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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 fun place for a stroll, this little town is reminiscent of the Wild West, with its wooden boardwalks and vintage buildings—not to mention a reputation as a pot-growers' haven. A throwback to the '60s, it attracts plenty of hippies and other colorful characters pursuing alternative lifestyles. The secondhand stores, tie-dye clothing boutiques, and art galleries add to the "trippy" experience. Pahoa's main street boasts a handful of island eateries, the best of which is Luquin's Mexican Restaurant.
About 16 mi east of Naalehu, beyond Punaluu Beach Park, Highway 11 sidesteps this little town. You'll miss it if you blink. Pahala is a perfect example of a sugar-plantation town. Behind it, along a wide cane road, you enter Wood Valley, once a prosperous community, now just a road heavily scented by eucalyptus trees, coffee blossoms, and night-blooming jasmine.
Driving south from the Kona International Airport toward Kailua-Kona, you'll spot a large mysterious group of buildings with an equally large and mysterious photovoltaic (solar) panel installation just inside its gate. Although it looks like some sort of top-secret military station, this is the site of the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii, NELHA for short, where scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs are developing and marketing everything from new uses for solar power to energy-efficient air-conditioning systems and environmentally friendly aquaculture techniques. Visitors are welcome at the lab, and there are 1½-hour tours for those interested in learning more about the experiments being conducted. www.friendsofnelha.org. COST: $8 donation for tours. OPEN: Tours weekdays at 10 am.
These two huge, oblong stones are legendary. The Pinao stone is purportedly an entrance pillar of an ancient temple built near the Wailuku River. King Kamehameha is said to have moved the 5,000-pound Naha stone when he was still in his teens. Legend decreed that he who did so would become king of all the islands. They're in front of the Hilo Public Library.
This National Historic Landmark, an isolated heiau (an ancient temple), is so impressive in size and atmosphere it may give you what locals call "chicken skin" (goose bumps)—especially after you learn its history. The heiau's foundations date to about AD 480, but the high priest Paao from Tahiti expanded it several centuries later and it continued to be used by Hawaiian religious leaders. You can still see the lava slab where hundreds of people were sacrificed, giving this place a truly haunted feel. Nearby is Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau, the birthplace of Kamehameha the Great. The road is unpaved, and even with four-wheel-drive you could easily get stuck in the mud. Then it is a half-mile hike to the site.
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