Edge of the World B&B -- Kona, Hawaii
There are scads of travel books on the Big Island. Most are pretty ho hum. My favorite, if you have time to locate it before you get here, is "Hawaii, the Big Island Revealed", by Doughty and Friedman (Wizard Publications). I think you'll enjoy it and find it very useful during your stay, whether at the Edge or one of the other fine or not so fine places on the Big Island. Meanwhile, here's some condensed information about what to expect.
But first, my travel tip: When on the Big Island, follow your senses, not your itinerary.
THINGS TO DO
The Kona coast is a collection of small communities, primarily engaged in farming and fishing on the leeward side of the island. Kona
means leeward in the Hawaiian language.
Check out Kealakekua Bay. This is a marine preserve and if you look off the back lanai you will see it. You can swim with the dolphins or sea
turtles, octopuses, and almost all the other tropical fish found in Hawaii's waters. If you look across the bay you will see the monument to Captain James Cook, erected in 1874 by British sailors. Ocean kayaking and snorkeling are favorite activities at this spot. It's not difficult to paddle over to the monument, and some say the waters there are the clearest in the state. One can also hike to this spot from above, or go by horseback. If you're interested in doing either of these, let me know and I'll tell you where to go, so to speak. There is not much in the way of food down there, so it is probably a good idea to bring your own. From here it is about a 12-minute drive. Go north past the Manago Hotel and at your first major intersection turn left onto Napoopoo Road, then just keep going downhill. After 7 or 8 minutes you will come to a coffee store and the local farmers coop, and it's worth a stop there to learn more about how coffee and nuts are produced and to try some of their free samples.
Puuhonau O Honaunau National Historic Park, or, as it was known in easier times, the City of Refuge. This was once a place of refuge for Hawaiians of yesteryear who had committed some kind of crime or were fleeing from battle or on the run for some other reason. You can go inside this park and get a feel for the former way of life in a partially restored 16th century village. You will see thatched huts, canoes, idols, and a temple that has the bones of several Hawaiian chiefs. For this reason, it is a sacred place to many native Hawaiians. Kurt likes going in the late afternoon when the light seems to make everything softer and ethereal. From here it is about a 25-minute drive. Follow the above directions to Kealakekua Bay and when you hit the bay turn left. This is a coastal road and if you stay on it for about 4 miles you will see it on your right hand side. I often go there about an hour before sunset to hang out. The colors in this part of the world seem to jump out about that time of day. A little further south are some picnic tables and a nice spot to sit and feel the ocean. Four stars for sunsets.
Two Step, nicknamed such because of the land formation underwater, is right in this area, about a hundred yards north of the City of Refuge.It's another fantastic place for either snorkeling or scuba diving. If you haven't done much snorkeling, and have any apprehension at all, I'd start with the entry below first. You'll find it easier there to get used to breathing through tubes and dealing with face claustrophobia. Don't misunderstand, Two Step is a fantastic place to swim. You'll see a small road leading off to the right just before the City of Refuge parking lot. Follow that down to the boat ramp and the best diving area is just off to the right. You may also see local people paddling there in Honaunau Bay. There are teams of men, women, men and women, old, young, and middle, and with various numbers aboard their
outriggers. Paddling is right near the top of the list amongst those that live around here for exercise, fun, and a sense of doing things together.
Kahalu'u Beach Park. This has got to be one of the best snorkeling places in the world. It is a pretty, but unpretentious setting. One of the things that makes it good, in addition to the variety of fish you will see, is the fact that it is a really safe place to snorkel. It is good for
children, older people, or those who can't swim, or those who haven't swum in the ocean in a long time. If you plan to do much snorkeling in Hawaii, this might be a good place to start. It is about a 20 to 25 minute drive. When you leave the Edge, head back north past Manago and stay on that road. After about 10 minutes the road will begin to descend fairly steeply toward the town of Kailua-Kona. About half way down this slope you will come to the first stop light and that is where you turn left toward Keahou Shopping Center. When you come to the
second stop light turn right, in effect you will be driving around the Keahou Shopping Center. (I might mention that this shopping center is a
good place to buy a box lunch at a super market called KTA). You might want to take it with you to the beach. Turn right at that stoplight and at the next stoplight turn left. This puts you on Alii Drive, and Kahaluu Beach Park is perhaps another two miles on the left. It is right next to the Aston Hotel.
Kailua-Kona is an ocean front town formerly a quaint fishing village but now caters more to tourists. It is the commercial center and not a bad place to buy souvenirs. Alii Drive is a two mile strip of shops and restaurants that is moderately enjoyable to walk down, depending on your reason for being here. One way to get there is to keep going north from Kahaluu Beach (follow the directions above (about four more miles). You can park for free if you turn right at the first three way stop sign.
There's a fairly new attraction on the Big Island which I can strongly recommend. It's the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii. (tel. 329-7341). The location is between Kailua-Kona town and the Kona Airport, on the ocean side. There are a number of ongoing experiments and applications of ocean technology, all quite interesting. They give tours most mornings at 9:30, and I believe the cost is five dollars per person. Even "non-technical" folks have returned from a morning at the Lab and have raved about what they learned.
Holualoa is a small artsy, moderately funky town above Kailua-Kona. This was once the center of sugar cane production but now coffee is the primary crop. You might enjoy having a look at some of the galleries there. It is about a 25 minute drive from The Edge. Drive as you were to Keahou but don't turn left, keep going straight another four or five miles and you will see a sign for Holualoa turning uphill. Remember it is pretty hard to get lost in Kona, if you have gone uphill, try to get down to get the main highway, and don't be afraid to explore some of the back roads.
Captain Cook Monument is a fairly strenuous two-mile hike. There is not a lot of shade on the way down so be sure to bring some sunscreen and water. Once you get down there it is a very good place for snorkeling, so you may want to take your mask as well. The only other way to get there is by boat. Drive as you were to Kealakekua Bay but once you turn off onto Napoopoo Road you will see parking for the trail about 400 yards from the turn off on your right. Remember it is harder coming up than going down. Driving time from The Edge is 5 minutes or so, walking time to the monument may be an hour. I would recommend you do this early in the morning or late in the day.
The following places are a bit longer drive:
South Point is the southern most tip of the United States and lies at a latitude 500 miles further south than Key West. To get to South Point take the road off Highway 11 and in about 12 miles you will be there. On this road you will pass Kamoa Wind Farm where Mitsubushi generators produce electricity from the giant windmills. When you are near the end of the road take the right fork and drive to the parking area where fishermen park before they climb down to their boats anchored below. The cliffs are quite spectacular particularly when the waves are big. There are ramps there that hang over the cliffs and look out over the ocean. If you're sitting on one, behind your right shoulder about 40 yards is a giant hole in the ground that goes down to the ocean below. You can safely climb down into the hole a ways, have a seat, and become hypnotized by the wave action and sounds. Nice.
Green Sand Beach is about two and a half miles to the east of South Point and is definitely not the place to try and take a rental car. Count on hiking unless you've got a jeep. There's little or no shade there, no facilities, the currents can be strong, so can the wind, but the sand is
green. If I had to skip one of the places on this list so far, this would be it, all things considered. On the other hand, many guests have returned saying that it was a super place to visit.
Hapuna Beach is probably as close to a "perfect" beach as you'll find in the state -- fine, golden white sand maybe half a mile long and a couple hundred feet wide. It's a fine place for building sand castles,boogie boarding, or just bobbing along in the waves. There's seldom much of an undertow, so it's also relatively safe. There's a small snack bar that's just a slight rip off, showers, changing room, grassy palm tree area before the beach, and pavilions. Weekends are generally more crowded than weekdays because the local people like this beach too, but considering the size of the beach, it will never feel too crowded. Snorkeling at the beach itself isn't so good, but just to the south of the beach along the coast it's a different story, but probably not recommendable for the novice. Conde Nast Traveler magazine has declared this the best beach in the nation, so who am I to argue? It's also a wonderful place to catch the sunset. The beach is about a half an hour's drive north of Kailua-Kona near the 69 mile marker off Highway 19.
If you have enough time, I'd strongly recommend a trip to the visitor center near the top of Mauna Kea. If lucky, you'll be able to catch a fine sunset and perhaps a glimpse of Maui Island. At about sunset an astronomer comes down from the observatories above and explains, in language you can understand, what goes on up there. After answering questions, he takes the visitors outside and everyone has a chance to look through three or four fairly large telescopes. He wanders from one to the other telling you what you are looking at. Wear warm clothes, or lots of not so warm clothes, and bring a snack. Bring all the warm clothes you have, and don't run around much during the first half hour or so.
RESTAURANTS near the Edge of the World
Ask to see our book of menus. Consider getting food "to go" and eating on our lanai. Beautiful sunsets are normal.
Hong Kong Chop Suey is a five-minute drive and has fairly authentic Chinese food. It's located in the Kealakekua Ranch Center, across the street from the Kona Theater. The owners are, believe it or not, form Hong Kong, except they are friendly. The food is fast, servings are large, and price is cheap. You can order from the menu or you can have a look at what's behind the glass by the cash register and point. Expect to
pay something between five and eight dollars for a filling, good meal. CLOSED ON TUESDAY
Kee'i Café has some of the best food in the state. One couple, from England, said it was the best food they had eaten in all of North America. It's toward Kailua-Kona town about three miles from the Edge. The price of a meal there is a bit higher than the others on this list, around $15 to $20. You should call for a reservation well in advance. CLOSED ON SUNDAY AND MONDAY
Senor Billy and Grandma's Mexican Food is located a couple hundred yards north of Kealakekua Ranch Center on the opposite side of the road. If you love Mexican food, you may be somewhat disappointed, although I've heardthere's a new cook and things have gotten much better. The service is usually slow but friendly. Prices are about the same as Hong Kong Chop Suey.
Super J's is a Hawaiian food takeout. Unfortunately, there aren't many places around that sell real Hawaiian food, but this is one. It's south of the Edge on Route 11, about three miles, just past the tree house you can see from the road. Lunch plates include Laulau (pork or chicken) or Kalua pig and cabbage, poi or rice, lomi salmon and potato salad. A box lunch costs about six dollars. If you wish to try Hawaiian food, this would be a good choice. Buy the box lunch or dinner to go and take it down to the beach park past the Place of Refuge, or Hookena Beach. Open from 10AM to dark. CLOSED ON SUNDAY
Manago Hotel has a restaurant. Food is rather bland, but not bad. The style of the restaurant is similar to the style of the hotel itself, old,
funky Hawaiian. If you're looking for something like meatloaf, it's not a bad bet. Maybe that's too hard. It is real, old Hawaii in atmosphere.
Prices are in the ten to twelve dollar range.
Coffee Shack is located south on Route 11 near the 108-mile marker, less than a mile from The Edge of the World. It is only open until 3:30PM, but it has deli type food including delicious sandwiches, pizza, and salads. A great place to eat if you are in this area during lunchtime. Prices are normally under ten dollars.
Teshima's has fairly authentic Japanese food. Generally enjoyed by Americans and not so popular with real Japanese people. They do not take credit cards. Prices under fifteen dollars. They are located approximately six miles north of The Edge of the World on the right side of
the road right before the road splits going north towards Kailua-Kona. They also have box lunches to go and sandwiches.
Royal Thai Café is located in the Keahou Shopping Center. (see KTA below for directions). Food here is reasonable. They have lunches to go if you'd like to take a box lunch to the beach. Priced under eight dollars for a good lunch.
Harbor House at Honokohau Harbor - This is just a fun place to go to have a pretty darn good fresh ahi sandwich, fries, and a schooner of Red Hook, with the fishing boats there by your side and the boat guys (or the charter captains and their clients) at the bar or in the booths next to you. A clean, cool, open-air lunch spot. Casual! North of Kona on the way to theairport.
Bangkok House - Good Thai food. In King Kamehameha Mall, the small shopping center overlooking King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Air-conditioned. Lunch specials offered. Lunch and Dinner, 329-7764. Kurt likes the Thai restaurant in the Old Industrial Area better.
The Aloha Theater Cafe, also called the Angel Cafe - a "must stop" for refreshingly fresh food, and interesting flavor combos. Somebody said, he a really great dinner there recently that consisted of a perfect blackened Ahi filet, garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed fresh asparagus, resting on a fantastic chipotle beurre blanc sauce! Equally as good were the grilled seasonal vegetable skewers devoured by Konabob (also with the incredible sauce and mashers, although a Chef's rice with sun dried tomatoes was also a choice). Many things on the menu are offered made with tofu or tempeh instead of fish or meat. Highly recommended. A very good place for breakfast or lunch, as well. Your food will be brought to you on the charming lanai if you wish, which is very pleasant and overlooks a landscaped area with large avocado tree, hibiscus and plumerias. Mellow. Try to get the farthest seat from the entrance; as from there you can see the ocean. It's very nice at sunset time. Lunch is from 11:30 to 3PM. Dinner is from 5-9PM and Sunday Brunch from 8AM to 3PM. Phone is 322-3383.
KTA is a supermarket in the Keahou Shopping Center about half way into Kailua town (to the north). As you're going from Captain Cook toward Kailua turn left at the first stop light (Kamehameha III) and right at the next light. You will pass Wendy's and a gas station. Turn left past Wendy's and follow the road until you are in a medium size parking lot. The post office is across from KTA Supermarket. They make pretty good box lunches for take away in the five or six dollar range, big servings. It's "look behind the glass and point at what you want" style. If you're thinking of hitting the beach, or touring some part of the island, it's a cheap way to pick up a picnic lunch. KTA is also a good place to buy prepared sashimi (raw fish) if you're inclined. Ahi poke is raw tuna, which has been marinated in soy sauce and seaweed. Tako is marinated octopus. I don't think you'll beat KTA's price and freshness. Borrow one of my coolers and some blue ice, pick up some sashimi, head for the beach. What a life.
Farmer's Market is a collection of stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables and flowers, nuts, and coffee that's not as good as ours. (hehe).
It's very near the Edge, across the street from the Manago Hotel. It's openon Sunday mornings.
Also, I know that you would like to see some of the things on the "other" side of the island, so sometime after you arrive we'll sit down and I'll
help you figure out a route and talk about the things you'll see getting there.
Happy travels, my friends