The Big Island of Hawai'i Part II: Kailua-Kona and Surrounding Area
Kailua-Kona and its surrounding areas are bursting with life. A lot of the Big Island is covered in black volcanic rock, but Kailua-Kona is lush and green. There are many things to see in this westside epicenter of Hawaiian life. Kailua-Kona is where some of the finest coffee in the world comes from. Driving Mamalahoa Highway is like driving the upper bench in Naramata, BC, only instead of wine grapes it is coffee beans. In this area there is great food, a rich history, and stunning views.
For the best breakfast with a view, go to the town of Captain Cook and dine at a small highway-side café called The Coffee Shack. Directly beside Mamalahoa Highway, The Coffee Shack has a stunning, panoramic view of the Kona hillside with its luscious green foliage that cascades all the way down to the Pacific Ocean. Every table in the café has a view and, since tourists can never turn down a good view, it is usually busy. Try getting there early to beat the crowd; the café opens at 7:30 AM every day. The food is sourced from local farmers and the coffee comes from Kona. This is the best place to have a breakfast dessert, because their pies are unbelievable (especially accompanied by a cup of Kona joe). The coconut cream pie is fantastic with whip stacked high on top. The macadamia nut pie is a fan favourite, with a perfectly balanced crust of softness and firmness paired with a beautifully sweet and delicious macadamia nut filling.
Less than a ten-minute drive toward the ocean from The Coffee Shack is Big Island Bees. Here you can take a tour of a functioning bee farm. The tour is both extensive and informative. The staff are very knowledgeable and will gladly answer all your bee-related questions. Their shop, on the premises, has a small collection of pictures illustrating the history of bee keeping – it is fascinating and quite entertaining. I couldn’t help but laugh at an 18th century picture of children being chased by bees. In the store there are goods to buy like honey, soap, candles, and other souvenirs. While visiting, be sure to say hi and give a pet to Mate, the local greeter and guard dog.
Closer to Kona, in Kealakekua, is the Kona Historical Society and H. N. Greenwell Store Museum. H. N. Greenwell is credited for starting the Kona coffee industry. Here you can take a free tour of the H. N. Greenwell farm and receive free coffee samples. You can also pay to go into the H. N. Greenwell Store Museum, which chronicles H. N. Greenwell’s start along with the Kona coffee business. On the free outside tour, you will see the original coffee trees that were planted on the farm, as they are still growing today. It is a beautiful place with beautiful fruit trees, palm trees, and various wild flowers and plants. The smell of roasting coffee is distinctly in the air. H. N. Greenwell’s is a coffee-lover’s paradise.
In Honaunau, you will find St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, colloquially known as Painted Church. Inside this church the walls are painted, as well as the ceiling, with scenes from the Bible. These were supposed to help people who could not read visualize the stories and better understand their messages. Outside of the church there is an old cemetery with old tombstones. There is also a bust of Father Damien, a priest who was canonized after living with the lepers on Molokai. To the side of the church is a walk that leads up to a statue of Christ being crucified. The walk is lined with crosses.
For dinner, the place with the best food and view is Huggo’s in Kailua-Kona. It boasts a beautiful waterfront view with the water coming right under the restaurant in high tides. In the evening there is a night herring that perches on the rocks and hunts in the ocean; you can watch him while you eat. If you are sitting on the water side, you will be able to see fish swim and even some eels in the shallow water. The food is very good too, all locally sourced, and they have a nice selection of tasty cocktails. The view, mixed with the food and drink, make for a memorable meal.