm on Sat.

Keahole

Sights

Natural Energy Lab

Many visitors to Kona pass the strange, space-age buildings and solar panels stuck in the middle of a lava field a mile or so south of the airport and wonder what could have inspired someone to put them there. Well, the answer is renewable energy... and deep ocean water.

These buildings are NELHA Gateway, the visitor’s center for the Natural Energy Lab. This is where they give talks about what goes on in the area and how it works. So, what are they up to? Spread over 870 acres, they are in the business of pumping cold, nutrient-rich ocean water from 3,000 feet below the surface 24 hours a day. This water drives a thriving aquaculture industry that raises New England cold water lobster, abalones, sea horses, aquarium fishes, and spirulina. Most recently, Japanese companies have had success using reverse osmosis to desalinate the water, which they can market as high-end health water, because it contains over 80 of the 105 minerals in existence. It sells in Japan for a serious premium. And due to OTEC’s proximity to an international airport and a deep water port, a thriving industry has sprung up that actually has very little to do with its original purpose.

At the visitor’s center you will learn that in the ’70s, a man named Joe Craven noticed that Keahole Point had a deep enough drop-off to the open ocean so that the temperature differential between the easily available surface water and deep ocean water was significant – enough, in fact, to merit constructing an OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) generator. An OTEC generator creates energy by utilizing this temperature difference to create clean, renewable energy. Craven lobbied for funding, and in 1979 created a barge fitted with an OTEC generator anchored off of Keahole Point, and they successfully created energy. Based upon this success, they received even more money to create a larger, land-based power plant, which they did successfully in 1984. Unfortunately, they broke it. The system was never plugged into the island’s electric grid, so there wasn’t too much reason for it to run continuously. During a period of downtime, the flywheel warped in the chamber, and the system was never able to restart. The generator was torn down a few years later. However, the large-diameter deep-water pipe that they installed was still operational, and some pioneering entrepreneurs created an aquaculture business – an industry was born that was a mere biproduct of the energy experiment.

A lecture called An Introduction to NELHA (329-7341, www.nelha.org), described by volunteers as “the fun one,” is held at NELHA Gateway Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 am until noon (or after), and costs $8 ($5 for seniors and students). It’s worth attending just to find out how the building is air-conditioned. The Tuesday lecture, held at the same time, is more “data filled” and discusses issues related to renewable energy. A demonstration area that is presently at the end of OTEC Road will soon be moved up to the visitor’s center to make it more convenient to learn about the technology.

Ocean Rider (329-6840, www.seahorse.com). One of the unique businesses in OTEC using the cold water is Ocean Rider, a seahorse farm that raises the little beauties for aquarists. This is a terrific idea not only from a financial standpoint – the cheapest seahorse sells for $65 – but because all seahorses are endangered. A tour of the farm is pretty interesting if you like to look at the strange fish with faces like little horses. After washing their hands with iodine, guests feed seahorses that are only a few days old, and are so tiny you could probably thread them through a needle. Then you feed small red shrimp to larger ones, about six inches long, including the amazing prehensile tail. They suck the shrimp into their snouts like a vacuum.

Around this time, the guide points out some pregnant males – yup, males. After a graceful courtship dance, the female (two X chromosomes and all the “parts”) squirts her eggs into the male’s pouch, where he fertilizes the eggs and carries them for about 30 days. This is the part of the tour when the women cheer and the men shift their weight uncomfortably. Outside, there are large blue tubs with seahorses of various species – Ocean Rider has 15 – and ages. Guests pull back tarps to watch them swimming toward food, or wrapping their tails around each other. A mother in our group saw a seahorse that had wrapped its tail around the neck of another and declared, “They must be siblings!” (Her kids were not amused.) The highlight of the tour is a chance to put your hands in a tank and let a seahorse grab onto your pinkie finger. This is the moment that makes the high cost of admission seem worthwhile (though they really should make it more affordable). Tours take place at 1 pm Mon-Sat and cost $20. Reservations are required.

Where to Eat

Food choices are slim in North Kona, though there are a few options in the industrial area.

Rainbow Café (73-5612 Kauhola St, 329-8839). Tucked away in the industrial center near Costco, Rainbow Café serves inexpensive Chinese food à la carte or from a buffet, and local food. Breakfast offerings include loco moco, omelettes and pancakes, while lunch and dinner fare includes plate lunches like BBQ chicken, shrimp salad and hamburger steak – burgers and fries are also available. The food is far from spectacular but at least it’s cheap! Open 8:30 am-8 pm Mon-Fri, 10 am-8 pm Sat, 10 am-5 pm Sun. $-$$

Costco has $2 pizza slices and smoothies. There’s also a Subway nearby.

Hualalai

Beach Tree Bar & Grill (Four Seasons Hualalai, 325- 8000). This is the spot for an alfresco dinner enhanced by Hawaiian music (or easy listening), with a hula dancer Wed- Sat from 6-7 pm. The salad bar is included, with entrées like steak or fresh fish, though you may be tempted by the gourmet pizzas and pastas. Delicious lunches of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and pupus like sashimi are an option, though our favorite thing to do here is grab a spot at the adjacent bar to watch the sunset while drinking mai tais and munching on the free pupus like edamame. There are special theme nights –Wednesday has an Italian menu; Saturday is a surf and turf buffet with an astronomer who leads stargazing. Open for lunch 11:30 am-5:30 pm, dinner 5:30-8:30 pm. $$$$

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