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A Little About Hamakua Coast

The Hamakua Coast is the shoreline of Hawaii Island’s Hamakua District. Located in the center-north of the Big Island, the Hamakua Coast extends for a scenic fifty miles from Waipio to Hilo. The Hamakua Coast is a perfect exhibit of the widely varying climate zones of the Big Island. Although most other parts of Hawaii Island have beaches as their primary tourist attraction, the Hamakua region is perhaps best known for lush rainforests. Hamakua’s unique climate is a product of its geographic location. Hamakua is found in a part of the Big Island that enjoys a considerable amount of year round rainfall thanks to the trade winds that frequent the area. Hamakua has a great deal of cultural significance and historical importance, with a rich heritage dating back more than a thousand years. Hamakua’s mountain peaks are the subject of many Hawaiian legends, especially those relating to the goddess Poliahu. The modern history of the Hamakua Coast is closely related to the sugar industry, which began to dominate the local economy in the nineteenth century. Hamakua was home to a number of sugar plantations, including the Pacific Sugar Mill, the Hamakua Mill Company, the Honokaa Sugar Plantation, and the Paauhau Sugar Plantation as well as a number of other facilities.

Towards the middle of the 1900s, these numerous plantations began to consolidate into a single entity, the Hamakua Sugar Company. Eventually, with the rise of international competition, the sugar industry lost its hold on Hawaii Island and diversified agriculture took its place. Now, the Hamakua region is home to a number of small farms growing coffee, taro, macadamia nuts, mangos, and a variety of other crops. The beautiful scenery of the Hamakua Coast is perhaps best enjoyed from the highway along the Hamakua Heritage Corridor, which stretches along much of Hawaii Island’s northern coast. Hamakua’s unique environment manifests itself in an impressive selection of scenic attractions. The foremost of these include the Waipio Valley Lookout, Umauma Falls, Akaka Falls, the World Botanical Gardens, and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. There are also a wide variety of other attractions along the Hamakua Coast drive that are not as well known among the tourist community. There are even some opportunities to enjoy the remarkable scenery of the coast on a zip line. For those looking for something less extreme, the beauty of the Hamakua Coast can be experienced just as well by car or on foot.

The United States military maintains a live fire training facility at Pohakuloa, and the area is also home to a monument to tsunami victims at Laupahoehoe. The inland of the Hamakua Coast is accessible by car via the Saddle Road, which extends from Hilo to the twin volcanic peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are the two tallest peaks for several thousand miles in either direction, and are both located at least partially within the Hamakua District. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are snowcapped throughout most of the year, and provide some of the only opportunities in the Pacific for winter sports of any kind. There are also government telescopes and facilities on the peak of Mauna Loa, including a NOAA observatory. Some of the more important communities found along the Hamakua Coast include the towns of Honokaa, Hakalau, Paauilo, Papaaloa, and Ahualoa. Taken together, these towns and others in the area offer a chance for visitors and residents to enjoy authentic Hawaiian culture, including local art galleries, small boutiques, and excellent dining options.

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