Heading south today, we drove back through Kailua-Kona, stopping briefly in Safeway for picnic supplies before taking the coastal route past attractive houses and glimpses of ocean along Ali’i Drive.
First on the list was the dual attraction of Ke’eku Heiau and Hapaiali’i Heiau, situated opposite each other at the mouth of a small bay. Somewhat bizarrely they can only be reached past a rather grumpy security guard at the entrance to what is either a down-at-heel resort or gated residential community, but the peacefulness of the bay was worth the hassle. The site dates from the 1400s, although what you see today is a modern reconstruction.
Then it was up into the hills to sample some authentic Kona coffee at Greenwell farms. Now belonging to the fourth generation of Greenwells, the farm originally started out as a cattle ranch. Coffee came into the family as a scented plant, and it was a while before it took over as the main crop – despite the arid nature of this side of the island, the hillside microclimate provides enough moisture. Most of their beans are dried and exported, but they do roast a small amount for sale on the premises, and we enjoyed a very informative tour of the grounds as well as some delicious coffee.
Keeping with the ranching theme, we stopped for an excellent burger at Annie’s Island, then it was back down to the coast and Napo’opo’o beach park. This is where Captain Cook set both his first and last foot on the island, and a white obelisk marks the site of his death on the other side of the bay. Standing with your back to the carpark it feels very desolate and remote, with the vegetation coming right down to the water – easy to imagine it looking just the same back in 1779.
Next stop, Pu’uhonua O Honaunau. This was really quite remarkable, and the mix of sacred and secular buildings gave us more of an idea about Hawaiian life and culture. Most interestingly, the site functioned as a place of refuge: if you had broken one of the strict and manifold kapus (punishable by death), your best bet was to run like crazy and hope you made it through the wall of the sanctuary before anyone caught up with you.
Up in the hills we stopped by the small and beautiful Painted Church…
… before continuing on to Na’alehu, we we were due to spend the night at the Hana Hou. Describing itself as the southernmost restaurant in USA, the Hana Hou also offers a couple of motel-style rooms out back, and it was an excellent place to stop on the road from Kona to Volcano. The food was extremely good, too.