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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Acres of macadamia trees lead to a giant roasting facility and processing plant with viewing windows and self-guided tours. A videotape depicts the harvesting and preparation of the nuts, and there are free samples and plenty of gift boxes with mac nuts in every conceivable form of presentation to buy in the visitor center. Children can run off their energy on the nature trail. www.maunaloa.com. OPEN: Daily 8:30--5.
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 loves to focus on stars. Cushy vans with panoramic windows transport you first to the visitors center at 9,200 feet where you'll eat dinner and acclimatize for an hour. A hooded arctic-style parka and ski gloves keep you warm for the 4WD sunset trip to the 14,000-foot summit. Stargazing through a powerful Celestron telescope happens mid-mountain with the help of knowledgeable guides. Tour, dinner, and (westside) pickups cost $200 per person. 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: $15. 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.
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.
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 miles of rain forest, tunnels, and water flumes. The surrounding valleys provided water for the Kohala Ditch, which once brought water to the area's sugar plantations and transported crops out. The rate is $139 per adult. www.kohaladitchadventures.com. OPEN: No tours Sun.
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.
After uniting the islands of Hawaii, King Kamehameha I spent his last years, from 1812 to 1819, in Kamakahonu, near what is now the Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Formerly a 4-acre homestead, complete with several houses and religious sites, most of it has been swallowed by Kailua Pier. A replica of the temple, Ahuena Heiau, keeps history and culture alive.
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