Sometimes you don’t need to travel far off the beaten path to find great activities on the Big Island. The Kona District on the Big Island of Hawai’i is home to some hidden gems that are just a stone’s throw from the Holualoa Inn. Whether you are just looking for a quick trip between sitting down to our delicious breakfast and lounging by our pool, or you want to enjoy a day out exploring, a visit to any of these sites is sure to be a memorable experience.
Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory Plantation
Coffee and macadamia nuts are the most widely-grown boutique crops in the Kona District, but if are looking for an alternative to the standard coffee farm tour, you might enjoy visiting the Original Hawaiian Chocolate Farm. Original Hawaiian produces 100% estate chocolate, meaning all of the cacao is grown, harvested, and processed on their plantation. Your guide will take you from field to factory to finished product during the one-hour tour. Most importantly, the tour concludes with a chocolate tasting during which you will get to sample several types of unique Hawaiian-grown chocolate. Tours are held Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m. and Fridays at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Reservations are required, so visit their website for details.
Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary
Paleaku is a beautifully-manicured property of flowering plants and quiet spaces, discreetly nestled on the gently-sloping hillside above Honaunau Bay. It is not the type of place that you will accidentally run across during your travels — it must be sought out. The gardens are laid out in such a way as to facilitate meditation and quiet reflection. The mission of the non-profit organization that manages the gardens is “to encourage peace and harmony within individuals and communities.”
The property contains ancient rock carvings, sand mandalas, statues of spiritual figures, and a unique “Galaxy Garden,” which is much better seen than described. Clearings reveal sweeping views of the coastline up to Kealakekua Bay. There is a small gallery that contains works by local artists. Reservations are not necessary. The gardens are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Pu’u Ku’ili/Kua Bay
Pu’u Ku’ili is a landmark instantly recognizable to anyone who has driven north of Kona Airport, but very few people know its name. Within Kekaha Kai State Park, between the entrances to Mahai’ula/Makalawena and Manini O’wali/Kua Bay, is a large cinder cone hill with two distinct summits. Most people pass it by on their way down to Kua Bay without giving it a second thought. However, about halfway down the paved road to Kua Bay there is a left turn onto a dirt track. That track leads to the top of the hill, which affords a clear view of the Kona/Kohala Coast from Keahole Point to Mahukona. On clear days Maui and its sister islands are visible across the Alenuihaha Channel. It is a short, hot hike to the top (best done just before sunset), but you will be rewarded with a strong onshore breeze and a great sunset. If you have a vehicle equipped with four-wheel drive, you can have a slightly more thrilling (and less strenuous) journey to the top by driving the exceptionally steep track. Just be sure that you bring a light source if you plan on staying past dark. Sunsets are best here in the winter months, when the sun sets farthest north and closest to Maui.
Kamehameha III Scenic Point
About halfway down Kamehameha III Rd., which runs between Hwy 11 and the Keauhou Shopping Center, there is a nondescript turnoff on the makai (ocean) side of the road which leads into a small parking lot. It is hot and sunny during the daytime, and it can easily go unnoticed during the morning and afternoon hours. It is only just before sunset that it becomes obvious why this scenic point is an absolutely perfect viewing location. For one thing, the site has an unobstructed view of the coastline from Keauhou Bay up to Keahole Point. From this vantage point, the sunset is spectacular at any time of the year. Crucially, the site is also set back from the water. Viewing a sunset at the beach can be beautiful, but viewing a sunset reflecting off the water, igniting the lava-strewn slope shades of orange, red, and pink while waves crash along miles of coastline is absolutely breathtaking.
As an added bonus, the scenic point is surrounded by historical sites. Below is a network of lava tubes which was used as a refuge by ancient Hawaiians during times of war. To the south, you can see the ancient Keahou holua, a mile-long rock ramp which was once used for sled racing. The scenic point has informational panels which you can peruse while you wait for sunset.
The next time you stay with us at the Holuloa Inn, remember that you don’t have to go far to discover something new. The Big Island is full of secrets, and the best way to find them is to get off the beaten path!