KONA COAST, the Big Island -- At first glance this rocky, dry and
desolate strip of coast seems like a pretty strange place to put a
There are actually five major resorts here, with eight hotels and
numerous condominium projects among them, and more hotels and
condos farther south in Kona town. It's a commissionable paradise
for travel agents.
But from the air on the approach to the Kona airport and on the
two-lane road leading to the resorts, I didn't think it looked like
Was I wrong.
The resorts themselves, built on lava fields landscaped with
topsoil and grass, are self-contained, with golf courses, palm
trees and everything you'd expect to find in Hawaii.
Then get out on the road for a day trip along Highway 270 to
North Kohala and beyond, and there you'll find paradise.
Ancient heiau, or Hawaiian temples, dot the coast; black and
brown lava flows stretch for miles from mountain to ocean; and
three volcanoes, Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Kohala, are visible from
the highway. Too, there are beaches, restaurants and funky little
Suggested stops are Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site; Cafe
Pesto in Kawaihae; the town of Hawi and Hula La's Mexican Kitchen
& Salsa Factory; and the lush Pololu Valley.
At Puukohola Heiau, which means Temple on the Hill of the Whale,
the visitor center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The heiau was
built by King Kamehameha I in 1790.
Also at the site is Mailekini Heiau, which was "possibly a war
or agricultural temple used by the ancestors of Kamehameha,"
according to the National Park Service.
A mile north of Puukohola Heiau is the seaport town of
Cafe Pesto in Kawaihae is one of the best restaurants on the
island. It seemed an oddity to have such a good restaurant in a
town that has just a handful of buildings, but that's what made it
even more of an interesting place to eat.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and serves gourmet
pizza and calzones, pasta, fresh seafood, salads, soups and
For more information, check the Web at www.cafepesto.com.
Driving north from Kawaihae, the dry and barren landscape turns
a sudden green in the region of North Kohala. One of the more
interesting towns in this area of ranches and farms is Hawi.
Hawi could never be called a tourist mecca. It's simply a fine
place to stop, look around and take in the slow pace of rural
And as incongruous as it sounds, Hawi has a tasty little taco
stand. Tucked away in a closet-size space in the Kohala Trade
Center, Hula La's has four or five tables and serves some of the
best Mexican food I've found in the state.
Continuing north, visitors pass through Kapaau. This area is
said to be the birthplace of Kamehameha I, and there's a statue of
him in town.
At the end of Highway 270, is the majestic Pololu Valley. This
is where the coast is too rugged and the coastal valleys too steep
There's a lookout where travelers can view the valley and the
uninhabited terrain. A trail leads down the valley and to a
The site of the valley is a fitting end for a day spent tooling
around the northwest side of the Big Island.
A list of the five
major resorts and hotels and condomiums in the complex
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Accommodations: Four Seasons Hualalai
Phone: (800) 332-3442
Kona Village Resort
Accommodations: Kona Village Resort
Phone: (800) 367-5290
Accommodations: Hilton Waikoloa Village
Phone: (800) 445-8667
Outrigger Waikoloa Beach
Phone: (800) 688-7444
Aston Shores at Waikoloa
Phone: (800) 922-7866
Mauna Lani Resort
Accommodations: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows
Phone: (800) 367-2323
The Orchid at Mauna Lani
Phone: (800) 845-9905
Windows on the World House; Mauna Lani Point; The Islands
Phone: (800) 642-6248
Accommodations: Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel
Phone: (800) 882-6060
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Phone: (800) 882-6060