If you’re the type of traveller who’s just not happy until you’ve ventured off the beaten path, then Holualoa, on Hawaii (the Big Island), is your kind of aloha. Located on the slopes of the dormant Hualalai volcano, in the heart of Kona coffee country, this tiny village is an artist enclave and coffee hub where the residents shuffle to the beat of a slower coconut drum. Adventures here are likely to come in the form of a short chat with a local, a snapshot of the dappled sunlight through a palm on a dilapidated porch or a strong cup of 100-per cent Kona coffee. It’s old-style Hawaii at its most authentic—a quiet, laid-back spot surrounded by sprawling coffee plantations, tin-roofed homes, stone walls, wood shacks and monkey pod trees.
A leisurely side trip, Holualoa is just a 15-minute drive from the touristy Kailua-Kona. Point the car along the Mamalahoa Highway and climb steadily higher as you make your way to the village. Wander through the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, tour a couple of the Kona coffee plantations, then spend the afternoon in the funky galleries and shops of Holualoa itself.
If you’re seeking a blast from the past, Holualoa will leave a lasting impression. Here are some of its highlights.
Head to Hula Daddy’s visitor centre and find out first-hand what goes into making world-class coffee. Enjoy a free tasting, stroll the plantation on a guided tour, then get your own bag of hand-picked, sun-dried beans.
A favourite with locals, this charming farm-to-table eatery serves up delectable, slow-food dishes made from ingredients supplied by the island’s farmers, fishers and ranchers. Try the braised beef brisket and the goat cheese soufflé.
This luxury six-suite B&B on a 30-acre coffee estate drips with tropical fruit trees and flowers. In addition to stunning ocean views almost everywhere you look, the inn offers two-course, fruit-laden breakfasts and self-guided tours of the coffee farm.
Located in the old Holualoa post office, Sam Rosen’s ukulele gallery offers informal uke lessons, uke-making workshops and impromptu jam sessions. The tiny shop sells ukuleles made by some of the island’s finest luthiers. Register for a workshop for some hands-on fun. (konaweb.com/ukegallery)
Tucked behind the Ukulele Gallery and run by husband-and-wife team Renee and Gerald Ben, this unique spot comprises a woodworking shop (where Gerald creates a variety of custom-made furniture) and a fabulous gallery that sells works by local artists.
This historic, century-old shop was renovated and reopened by locals Kurt and Thea Brown in 2011. An old-time grocer with an eclectic inventory, The Keauhou Store offers everything from vintage Hawaiian T-shirts and posters to organic produce and locally made honey, jam and chocolate.
No flowers here. Instead, you’ll find 200 native plant species on this 12-acre spread. Named after a Kona botanist who bequeathed her land to the island’s Bishop Museum, this special garden is a place to explore the flora that sustained early Hawaiians. Guided walks are offered daily at 1 p.m., and admission to the garden is US$7.
Getting There: WestJet flies to Kona once a week from Vancouver.
How to Spend Three Days On the Island of Hawaii
Formed from five volcanoes (four of which are active), Hawaii’s "Big Island" is a place of tropical beauty, cultural riches and geological wonders. Visit for three days and hike through Kohala Forest Reserve, go paddleboarding and explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Three Hawaiian Road Trips to Take
On your next Hawaiian island getaway, rent a car and explore the sites nearby. Drive Chain of Craters Road through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, stop at Waimea Canyon along Kokee Road on Kauai or see the beautiful beaches of the North Shore on Oahu.