Big Island Off the Beaten Track, Part Two
Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches
After our time in and around Holualoa, my daughter and I headed to the northern half of the Big Island. Our base there was Hawi, pronounced "hah-vee," a really fun and unique town. Located on the slopes of the Kohala mountain, Hawi has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to its artists’ shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful scenery. During the 19th century, profitable sugar cane plantations were established bringing many Japanese and Filipino laborers. With the decline of the sugar cane industry in the mid-20th century, Hawi adapted. We stayed on a small lush farm just outside of town, enjoyed the produce there, and also ate very locally and happily at Sweet Potato Kitchen, Sushi Rock, and Bamboo Restaurant, all housed in former plantation buildings.
The best experiences we had outside of Hawi was driving the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi to Waimea, horseback riding on a ranch near Waimea, visiting the Waipio Valley, and then hiking in the Pololu Valley. As you drive north to Hawi from Kailua-Kona, you see mostly black lava fields along the road, then enter an incredibly green area, full of ranches which date back to 1840s, older than the oldest ranches in the continental United States by more than 30 years! Kohala Mountain Road, which we traversed on our way to horseback riding at Dahana Ranch, is stunning. At Dahana, we grew to understand the paniolo (cowboy) world better through a guided ride (which required no real horse knowledge, just a willingness). Dahana is a working ranch, not a tourist trap: they breed, raise and train a variety of horses and ponies, and also manage a 140 head cow/calf operation for beef and rodeo bucking stock.
After riding, we wanted to stretch our own legs. From Waimea to Honokaa, our destination was the Waipio Valley Overlook. We didn’t have a chance to really explore the Valley floor as we had no 4WD car, but we admired the view and walked a way. We saved our real hiking for the Pololu Valley on the way back to Hawi. This was a highlight, recommended by a friend who had lived on the Big Island. Down a steep trail for about ½ hour, after parking at literally at the end of the road, we soaked in the dramatic northeastern Big Island coastline. At the bottom, we were rewarded by a fairly isolated black sand beach, a lone woman practicing yoga, and a few brave souls camping overnight. Spectacular!