Hilo to Honoka’a – Hāmākua Coast

In my previous installment we had just finished a delicious lunch at the Ohelo Cafe in Volcano City and were heading toward Hilo where there had been serious flooding the day before. Because of the rains we only got to see some of Hilo, and the place we  decided to stay was just north of the city about ten miles- a dramatic old plantation, repurposed as a bed and breakfast. Soon after we arrived the wind and rain were picking up; from our balcony we watched the storm blow in. Breakfast on the veranda the next morning was refreshing as we watched the winds continue to bring clouds toward the island; there was plenty of evidence, broken palm fronds and debris around the property, from the storm that had just blown through during the night.

A narrow, winding road through neighborhood and agricultural communities led us to ‘Akaka Falls. We arrived fairly early and found only a couple cars in the parking lot, thinking perhaps we were early enough to avoid the busloads. We took the beautifully designed and maintained pathway through the lush forests of bamboo, ginger, and towering trees, marveling at the scale, variety, and density.

The pathway in part is dictated by nature, but is designed to bring you to an ideal overview of the majestic 442’ waterfall, and others nearby. When we left ‘Akaka Falls, we returned to the coast route by way of smaller and original roads that had the feeling of travel routes before a modern highway was put in. We stopped at several places in an attempt to gain an understanding of how human beings find ways to live in proximity to such powerful forces.

We were looking forward to visiting Momi Naughton and seeing the work she is doing at the Heritage Center, University of Hawai’i in Honoka’a. We found the campus and were introduced to her museum studies group, and were invited to join them to visit the Hāmākua Jodo Mission.  After an introduction to the Mission and the beautifully crafted building and time in the cemetery honoring ancestors, we were invited to pick delicious tangerines behind the temple (my photo here combines two views). Momi’s group was still there when we left to go to Waipi’o – when we got back to the Heritage Center we were welcomed with a personal hula by Nicole Lui and song by her mother Agnes Lui, which were very moving (no pun intended). The exhibits that Momi has put together are excellent, exploring history and culture, and showcasing some of the individuals from the area, past and present.

Just up the road is the breathtaking Waipi’o Bay overlook. This corner of the Big Island has a very special feel, in part because of a familiarity it shares weather-wise with the Pacific NW (only warmer), and a feeling of community that is evident even to visitors.

From Honoka’a we took the highway to Waimea which we had been advised to try and get through early, as it was the day of the holiday parade, which features the big rig truckers, all decked out in lights and making use of the airhorns to celebrate the season. Of course with the elevation we ascended back into the fog, clouds, and rain. When we reached Waimea we found the highway was lined with portable shelters and people were all bundled up in advance of the popular parade. From Waimea we took the highway down to the coast, and the closer we got, the drier and warmer it became, though still fairly windy. We stopped in again at the Hamakua Nut Co in Kamuela.

We spent our final two nights with Fran and Bob. Since it was still windy we decided the water wouldn’t be clear enough to really enjoy snorkeling, so the next day we went to Kona, walked around the farmer’s market, and had a nice lunch, and beers, at the Kona Brewing company. Reminded me a bit of micro-breweries in the PacNW, except that sitting outside in shorts and t-shirt (in December) was much more comfortable in Kona! We went to the beach to enjoy the sunset, and later, enjoyed the full moon rising amidst blowing palms. What a great introduction to the Big Island, we’re still filled with the beauty and warmth of the place and people! Now, like everyone who travels there, we’re looking forward to future visits. Aloha!

Click to open the gallery and see these and additional pictures on a larger scale.


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