Special rates require proof of eligibility at check-in
You're one step closer to paradise...
Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Driving south from the Kona International Airport towards 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 Mon.-Thurs. 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 place of worship), is so impressive in size 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 to offer sacrifices to please his gods. You can still see the lava slab where hundreds of people were sacrificed, which gives this place a truly haunted feel. 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.
Visitors to this small but informative center will learn about the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which encompasses about 140,000 square mi in the waters northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wall maps depict the northwestern Hawaiian Islands' extensive coral reefs and the more than 7,000 marine species that live there, one in four of which are found only in the Hawaiian archipelago. This center is run by devoted volunteers who are knowledgeable and give daily tours of the exhibits. Interactive programs and short films describe marine life and reef conditions. It's worth a stop just to get an up-close look at the center's huge stuffed albatross, with wings outstretched. COST: Free. OPEN: Tues.-Sat. 9-4.
A thatch hut, erected on this site by missionaries in 1820, served as the first Christian church on the Islands. A more permanent structure was built in 1836 with black stone from an abandoned heiau. The stone was mortared with white coral and topped by an impressive steeple. Inside, behind a panel of gleaming koa wood, is a model of the brig Thaddeus.mokuaikaua.org.
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 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.