Kona and It’s Southern Coast

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For my third day and final day in Kona, not quite long enough, I strolled the downtown and then headed south along the Kona Coast. The downtown is basically one street that travels about a mile along the coast. It is complete with old Royal Palaces, churches, cafes, shops and a few unappealing, tiny beaches.


Kona is a good place to stay for those in need of less expensive accommodation and for those who prefer to walk to dinner. Otherwise, the west coast of the Big Island is more suited to resorts north of Kona or B&B’s in the coffee plantation area south of Kona.

I planned three days on the west coast and another three days in Volcano Village, not counting travel days. As such, I headed toward Volcano Village via a leisurely drive along the Kona Coast.

Kealakekua State Bay Historical Park

My first stop after leaving Kona, was at the Kealakekua State Bay Historical Park. The park is the location where Captain Cook met the Hawaiian’s upon his arrival in 1779. At first revered as a God, Captain Cook met a different fate when he returned to shore due to problems with his ship. The Hawaiian’s realized he was not a God if he had ship problems and killed him. There is a white statue on the other side of the bay commemorating Captain Cook’s death.

Kealakekua Bay State Hisorical Park and Captain Cook Monument
Captain Cook Monument Afar

I visited the free park in order to see the spinner dolphins my guide book had mentioned. However, I quickly learned by a posted sign that the dolphins come to the bay to rest during the day as they hunt at night. It was discouraged to swim or kayak with them. Not to mention, swimming with them required being a few hundred yards off shore…not my thing.

I briefly considered kayaking across the bay to Captain Cook’s monument in hopes to get a glimpse of them like others were doing, but honestly I wanted to swim with active dolphins. Since I could see the memorial to Captain Cook from the shore, I explored the lava beach and remains of the Hikiau Heiau Temple. King Kalani’opu’u built the temple and used it for human sacrifice! Glad that was before my visit. 🙂

Kealakeakua Bay State Historical Park on the Kona Coast

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park

Slightly further down the Kona Coast is Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Site. I presented my National Parks Pass to enter and joined a few other tourists in this place of refuge. In old Hawaii, breaking a law resulted in death. The only chance of survival was to reach a sanctuary like the Hale o Keawe. This temple, surrounded by many carved wooden images, housed bones of powerful chiefs.

Wooden image at pu’uhonau o honaunau on the Kona coast

While most tourist walk around the sanctuary and the abutting royal complex, the park also has a two mile trail that passes through lava flow, past the Keanae’e Cliffs mentioned in Mark Twain’s book Letters From Hawaii, by ruins of old temple, across an old horse ramp, and to the remnants of Ki’ilae Village (not much there). The trail, with little shade, provides some nice coastal views and is home to many goats though they don’t live in the old animal pen.

Old horse ramp at pu’uhonau o honaunau on the Kona coast
Old horse ramp

I had this trail to myself, which I enjoyed, though it was likely because it was so hot! I didn’t run in to anyone until I was almost finished.

The Painted Church

After my morning stroll, I followed some winding backroads past coffee and macadamia nut farms to The Painted Church. This is really a lovely area and the Painted Church is worth a visit. Next to an old cemetery, the church is perched on a hill with views of the ocean. Inside, it is painted with different biblical scenes.

In addition, listening to parishioners practicing music in a nearby building and being able to buy random tropical fruits by donation at an outside stand was an added bonus.

The painted church on the Kona coast

Bay View Farm

Backtracking just slightly, I stopped in at Bay View Farm, a coffee plantation. They produce their own beans and buy from others to create their blend. While they don’t offer a tour, they have a cute gift shop and a welcoming patio for relaxing with a lovely view.

Bay view coffee farm on the Kona coast

Royal Kona Museum and Coffee Mill

Back on the main highway, I made a much longer than anticipated stop at the Royal Kona Museum and Coffee Mill. I began at the museum, tasting bar, and gift shop. After watching a short film on the coffee making process and tasting a few delicious coffee flavors, on the edge of the gift shop, a bowl of oysters caught my attention.

Maui Divers Jewelry

They belonged to Maui Divers Jewelry and for $15 customers could pick an oyster with a guaranteed pearl. There was even a drawing for discount coupons.

I thought why not. I’ve always wanted to find an oyster with a pearl in it. With a 50% off coupon in hand, I made my selection. But first I asked if the size of the oyster or how tightly the oyster was closed made a difference. The sales lady replied, “No, just pick the one that caught your eye first. It was smaller than some of the others, but in better shape and tightly sealed.

Picking an oyster at Maui diver jewelry

After a ceremony for good luck where I shouted “Aloha”, the sales lady shucked my oyster, and handed me a large, dark grey pearl. While she could have been acting, she genuinely exclaimed, “You got a great pearl.” She ended up saying it a few more times with a little surprise in her voice which led me to believe it was true…not to mention the pearl did have a rich color to me.

Normally, I would have been satisfied with the pearl and walked off. But for some strange reason, I got it mounted and put on a chain. My $7.50 of fun turned into $80. Haha. At least I have a story behind it. Anyway, my jewelry selection kept me longer than expected, so off I went on the coffee tour.

The Coffee Tour (and Lava Tube)

Since I had previously been on an extensive coffee plantation tour in Panama, I was thankful to find only a self-guided tour at the Royal Kona Coffee Center. Detailed signs inform visitors about the process, and those who want to know about Kona Coffee will definitely get their fill.

Many farms process coffee in Hawaii. In fact, there are over 600, making the Big Island the only place in the United States with an active coffee crop. The most important thing to note is it’s not true Kona Coffee unless the package says 100%, as there are many qualifications that must be met.

Personally, I just like looking at the machines and seeing the beans spread out to dry. It always fascinates me, to see what machines can handle whether it be sorting, drying, packaging and more. The short walk around the property also takes visitors through a lava tube which I think are so cool!

Coffee dryers

South Point Park and Kalalea Heiau

After my coffee break, I continued south along the Kona Coast for about one hour to South Point Park and Kalalea Heiau. South Point Park is the southern most point of the United States. It is marked with ruins of an ancient temple, Kalalea Heiau, where fishermen used to leave offerings in return for a good catch.

The salt pans and canoe mooring holes still remain in the surrounding rocks. Fishermen used to tie their canoes to the rocks and let the current take them out to the tuna. They pulled themselves back in by the rope and cured their catch in the depressions that held salt from evaporated sea water. I really liked knowing I was on the southern most tip of the USA which is also sacred.

Southernmost point of the USA on he Big Island

Hana Hou Restaurant

Continuing with the southern most theme, I stopped for a very late lunch or very early dinner at Hana Hou Restaurant on my way to Volcano Village. Open since 1940 with diner type decor, this restaurant located in Naalehu is the southern most eatery in the USA. I got their pork special which was quite tasty. It made for a good way to end my day on the Kona Coast. ETB

Lunch at Hana hou on the Big Island

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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