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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
A quaint, cliffside village fronting the ocean, Honokaa Town was built in the 1920s and 1930s by Japanese and Chinese workers who quit the nearby plantations to start businesses that supported the sugar economy. The intact historic character of the buildings, bucolic setting, and friendlness of the residents all give visitors a nice reason to stop and stroll. Cool antique shops, a few interesting galleries, and good cafés abound. Most restaurants close by 8 pm. www.honokaa.org.
Hugging the hillside along the Kona Coast, the artsy village of Holualoa is 3 miles up winding Hualalai Road from Kailua-Kona. Galleries here feature all types of artists—from painters, woodworkers, and jewelers to gourd-makers and potters—working in their studios in back and selling their wares up front. Formerly the exclusive domain of coffee plantations, Holualoa still has quite a few coffee farms offering free tours and cups of joe. www.holualoahawaii.com.
The Hilo Downtown Improvement Association provides an excellent and free self-guided walking tour to downtown Hilo. The tour includes historical information, a map, and directions to 18 historic sites. You can download it from their Web site or pick it up in person at their downtown Hilo office. www.downtownhilo.com. OPEN: Weekdays 8--4:30.
With all the buzz about Kona coffee, it's easy to forget that coffee is produced throughout the rest of the island as well. The Hilo Coffee Mill is a pleasant reminder of that fact. In addition to farming their own coffee on-site, the Mill has partnered with several local small coffee farmers in East Hawaii in an effort to put the region on the world's coffee map. You can sample the efforts of the farmers, as well as tour the mill and watch the roasters in action. www.hilocoffeemill.com. COST: Free. OPEN: Mon.--Sat. 7--4.
Near the birthplace of King Kamehameha, these North Kohala towns thrived during the plantation days, once bustling with hotels, saloons, and theaters—even a railroad. They took a hit when "Big Sugar" left the island, but both towns are blossoming once again today, thanks to strong local communities, tourism, and an influx of artists keen on honoring the towns' past. Lovingly restored vintage buildings house fun and funky shops, galleries, and eateries.
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