A vagabond's view of Kailua-Kona

Hawaii bureau chief Doug Oakley spent three days on the Big Island. His report follows:

Flying into the Kona Airport, I was struck by how the endless expanse of old lava flows resembles broken brownie crust.

So it was with this image in mind that I set out for the town of Kona, or Kailua-Kona as it is officially known, to see what a town set on broken brownie crust is like.

I parked my rental car at the south end of Alii Drive, which runs through town along the shore, and without any guide or guidebook to follow, I began wandering.

What I found were plenty of gift shops, bars and restaurants.

I'm not a shopper and I'm not a drinker, so I wasn't particularly impressed with the commercial aspect of Alii Drive. It is a nice walk through town, though.

At the first place I saw, an open-air restaurant called Huggos, I stopped for a cup of coffee and some breakfast.

Huggos didn't seem to be open for business yet, but a coffee stand inside, Java on the Rocks, was serving customers.

This place offered some egg dishes, literally cooked on top of the espresso machine, and coffee.

The eggs and coffee were good enough, but I almost choked when I had to pay $2.25 for the cup of coffee.

The owner of the place told me he pays $20 a pound for the extra special Kona coffee grown right here on the Big Island. Frankly, it didn't taste any better or worse than any other, cheaper coffee.

I continued my walk down Alii Drive, and just before I was about to call this place a bust on the interesting meter,

I found Hulihe'e Palace.

This is about the only place in town I found worthy of a visit.

Shoppers, drinkers and those looking for something to eat will find plenty to keep them busy, however.

Right across the street from the palace is Mokuaikaua Church, established in 1820.

It's a considerable sight and stands out from the other modern buildings surrounding it.

I didn't go in there, but I did visit Hulihe'e Palace.

After paying the $5 fee, I proceeded on a self-guided tour, with periodic explanations by the helpful museum staff.

What I found were tons of artifacts in pristine shape from the monarchy period of Hawaii in the late 1800s.

The display rivaled the one at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

The museum showcased all types of furniture that belonged to various royalty and early governors as well as javelins and spears belonging to Kamehameha the Great.

Other artifacts included eating bowls, stone tools, a shark tooth knife, drums, poi pounders, portraits of important players in the Hawaiian monarchy and a teak and rosewood music box given to Princess Ka'iulani by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Hulihe'e Palace is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but is closed on holidays.

Admission is $5.

Call (808) 329-1877 for more information.

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