An exercise in Hawaiian pronunciation, we decided one day to hike up Hualalai Street to the town of Holualoa. (I challenge anybody to pronounce these names correctly the first time and then not to confuse them later on. It’s taken me weeks)!
Being on the side of a dormant volcano, there are three directions in which to walk from Kona: South along the ocean, North along the ocean, and uphill away from the ocean. Holualoa is uphill. Very, very much uphill!
This post was originally published in 2008. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
One of the idiosyncrasies of the Big Island of Hawaii (as with many other small towns) is the distinct lack of sidewalks. Even in busy city centres, sidewalks are only occasionally present, and seem to start and end illogically.
On our hike up Hualalai Street, we found ourselves on yet another narrow two-lane road with no sidewalks, and no real shoulder to speak of either. We were relegated to walking single file on the left hand side of the road (so we could see traffic coming at us), and on the many blind corners we would even sidle sideways or stop entirely when traffic came along.
So as far as convenience of hiking goes, this journey had a strike against it. And because of the development in the area, there was no such thing as bushwhacking to our destination either.
But once we got over this slight downside, the rest was all wonderful. In the space of 4 miles (one way), we saw rich gardens, wide expanses of grassy fields with cows grazing, narrow winding roads covered over with Koa trees, an abundance of fruit trees on people’s properties, free-range chickens and peacocks, and coffee farms.
The climate changed from our start in sunny and relatively dry Kona to a considerably more humid and cool atmosphere. Clouds almost always sit over this part of the mountain (1,400 feet above sea level), and little sprinkles of rain are common.
Upon reaching the town of Holualoa, we saw a strong Japanese influence in the architecture, an old Japanese cemetery, some of the businesses, and general landscaping.
The town itself is barely a town, and more a collection of art galleries. There is one shoddy general store, one elementary school, one café and restaurant (with life-changing liliqoy bars and decadent double-chocolate espresso cookies hot out of the oven…but that’s another story), one hotel, a library, and that’s pretty much it. Really – that’s it. The residents of the town are obviously reliant on nearby Kona for almost all their goods and services.
Some of the art galleries play host to a beautiful collection of art, but I’m not entirely sure how they make money. Given the high prices, I guess if you sell one piece the rent is paid for a while. Holualoa doesn’t strike me as a real tourist destination of sorts….it’s a nice destination to drive to, nice to walk to for those who like slogging uphill for an hour and a half (which would be me), and a truly quaint picturesque village. It truly feels like a gem “off the beaten path”.
I wonder, with all the development in the Kona area, how long Holualoa will remain off the beaten path. And how will it change over time? There aren’t exactly huge amounts of empty real estate plots to work with, and sprawling housing developers would be hard-pressed to build cookie cutter homes on such a slope.
It is my hope that Holualoa doesn’t change at all. It has a charm and charisma that combines the old with the new, and the past with the present. This 8 mile journey to Holualoa was our first, but certainly won’t be our last.
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