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Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Stop here to admire the dark koa interior and the unusual wooden calabashes hanging from the ceiling. Be careful not to walk in while a service is in progress, as the front entry of this church, which was established in 1832 and rebuilt in 1857, is behind the pulpit.
Part Hawaiian cultural center, part astronomy museum, the Imiloa Astronomy Center provides an educational and cultural complement to the research being conducted atop Mauna Kea. Although visitors are welcome at Mauna Kea, its primary function is as a research center—not observatory, museum, or education center. Those roles have been taken on by Imiloa in a big way. With its interactive exhibits, full-dome planetarium shows, and regularly scheduled talks and events, the center is a must-see for anyone interested in the stars, the planets, or Hawaiian culture and history. The center, five minutes from downtown Hilo, also provides an important link between the scientific research being conducted at Mauna Kea and its history as a sacred mountain for the Hawaiian people. Admission includes one planetarium show. The lunch buffet at the adjoining Sky Garden Cafe is popular. www.imiloahawaii.org. COST: $17.50. OPEN: Tues.-Sun. 9-5.
A lovely rambling old stone home surrounded by jewel green grass and sweeping ocean views and fronted by an elaborate wrought-iron gate, Hulihee Palace is one of only three royal palaces in America (the other two are in Honolulu on Oahu). The two-story residence was built by Governor John Adams Kuakini in 1838, a year after he completed Mokuaikaua Church. During the 1880s it served as King David Kalakaua's summer palace. It's constructed of local materials, including lava, coral, koa wood, and ohia timber. The palace is operated by the Daughters of Hawaii, a nonprofit organization focused on maintaining the heritage of the Islands. www.daughtersofhawaii.org. COST: $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, $1 for children under 18. OPEN: Tues.-Sat. 10-3.
Its sugar-plantation past is reflected in the wooden boardwalks and tin-roof buildings of this small community. It's fun to poke through old dusty shops such as Glass from the Past, where you'll find an assortment of old bottles. The Woodshop Gallery/Café showcases local artists.
In 1881 Australian William Purvis planted the first macadamia-nut trees in Hawaii near what is now a very friendly, funky little town with a great antique shop, a few interesting galleries, and good cafés. But Honokaa's true heyday came when sugar was king in the early part of the 20th century. During World War II, this was the place for soldiers stationed around Waimea to cut loose. Today, it's still worth a look at its historic buildings, and a chat with its friendly residents.
Hugging the hillside along the Kona Coast, the tiny village of Holualoa is just up winding Hualalai Road from Kailua-Kona. It's comprised almost entirely of galleries in which all types of artists, from woodworkers to jewelry makers and more traditional painters, work in their studios in back and sell the finished product up front. Formerly the exclusive domain of coffee plantations, it still has quite a few coffee farms offering free tours and cups of joe.
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.
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.
Home to the birthplace of King Kamehameha, these neighboring towns thrived during the plantation days. There were 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 and an influx of artists keen on honoring the towns' past. Old historic buildings have been restored and now boast a wide variety of shops, galleries, and eateries.
This stone platform was once an impressive temple dedicated to the god Lono. When Captain Cook arrived in 1778, ceremonies in his honor were held here.
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