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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
As the first company to specialize in tours to the mountain and the only company to offer only Mauna Kea tours, Mauna Kea Summit Adventures has a bit more cred than the rest of the pack. Expect cushy new van coaches for the tours, parkas and gloves provided, and dinner at the visitor center before heading up to view the sunset on the summit. A powerful telescope is also supplied. Find directions for pickup spots on the Web site; these include downtown Kona, the Hilton Waikoloa Resort, and the junction of Highway 190 and Saddle Road. The price is $200 per person, including tax. www.maunakea.com.
In 1819 an estimated 300 Hawaiians were killed on this vast, black-lava field, and you can still see their burial mounds there today on the south end of Alii Dr. After the death of his father, King Kamehameha, Liholiho was crowned king; shortly thereafter he ate at a table with women, thereby breaking the ancient kapu (taboo) system. Chief Kekuaokalani, who held radically different views about religious traditions, unsuccessfully challenged King Liholiho in battle here.
If you want to know more about the village's fascinating past, arrange for a 75-minute guided walking tour with the Kona Historical Society. www.konahistorical.org.
Known as the D. Uchida Farm, this site is on the National Register of Historic Places. Completely restored by the Kona Historical Society, it includes a 1913 farmhouse surrounded by coffee trees, a Japanese bathhouse, kuriba (coffee-processing mill), and hoshidana (traditional drying platform). www.konahistorical.org. COST: $20. OPEN: Farm tours Mon.-Thurs. 10-2.
The road between North Kohala and Waimea is one of the most scenic drives in Hawaii, passing Parker Ranch, open pastures, and tree-lined mountains. There are a few places to pull over and take in the view; the lookout at mile marker 8 provides a splendid vista of the Kohala Coast and Kawaihae Harbor far below. On clear days, you can see well beyond the resorts, while other times an eerie, thick mist drifts over the view.
Formerly Flumin' Da Ditch, this 2½-hour guided kayak cruise through an old irrigation ditch reveals a dramatic part of Kohala history. The tour begins with an off-road excursion high in the Kohala mountains, followed by a short hike to the ditch, where you'll paddle along with the guides through 2½ mi of rain forest, tunnels, and water flumes. The valleys beyond provide water for the Kohala Ditch, which once brought water to the area's sugar plantations. The tour costs $129 per person. www.kohaladitchadventures.com. OPEN: Tours Mon.-Sat. at 8:30 and 1.
A statue of Kamehameha the Great, the legendary king who united the Hawaiian islands, stands watch over his descendants in North Kohala. The 8½-foot-tall figure bears the king's sacred feather kihei, mahiole, and kaei (cape, helmet, and sash). This is the original of the statue in front of the Judiciary Building on King Street in Honolulu. Cast in Florence in 1880, it was lost at sea when the German ship transporting it sank near the Falkland Islands. A replica was then commissioned and shipped to Honolulu. Two years after its disappearence, the original statue was found in a junkyard in the Falkland Islands; it was missing an arm, which has since been replaced. This statue was transported to the remote northern tip of the Big Island, Kamehameha's birthplace: it's in front of the old Kohala Courthouse in Kapaau, next to the highway on the way towards Pololu Valley.
Buildings here have been restored to their original 1920s and '30s plantation styles. Although most shopping is along Kamehameha Avenue, the ambience on Keawe Street offers a nostalgic sampling of Hilo as it might have been 80 years ago.
King Kamehameha I spent his last years, from 1812 to 1819, near what is now King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Part of what was once a 4-acre homestead, complete with several houses and religious sites, has been swallowed by Kailua Pier, but a replica of the temple, Ahuena Heiau, keeps history alive.
Like many of the Big Island's old plantation towns, Kainaliu is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. In addition to a ribbon of funky old stores, a handful of new galleries and shops have sprung up in the last few years. Browse around Oshima's, established in 1926, and Kimura's, established in 1927, to find authentic Japanese goods beyond tourist trinkets, then pop into one of the local cafés for a tasty vegetarian snack. Cross the street to peek into the 1932 Aloha Theatre, where community-theater actors might be practicing a Broadway revue.
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