Holualoa Hawaii

The village of Holualoa Hawaii is located on the Kona Coast, about five miles north of Kealakekua Bay and about seven miles south of Kailua Kona. This is a thriving artists colony, and one of the things to do in Holualoa is browse through the many crafts shops and art galleries that line the charming streets of this historic town. Just outside town is the Donkey Mill Art Center, set in a lovingly restored old coffee mill. Here, you can attend presentations and other events highlighting the artists of the region.

Holualoa Hawaii is set on the slopes of Hualalai, the third-most active of the island’s volcanoes. This is prime territory for growing Kona coffee, and the town is fragrant with the aroma of the famous beans. If you are on a Holualoa vacation you will probably learn that the name of the town literally means long sled run. This comes from the ancient Hawaiian game of sliding down the mountain slopes on holua, or wooden sleds. This was a dangerous game reserved for the aristocracy that involved two wooden runners between seven and eighteen feet long. Matting was stretched between the two runners, and royal daredevils would get a running start and throw themselves stomach first on the sled. The sled could get up quite a bit of speed before it came to a slow stop on the plain or a crashing plunge right into the ocean.

Your Holualoa travel is sure to bring you in contact with coffee. Coffee is so important here that it was not until 1969 that the coffee vacation was eliminated in Kona schools. This was the practice of suspending classes during the coffee harvest period, so farm children could help with the harvest. The history of coffee in the islands began when Chief Boki brought cuttings from Brazil and planted them on his Oahu estate. In 1828, a missionary named Samuel Ruggles brought them from Oahu to the Kona Coast. The result became known as Kanaka Koppe, meaning Hawaiian coffee. Almost all coffee grown here today is from the Guatemalan arabica varieties brought to the island in the late 1800s. At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a dramatic crash in the international coffee trade, and the huge coffee plantations were sold off to small landholders often of Japanese descent. Today, your Holualoa vacation can include tours of the historic Uchida Coffee Farm in the nearby town of Captain Cook. This is a six-acre living history museum set on the grounds of a Japanese family coffee farm founded in 1925, and it showcases Japanese immigrant life in the early 1900s as well as the history of Kona coffee production. The farm is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can also tour the Holualoa Hawaii Kona Lea Plantation.

During your Holualoa vacation you will probably also learn about the famous Kona nightingales—not birds; these are donkeys. Before World War II, every farm family had one as a beast of burden. Since most families could only afford one, the donkeys would bray all night, communicating with each other from farm to farm; this annoying habit earned them the nickname. Surplus military jeeps replaced the donkeys after the war, and many of the animals were turned loose. These wild donkeys became a road hazard after the roads were built and tourists began to drive north to the deluxe Big Island resorts on the north coast. Most of the donkeys have now been rounded up and are protected in public corrals.

If you are deciding when to go, Holualoa travel is great in November, when the entire village participates in the annual Coffee and Art Stroll. Free coffee samples are handed out at all the shops, and the galleries are thrown open with special showings. You might find a gourd carver sitting on the curb demonstrating his art, or a ukulele maker bending wood for a new instrument. In December, the village dolls itself up for the Music and Light Festival, and local musicians perform.

There are a few Holualoa hotels, including the landmark fluorescent pink Kona Hotel, as well as a number of charming bed and breakfast inns. Since the town is at a higher elevation, many offer views of the lovely Kona coastline. However, most Holualoa travel occurs while driving through between Kailua Kona and Volcanoes National Park. The town is easily accessible in your car rentals, as it is right off Queen Kaahumanu Highway (the coastal Route 11).

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