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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 lovely two-story oceanfront home surrounded by jewel green grass and elegant coco palms 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 royal 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. Originally built of lava, it features vintage koa furniture, weaving, portraits, tapa cloth, feather work, Hawaiian quilts, and more. The palace is on the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by the Daughters of Hawaii, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the culture and royal heritage of the Islands. www.daughtersofhawaii.org. COST: $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, $1 for children under 18. OPEN: Tues.--Sat. 10--3:15.
Honomu did not die when sugar did. Its sugar-plantation past is reflected in the wooden boardwalks and metal-roofed buildings of this tiny town, which borders Akaka Falls State Park. It's fun to poke through old dusty shops filled with little treasures, check out homemade baked goods, or browse the local art at one of the fine galleries.
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.
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