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Hawai’i Trip, Part 4

Monday morning we were able to sleep until 6am which was a nice improvement. At this rate, we’ll be used to Hawaiian time right before we have to head back home! We wanted to keep it relatively easy since Tuesday would be our big volcano day. We grabbed some yummy pastries from Lava Java and headed south.

Mike at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park

Our drive took us through Kona coffee farm country, a swath of land 2 miles wide and 20 miles long. After some zig-zags through the mountains and a drive back down to the coast, we arrived at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park. This was where royal chiefs lived but it was also a place of refuge for defeated warriors, woman and children during times of war, and those who broke the royal laws and needed absolution. The royal grounds were separated from the place of refuge (pu’uhonua) by a massive stone wall. When we entered the park, we were given a brochure that provided information and a map for a self-guided tour. We saw recreations of temples (thatched huts), canoes, wood carvings of gods, and other indications of traditional Hawaiian life. There is also a canoe landing area that is now used by the endangered Hawaiian Green Turtles (honu) to sun themselves during the day. While we were there, there was one turtle already relaxing on the beach and we were also able to watch another turtle swim up.

A Hawaiian green turtle basking in the sun

Partway back up the road from the coast we stopped at St. Benedict’s Painted Church, the walls and ceilings of which are painted to show numerous biblical scenes. Back on the main highway we stopped at a macadamia nut farm where we experimented with some old farm equipment to process nuts. Kathie particularly enjoyed snacking on the fresh nuts right out of their shells.

Next we stopped at Bay View coffee farm, and the gentleman manning the gift shop took us on a thorough tour of the farm. Since this coffee farm is a bit off the beaten path, it was quiet and we were the only ones there. Coffee trees are pretty small overall, they almost appear to be a cross between a tree and a bush. Cherries (the fruit of the tree) are picked when they turn bright red. The cherries are then taken to the coffee mill where the green beans are separated from the cherry (imagine the seed inside a cherry, that would be the coffee bean). The cherry pulp is used as fertilizer, and the beans are soaked in water for 24 hours to remove the protective clear coating around the beans. Then the beans are dried — either in a dryer or laid out and dried by the sun. Next, the husks on the beans are removed and re-used as mulch, and the beans are sorted by size — the larger the bean, the more flavor, so the big beans are extra fancy, and smaller are fancy, then prime. Most cherries contain two coffee beans, but sometimes there is only one bean and it’s round. These are called peaberry and are used for milder coffee. The green beans can be stored in burlap bags for 2 years before roasting, so while they only harvest cherries 6 months out of the year, they can roast and sell beans all year long. The difference between medium and dark roast is only one minute of roasting time — medium roast is 16 minutes while dark roast is 17 minutes. The tour was very interesting and for a coffee-lover like Kathie, very intriguing to see how the entire process works.

Having sampled the Kona coast the whole morning, we opted to have lunch and spend the afternoon exploring the northwest Kohala coast, looking for a nice beach to relax at, get some sun, go for a swim, and read our books. Lunch at Huggo’s On The Rocks was really disappointing. The fantastic location and views (the tables and chairs are in the sand 15 feet from the beach) unfortunately couldn’t make up for the food.

The Kohala coast is famous for its beaches, and is where most of the expensive resorts have been built up recently. The resorts look incongruous in this setting, since the northwest quadrant of the island is a stark moonscape of lava beds devoid of almost any life. Then occasionally along the highway is a fancy resort entrance, complete with beautiful palm trees and perfectly manicured grass. Turning in to the resort, the grass and trees end abruptly after a hundred feet, and the drive through black rock continues to the resort at the beach. Interestingly, Hawaiians have their own form of graffiti, where they arrange dead pieces of coral (which is bright white) into words and patterns on top of the jet-black lava landscape along the highways (see photo below). This continues for 50 miles along the western coast, and also elsewhere on the island. The grafitti is continuously changing as people re-arrange the coral daily to personalize their own messages.

Much of the Big Island is a barren landscape of ancient lava flows.

Our beach hunting didn’t go as well as planned, since the day before, Big Island Civil Defense spotted approximately 15 large (6- to 16-foot) tiger sharks along the Kawaihae coast beaches. After a few unsuccessful attempts at finding an open beach, we came to Spencer Beach Park which was open, mostly empty, and a great place to spread out in the sun (or shade from trees along the beach) and read in front of the shark warning sign. Several hours later, having both finished our books, we packed up just before sunset and headed back down the coast.


Before returning to our condo, we stopped in Kailua as usual for a light bite to eat. We had a fairly light pizza / salad dinner at Boston Basil’s, followed by some ice cream and a giant snowcone for Kathie from Scandinavian Shave Ice which froze her insides until we could get her wrapped up in a sweatshirt.

Evening in Kailua-Kona


1 Comment

  1. Vnend
    September 23, 2008

    Great reading about your trip, and I love that last picture; the colors in the sky were what caught my eye at first, but the branch lines in the tree are amazing as well. I will try to remember to ask you for a full resolution version of it when you get back! (Got the bigger one this links to.)

    Have more fun!