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Big Island of Hawaii - Hamakua Coast

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June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.


The Big Island of Hawaii - Part 2 - Hamakua Coastline

Aloha! E Komo Mai!

Hele Mai! Hele Mai!

Welcome back!

Mahalo for continuing on our tour of the Big Island of Hawaii!

If you missed Part 1 of our tour you can catch the first bus (lens) at:

The Big Island of Hawaii - Part 1 ~ Waimea - Kamuela - North Kohala

The Big Island of Hawaii, also named Hawaii, is the most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands. You can travel around the Big Island of Hawaii in one day and go from white sand beaches to snow capped volcanoes; from cacti on cattle ranches to tropical rain forest; from black beaches to green sand beaches; and then on to live erupting volcanoes. All in one day!

But wait! You don't want to do it all in one day! Relax, take your time, enjoy! There is so much to see and do on a Big Island of Hawaii Circle Island Tour!

This is a Hawaiian Hale (House) - Tradition Requires that You Remove Your Shoes Before You Enter


Eh! No Forget!

You Gotta Remove Your Shoes Before You Go Inside


Now That You've Removed Your Shoes......

Stick Around for a While

It is well worth it to take your time and plan on staying for a while. There are so many unique and interesting things for you to enjoy while visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. You don't want to just drive around the island without stopping and miss it all!

Slow down....let your senses absorb the beauty and fragrances of the many flowers!

Slow down and experience the diverse cultures and life styles of the Big Island; slow down and savor the exotic tastes and aromas that the Big Island of Hawaii has to offer.

Each part of the island that we visit has something different to experience; something different to cherish; and something different to create memories for you to take home with you!

The Big Island is Extraordinarily Diverse

Every part of the island that we visit has something different to experience.

The original lens grew so large that I was forced to break the tour into 6 segments to make it easier to view. Be sure to catch each bus (lens) to see a different part of the Big Island of Hawaii on each one. Below you will find the links to the next 4 parts of the tour and on the bottom of each lens you will find a link to the next bus (lens) in line to board.

Scroll to Continue

We will be covering the Hamakua Coastline along the eastern part of the island on this segment of the tour.

Big Island of Hawaii - Part 3 - Hilo

Big Island of Hawaii - Part 4 - Volcano Area

Big Island of Hawaii - Part 5 - South Kona Coast

Big Island of Hawaii - Part 6 - Kailua-Kona

Map of Waimea - Honokaa - Waipi'o Valley

Before visiting Honoka`a we will take the road down to Waipi`o Valley, a very sacred place in Hawai'i.

THE HAMAKUA COASTLINE - Traveling the Hamakua Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii


As we leave the foggy high elevation of the Waimea-Kohala cattle country, we leave behind the heady aroma of the eucalyptus forest as we begin our travels along the Hamakua coastline The lush valleys were once miles and miles of sugar cane fields, but are now home to macadamia nut and coffee farms.

The Hamakua coast is the windward side of the island and is predominantly fertile valleys and lush rainforest. Deep gorges have been carved out of the high cliffs, forming these valleys, from the frequent rainfall creating waterfalls and streams, that rush from the high cliffs, all the way down to the ocean.

Water Fall Along the Hamakua Coast Drive

Water Fall Along the Hamakua Coast Drive

Water Fall Along the Hamakua Coast Drive

Old Plantation House

Old Plantation House

Hamakua Coast Sugar Plantations

The sugar plantations where planted and developed in the late 1800's, about 1870, by the Japanese, Filipino and Chinese immigrants. The last factory was torn down in 1994. Sugar cane is now grown predominantly in the Caribbean where the labor is cheap and there are no Labor Unions to deal with.

You can still see the old plantation homes, like the one pictured here on the left, peppered along the highway as the scenery again changes.

As we continue to descend from the higher elevation of Kohala the temperature is warming up to a balmy 86 degrees, the sun is shining bright, you can feel the tradewinds coming in off the ocean and the smell of the ocean salt is in the air.


Waipi'o Valley

Hamakua Coast

My most favorite place on earth, and I have traveled all over the world, is Waipio Valley. It is a magical, spiritual haven away from all of the stresses, commercialism, and greed of the rest of the world. The Valley of Waipi`o may justly be termed the Garden of Eden of the Hawaiian Islands.

Waipio Valley is protected by 2,000-foot cliffs that surround the valley. In ancient times Waipi`o was a favorite place of the ali'i, Hawai'ian royalty, and has become known as the Valley of the Kings.

Hi`ilawe Falls, is a spectacular double waterfall, that is the tallest in the state with a vertical drop of more than 1,000 feet. It can be seen dropping from the Kohala Mountains to the valley floor, feeding the lush vegetation of the rainforest, creating streams and creeks seething with life. The sheer cliff surrounding Waipio make access difficult, which protects the valley from being over taken by progress. The valley is only accessible by foot, horseback and 4-wheel drive vehicles; although there are some areas in the valley that are not accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Waipio is a lush garden full of fruit trees, banana groves, taro fields, and fishponds, natural springs and both fresh water and brackish streams. Fresh shrimp can be found swimming in the streams, and oe'o shoots (baby fern shoots that taste like asparagus) can be picked right from the banks of the streams. Close to the beach is a loko pu'uone, a fishpond fed by streams and springs and separated from the ocean by a sand dune, called a lalakea.

Road to Waipio Valley

Road to Waipio Valley

Road to Waipio Valley

There are only a few tour companies out of Honoka'a that are permitted to offer day tours of the valley, but they do not operate on Sunday. The 4-wheel drive road that leads down to the valley from the Waipi`o Overlook (Follow Hwy. 240 8 mi northwest of Honoka'a), is extremely steep and should be used with great caution. The walk down into the valley is less than a mile, but because the road is so steep the hike back out is strenuous in the hot sun, especially if packing gear.

Black Sand Beach at Waipio

Hawaii-Waipio Valley black sand beach

Hawaii-Waipio Valley black sand beach

There is a crescent of black sand beach (Wai-pi`o means "curved water" in Hawaiian) and decent waves which makes it a popular spot for local surfers. There is a rocky area next to the beach where you can sometimes find some nice pieces of sea glass and shells.

There are no bathroom facilities or garbage cans, so you must haul everything out that you haul in. If you have the need to relieve yourself, you must dig a hole and bury it!

Too many ignorant visitors have not utilized these common sense practices and have caused serious litter problems, along with polluting the once crystal clear streams, and the swimming areas. We use to be able to drink the water, but now because of this pollution it is advised to bring your own water. Just remember to take your water containers back out with you!

The Falls of Waipi'o Valley - Valley of the Kings

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Sacred Waipi'o Valley

Wai-pi'o Valley is a sacred place to us. There are not only the remains of ancient heiaus, but it is also the place of ancient burial grounds of our past kings. Our ancestors burial grounds are very sacred to us in Hawai'i. We feel a great mana, spiritual power, emanating from our ancestral spirit.

Waipi`o is also a mystical place. Many of the ancient stories of the Hawaiian gods are set in Waipi`o. It is here that beside the falls of Hi'ilawe, that the god, Lono descended on a rainbow into a breadfruit grove and and made the goddess Kaikiani his wife . Later, according to the legend, he killed her when he discovered her making love with a chief of the earth. As she died she assured Lono of her innocence and her love for him.

In her honor Lono instituted the Makahiki games - a designated period of time following the harvesting season when wars and battles were ceased, sporting competitions and contests between villages were organized, and festive events were commenced.

Listen to Bradda "Izy" Israel Kamakawiwi`ole Singing About the Waterfalls of Waipi'o

Ancient Times at Waipi'o Valley - A Brief History of Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

During ancient times Waipio was a hub of Hawaiian community. There were 4 heiaus (temples) located there at the time. They were named Pu'uhonua of Paka'alana Heiau, Honua'ula Heiau, Hokuwelowelo Heiau, and Moa`ula Heiau.

In 1780, King Kamehameha I was selected as a future ruler, here in Waipi`o, by the reigning chiefs.

In 1791 he fought Kahekili in his first naval battle at the mouth of the valley. The Pu'uhonua of Paka'alana Heiau was 300 feet to the southwest of Honua'ula Heiau.

It was destroyed along with several other heiaus, along with all the royal associations in the valley of Waipi'o by Kaeokulani, King of Kauai, and confederate of Kahekili, King of Maui, in the war upon Kamehemeha I, in 1791.

The heiaus were later repaired and remained in tact until their destruction at the end of the Kapu'u System, by King Kamehameha II (King Luniliho) in 1819.

The Honua`ula Heiau was used during those times as a temple for human sacrifice. All of the corpses of the warriors and chiefs that were slain in battle were offered up to the gods in the heiau of Honua'ula in Waipi'o.

The Hokuwelowelo Heiau was a small pen near the edge of the sea cliff, overlooking the mouth of Waipi'o valley. The story says that this heiau was "built by the gods".

The fourth heiau, Moa`ula Heiau, was built at the foot of the steep northwest cliff bounding Waipi'o valley, 2500 feet from the sea. Remnants of these heiaus can still be found on the locations described and are still considered sacred places by the Hawaiian people.

Waipio Joe

Waipio Joe

Disease is Brought to the Valley by Europeans

Killing Most of the Population

Before the arrival of the Europeans, who brought their diseases with them to the Hawai'ian Islands, there was a community of around 15,000 people living in Waipio Valley.

Thousands of Hawaiians died there from the flu that was contacted from the Europeans. Hawaiians had never before experience fever or sickness and didn't know that they had to keep warm and sweat it out to break the fever.

The Hawai'ian's kept throwing themselves into the ocean to cool their burning bodies, which led to pneumonia and their deaths.

By 1823, there were only a few thousand Hawaiians left in the valley. A census by the missionaries in 1831-1832 using the Waimea station, estimated the population of Waipi'o Valley at about 1,200 people.

By 1854 the population was estimated at only about 260 people still residing in Waipi`o Valley. The tsunami of 1946 drove most of the remaining residents out of the valley to higher ground, never to return. Then the flood of 1979 forced more of the last stragglers into mainstream society.

Today only about 50 people live in Waipi'o Valley. These are taro farmers, fishermen and a few others who carry on with their simple, but much loved, lifestyle, like Waipio Joe who is pictured above on the right.

When William Ellis, one of the first European missionaries to visit Waipi'o Valley in 1823, arrived at the Valley, he was accompanied by fellow missionary Asa Thurston and a guide, Makoa.

They described the valley from the cliffs above as "......a charming valley, spread out beneath us like a map, with its numerous inhabitants, cottages, plantations, fishponds,and meandering streams (on the surface of which the light canoe was moving to and fro), appeared in beautiful miniature".

Ellis and Thurston remained in the valley for several days and both commented in their journals on how well-cultivated the valley was, and described the crops as including kalo, taro; mai'a, bananas; sugar-cane; and other cultivated plants. This descriptions that Ellis provided in his journals continued with the importance of Waipi'o Valley as a highly productive agricultural area with sacred sites and as a population center.

In 1881, rice farming and and water buffaloes (to work the rice fields) along with several rice mills, were introduced to the Valley. They appear on the 1881 map of Waipi'o Valley completed by J. S. Emerson, a surveyor of the Kingdom of Hawai'i (Emerson 1881).

Rice agriculture in the valley continued into the early twentieth century. It was dominated by Chinese rice farmers and mill owners, and to a lesser extent by Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino and Portuguese groups.

Many of the Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants that came to Hawai'i, came as indentured laborers and later moved into Waipi'o Valley to begin intensive rice agriculture after completing their periods of servitude.

Few Japanese settled in the valley. They chose to take residence on the upper slopes, closer to Honokaa, but would work the fields in the valley. Prior to 1914 rice agriculture in Waipi'o was a common economic pursuit and generally there were two crops a year.

Waipi'o Valley Videos


Tex Drive-in - On the Way to Honoka'a

Hele On to Honoka'a!

Before getting into Hilo, for the sake of tradition, we have to make a pit stop at Tex's Drive-in on the out-skirts of Honoka'a, and pick up a sack of malasadas.

Tex's Drive is THE road trip stop along the Hamakua Coastine. You don't know what a malasada is? Well, you have not lived until you have eaten a Portuguese malasada.

Portuguese Malasada

Portuguese Malasada

Portuguese Malasada

A malasada is a piece of dough that is fried in hot oil and then rolled in sugar and eaten hot. Sounds disgustingly sweet, doesn't it? But, I promise, they are not.

They are like a doughnut without the hole, very similar to a French beignet from New Orleans, but much lighter. The dough is light, airy and eggy. They are little clouds of heaven which were introduced to the Hawaiian islands by the Portuguese.

Below I will give you a couple of recipes for cheaters malasadas that are very easy for you to make at home. These recipes will allow you to experience one of Hawaii's tasty treats.

Pile of Malasadas from Biscuit Dough

Pile of Malasadas from Biscuit Dough

Hawai'i's Malasada Recipes

Two Easy Cheater Malasada Recipes and One Authentic Malasada Recipre

Malasada Recipe Easy #1

Malasadas must be eaten hot! Trying to reheat, or eating cold, just is not an option. It's like trying to reheat cold French fries; it just doesn't work. Try to only make enough to eat immediately.


Cooking Oil

Granulated Sugar (Pour about a cup in a bowl to roll cooked malasada)

Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuit Dough

Cooking Instructions:

Heat oil in a saucepan, large enough to hold 4 at a time, to medium heat, for about 8 minutes. Put a wooden chopstick in the pot. When the tip starts to bubble when inserted it's hot enough!

Pop the Pillsbury roll, and put in the individual pieces (it's pre cut) into the hot oil. Cook on each side for a few minutes (light brown like the photo above) and when it's done place them on a paper towel to drain the oil. Roll the warm malasadas in the sugar, and serve!

Note: You could also make malasada bites by cutting the one large roll into quarters (1/4).

Malasada Recipe

Malasada Recipe

Delectable Bite of Malasada

Easy Cheaters Malasada Recipe #2

I like this cheaters recipe the best as they are more like authentic malasadas. They are not as easy to prepare as Recipe #1, as you do have to mix the waffle batter ....

No matter which way you choose to try they are all still yummy and can be made in a hurry for a quick snack or dessert for when unexpected guest stop over.


Bisquick - make one recipe of waffle batter.

(Has to be waffle, not pancake, and has to be Bisquick, not a generic pancake mix.)

5 slices of cheap white bread like wonder bread

1 brown paper bag or a bowl

1 C granulated Sugar

Cooking Instructions:

Make waffle batter. (not pancake)

Remove the crust from da bread and slice each piece of bread into quarters to make 4 squares, for a total of 20 squares.

Put sugar in brown paper bag or in bowl (paper bag works bettah!)

Dip bread in batter to completely cover and drop in hot cooking oil (about 350 degree).

Fry until light golden brown and turn ova in the oil. Fry until golden all ova.

Put each malasada into brown paper bag with the sugar and shake em good 'till covered.

Cool on wire rack little bit den eat while warm and enjoy!

Malasadas Frying in a Wok of Hot Oil

Authentic Malasada Recipe

I suggest trying the easy cheater recipes before trying this one from scratch so that you have an idea of what they should look and taste like.


1 package yeast (1 T)

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup warm water

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup water

1 cup evaporated milk

6 eggs

1 quart vegetable oil (to fry)

extra sugar to roll in

Cooking Instructions:

1. Dissolve yeast, sugar and water and set aside.

2. Beat eggs in a bowl.

3. Measure flour into a mixing bowl and add salt. Make a well in the flour, pour in yeast mixture, eggs and other ingredients.

4. Beat in circular motion until the dough is soft. Cover, let raise until double. Turn dough over but do not punch down. Cover and let raise again.

5. Heat oil to 375 degrees and drop dough by teaspoon full into oil and cook until golden brown. Shake in brown bag with sugar. Best when hot.

Note: If the malasadas come out with the center still doughy, turn the heat down on the oil which will allow them to cook longer.

Entering Honoka'a Town

The town of Honoka'a is an old plantation town that is still to this day, a thriving hub of community activity. With a population of a little over 3,000 people, it is the largest of the sugar cane plantation towns still in existence.

Some how, it has managed to maintain it's character and remain the rough and tumbled town it has always been. Even the tourist industry, that has destroyed so much of old Hawaii's personality and flavor, has had little effect on Honoka'a.

The photo on the above right is driving into Honoka'a Town with the Honokaa Church steeple showing in the right of the photo.

Honokaa Town Hawaii

Honokaa Town Hawaii

Honoka'a Town

The photo on the right is driving into the town of Honoka'a.

Honoka'a has been able to maintain the same look and feel that it had back in the day, at the height of the sugar cane industry, when Honoka'a was the largest plantation town on the Hamakua Coast.

Honoka'a People's Theater - Hawai'i Honoka'a Landmark

Honoka'a People's Theater

Honoka'a People's Theater

One of the main landmarks of Honoka'a is the Honoka'a People's Theater, built as a movie theater in 1930 by the Tanimoto family. One of the annual events held at the old theater is the Hamakua Music Festival. Many local musicians and entertainers participate in this festival of new and old style Hawaiian music and let me tell you, the place rocks!

If you happen to be on the Big Island of Hawaii in October you should go to this festival. It is something that tourist rarely get to see and is well worth the trip. This is the real culture of Hawaii. Oh, one more thing about the old theater....

It is haunted!

Honoka'a in 1943 - That Was Then

Honoka'a in 1943

Honoka'a in 1943

Honoka'a Today - This is Now - Photo by Steen Heilesen

Honoka'a Today

Honoka'a Today

Honoka'a Western Week Parade

One of the biggest annual events in Honoka'a is Western Week. The whole town participates and tourist love it too!

Western Week, honors the traditions and lifestyles of the paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) in Hawaii and is a fun time for all, where friends and family can get together and celebrate their heritage.

The festival is a week long event with activities going on all week for participants of all ages..

All Western Week Photos by Sarah Anderson of Sara Anderson Photography

Hawaiian Flag


Smiling cowgirl in parade carrying the Hawaiian Kingdom of Hawaii Flag.

Western Week in Honoka'a

Western Week activities include arts & crafts; square dancing; a farmer's market; a huge BBQ; a two day rodeo, hosted by the Hawaii Saddle Club; and the annual Honokaa Western Week Parade..

Everyone in town dresses up in their western regalia. At the local saloon you can grab a beer and be entertained with a show performed by the saloon's dance hall girls.

The girls look like they just stepped out of an old photo of the Long Branch Saloon.

Notice the lei po'o (head lei) around this rider's hat brim.


Riding a Lua in the Honoka'a Parade

His Majesty on the Throne! Now I ask you, what's a parade without a lua (toilet) riding on a float?

This is a prime example of the fun to be had and the sense of humor of the local people at the Honokaa Western Week Parade celebration!

And She's Off to the Rodeo!

Little Cowgirl in the Honoka'a Parade

Little Cowgirl in the Honoka'a Parade

Honoka'a Times

Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a photographer for the Honoka'a Times.

She is also a resident of Honoka'a and has been so kind in lending her photos of Honoka'a Western Week to us.

A big Mahalo Nui Loa to Sarah!