The royal playground!

            Kona once had a thriving native population and the entire area was forested.   In ancient Hawaii, a system of triangular land divisions from a point in the mountains to two points along the coast created sustainable villages living off  the products of the land and sea.  After Western contact, major disease epidemics decimated the native population. Former coastal villages are now mainly marked by ruins and groves of coconut trees.   Fifty years ago, the total Kona population was less than 5,000. 

           Kona is a district that stretches for over 40 miles of Hawaii Belt Highway 11 that passes through a number of small towns. If you enter Kona from the south, drive carefully through 30 minutes of narrow winding roads.   This section follows foot or horse trails that evolved into narrow roadways that are now being straightened, widened and improved. It wasn't that long ago that it was difficult when a car was coming from each direction. It was really scary when a tour bus was coming!

            Small modest homes are scattered along the road at the cool 500' to 1,000' elevation. Honaunau Post Office sits in the fork of the road with the upper road continuing to Kailua-Kona. The lower road takes you past the historic Saint Benedicts Painted Church with Pu'uhonua O Honaunau being on the coast.

            PU'UHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK.  (Place of Refuge) Ancient Hawaii was governed by a kapu system with severe punishment for violations. Vanquished warriors, law breakers, or anyone who offended powerful Hawaiian chief or gods could seek asylum, be cleansed, and return to society. The grounds outside the great wall was the home of powerful chiefs and the park includes a glimpse into coastal village life.

            KEALEKEKUA BAY STATE HISTORIC & UNDERWATER PARK.  Accessible from the Beach Road from Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, or from the Hawaii Belt Highway at the Keei Junction.  Here in 1779 British Captain James Cook made first extended Western contact. After sailing away, he ran into a storm and returned for repairs. In attempting to kidnap the Hawaiian king to force return of a stolen boat, Captain Cook was killed.  Hikiau Heiau at Napoopoo Beach was witness to these historic events and offers a panoramic view of the bay and Cook's Monument.   The bay has been declared a marine sanctuary and with calm crystal clear water, it's a popular place for snorkelers entering from the beach or for commercial cruises out of Keauhou or Kailua-Kona. 

            KONA COFFEE & MACADAMIA NUT COUNTRY!  On Napoopoo Road you'll past the Kona Farmers Coffee Cooperative Visitor Center with displays and artifacts. Another Kona Coffee Center and a Macadamia Nut processing center is on Hawaii Belt Road in Honaunau.  Coffee is usually grown in small family farms and it was once mostly sold to a few processors.   Now there are many who process, roast, and offer high quality 100% pure Kona coffee! Like Napa Valley, you'll be able to stop at a number of coffee farms.  The best premium Kona coffee is grown at higher elevations, is hand-picked, sun dried, and skillfully roasted.

            Each year the Kona Coffee Festival is a community celebration and competition.  Visitors should know that only 2 to 2 1/2 million pounds of premium Kona Coffee is produced.  Lee Sugai is from one of the larger old-timer coffee farmers committed to growing quality 100% pure Kona Coffee. Visit them at www.sugaikonacoffee.com   The Kunitake coffee family website is www.countrysamurai.com

            In the past, "Kona Coffee Blends" were made with only a small portion of Kona Coffee. Many recommend purchasing 100% pure Kona Coffee and creating your own blend. Outspoken Kona Coffee advocate Les Drent publishes Coffee Times Magazine.   Visit his  www.coffeetimes.com  website for excellent Big Island articles in his archives.

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MANAGO HOTEL - In Captain Cook (South Kona)
     Founded in 1917, the   comfortable home-like hotel has grown to 42 rooms with private baths and 22 rooms with shared baths. It continues to be popular with both locals and tourists and is now managed by the third generation. The restaurant dining room is typical of old Hawaii with the spirit of family hospitality at reasonable prices.
     Dwight and Cheryl Manago, PO Box 145, Captain Cook, Hawaii 96704
     Phone (808) 323-2642,  FAX (808) 323-3451
     E-mail: mail@managohotel.com     URL: www.managohotel.com 

            Kona small family farmlife was difficult and many moved to Honolulu for better opportunities. They were welcomed for their work ethic and positive attitudes.  Much of that gracious unpretentious spirit still lives in small pockets amidst a tourism boom.  Local home-style meals are still served "family style" at Managos. For a local Hawaiian fast-food try SANDY'S DRIVE INN [phone (808) 322-2161] in Kainaliu. Another fine local country restaurant is TESHIMA'S [phone (808) 322-9140]  in the town of Honalo serving Japanese and American meals. 

            TESHIMA'S is near another fork in the road and the lower highway will speed you past Keauhou and into Kailua-Kona. At that point, the Hawaii Belt Highway becomes known as Mamalahoa Highway and you'll continue through Kona Coffee country past the former Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center.   Before tourists discovered Kona, with the exception of the native fishermen, most of the residents were on this upper road. 

            In Holualoa, the Inaba family still manage KONA HOTEL [phone (808) 324-1155] that was built in 1926, and though the carpet is worn, the spirit of aloha shines through!  KIMURA'S LAUHALA SHOP [phone (808) 324-0053] in Holualoa is another Kona institution.  If you inquire and if you're lucky, they may have beautiful feather hat leis in stock. Holualoa is becoming an artist community with several galleries.

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       Above Kailua-Kona at the 900' elevation before reaching Holualoa, is a hidden bed and breakfast tucked amongst tropical shade trees with a gentle touch of Eden. Enjoy a good soak in the Japanese stone and tile spa  . . . hospitality, seclusion, privacy, and comfort! All inn rooms and cottages include a private bath and breakfast lovers buffet.
      76-770 Hualalai Road, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
      Phone (808) 329-5773, FAX (808) 326-5487, Toll-free: 1-800-559-6627
      E-mail: kona@hawaii-inns.com     URL: www.hawaii-inns.com/hi/kna/hmh/
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       An elegant retreat at the cool 1,350' elevation that is part of a cattle ranch, coffee plantation, and tropical flower and fruit garden.  Six distinctive Pacific Island themed rooms include king-size beds, private bath, and gracious amenities. ($150-$195)
       Thea Brown, manager,   PO Box 222, Holualoa, Hawaii 96725
       Phone (808) 324-112, FAX (808) 322-2472, Toll-free: 1-800-392-1812
       E-mail:  inn@aloha.net     URL: www.konaweb.com/hinn


            The kings of old Hawaii could choose to live in the best place and they chose to live in Kona!  Once he established the Hawaiian Kingdom, Kamehameha lived in the area where King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel and Ahuena Heiau is now located in Kailua-Kona. Nearby is Hulihee Palace, King Kalakaua's summer home, Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church in Hawaii, and Kailua Pier where the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament and the Ironman World Triathlon Championship are held annually.

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      Oceanfront in Kailua-Kona on the favorite spot of royalty! The most historic Hawaiian vacation resort adjoining Ahuena Heiau with museum quality exhibits, demonstrations, and luaus. Convenient to shopping, recreation and Kona International Airport.
       75-5660 Palani Road, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740
       Phone (808) 329-2911,   FAX (808) 329-4602, Toll-free: 1-800-367-2111
       E-mail: reservation@hthcorp.com   URL: www.konabeachhotel.com/home.html
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       Overlooking magnificent Kailua Bay, the full-service resort offers 452 spacious guest rooms within a relaxed, casual atmosphere. An abundance of recreational activities are available on-property or nearby with a private sandy beach and lagoon, private lanais, open air oceanside dining, meeting facilities, and more!
       For more information, call toll-free:  1-800-22-ALOHA
       URL: www.hawaiihotels.com/royalkona/rkr_hotel_info.htm
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       The historic Kona Inn is now a major shopping segment of Kailua-Kona with over 65 shops including restaurants, galleries, souvenir shop, and much more. And just uphill and across the street Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel provides a Polynesian experience in the midst of historic sites, cultural events, and water activities!
       75-5744 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740    Phone (808) 329-1393
       E-mail: resv@unclebilly.com    URL: www.unclebilly.com/kb.html

            Kailua-Kona was once a sleepy fishing village where cattle swam out and were hoisted aboard ships for transport to the Honolulu market.  Scenic Alii Drive hugs the ocean, passing several beaches and surfing spots to connect to Keauhou resort.  Shops, condominiums, and vacation rentals line up with accommodations to fit almost any budget.




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