Honoka'a is a city on the Big Island of Hawai'i, United States of America, as the gateway providing access to the Hāmākua Coast, the chain of valleys to the North, including the regal Waipio valley, and the rolling slopes of Mauna Kea.
Honoka'a is a small historic plantation era heritage town nestled between the the rolling slopes of Mauna Kea, the chain of valleys to the North, including the regal Waipio Valley, and Hamakua Coastline to the east. The Hāmākua Heritage Coast comprises the Northeastern part of the Big Island continuing from Hilo to Honoka'a, and is surrounded by the tropical rainforest and many rivers and waterfalls that decend the slopes from the summit of Mauna Kea to the ocean cliffs. The climate is tropical, warm, and green enjoying an ideal sunny siting for agriculture due to it's deep soil and moderate climate.
There are deep agricultural and cultural roots of the Hamakua ahupuaa (land district), from the summit of Mauna Kea to the valley of Waipio ("valley of the kings") to some of Hawaii's first coffee plantations and then sugar and macadamia nut markets, the fertile slopes of Mauna Kea have grown and sustained the vibrant town of Honokaa. The town was bypassed by the new Highway 19, and when the Hāmākua Sugar Company closed in 1994 and the Macnut company moved not long after the pace of life in the rural community further slowed and preserved it's historic feel.
Once the 3rd largest town in all of Hawaii behind Honolulu and Hilo, this bustling plantation village was home to people from around the world, plantation workers, farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs, military, entertainers and more, all nestled at the top of Waipio valley, ancient center of the Hawaiian culture. Uniquely preserved, Honoka'a town itself is listed as a "Heritage town," filled with vibrant culture still today. Most visitors make a stop here for shopping or to eat on their way to Waipio valley or to Hilo along the Hamakua coastline (The old highway has waterfalls, hikes and fun funky historic sites while the new Hwy 19 bypasses many of these sites and is a quicker drive) Honoka'a is a great place to stay off the beaten track on the Big Island to explore the forests and hiking along the Hāmākua Coast. For camping it is possible to book in advance cabins or campsites at at Kalopa State Park, a beautiful forest preserve above Honokaa town, or Hotel Honokaa Club is a charming historic building which has rooms ranging from very affordable to moderately priced.
Downtown Honokaa is easily walkable along the main street of Mamane street. The town today can be characterized by a strong community of oldtimers as well as forward thinking young agrarians, a multicultural melee with a strong resurgence of Hawaiian cultural appreciation and identity with the land. The town holds regular "First Friday" events every month where shops stay open late and music, performances and vendors line the main street after dusk. There is an impressive new skate park in town, as well as a nicely kept playground and park, track, sports fields and gymnasium. The closest beach is 8 miles away (Waipio Valley, 4wd only), a local state park and campground (Kalopa Park) nearby, and a regular farmers market every Sunday at the intersection of Highway 19 and Mamane Street.
Hilo International Airport is the nearest airport to Honoka'a. Hilo International Airport is the one of two airport on the Big Island. (Another one is Kona International Airport) The majority of flights to Hilo International Airport are originated from Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines. From Hilo to Honoka'a, most of the visitors either rent a car or take a bus provided by County of Hawai'i Mass Transit Agency. It will take about 1 hr and 15 minutes from Hilo International Airport to Honoka'a.
Another way is to start from Kailua-Kona. The majority of flights to Kona International Airport are originated from Honolulu via Hawaiian Airlines and Island Air. It will take about 1 hr and 40 minutes from Kona to Honoka'a.
Mamane Street is the main street of Honoka'a, where local shops and restaurants are gathered together. There are spaces for cars to park on the street and visitors usually walk through the main street to buy souvenirs, eat local popular food, and visit with the locals. If the lobby cafe of the Theatre is open daytime you can often wander in to find hula practice happening, classical piano rehearsals, Hawaiian and community cultural classes, tango and much more, or evenings there might be an independent or blockbuster film or local music dance event. There is wireless internet in the lobby as well as historic photos and books about the area, including the new Historic Honokaa book.
Along downtown Mamane street you can find many sites of interest, starting from the Katsu Goto Memorial who led labor law reform in the area, to the commemorative Heritage Murals, if you look past old Bothello Building the first is at the Hotel Honokaa Club. If you continue north past the western Bank of Hawaii Building you'll find the Japanese Deco Honokaa People's Theatre and other buildings that are a testament to the multicultural entreprenurial spirit of the town including the Old Hasegawa Store/ Minai Hospital, the A Wong/Lawson Store, Credit Union, and Rice Building. Towards the intersection you will find the Plantation Museum, Long Soup Corner, B Ikeuchi Store & previous Saloon. Uphill at the intersection has the old Kaneshiro store, Honokaa Hongwanji, and the new Heritage center with photo galleries and visitor information, while downhill has the old Sugar and Macnut Mills as well as the still functioning Hamakua Ditch, an engineering marvel that supplies water to the coastline.
Also along the Hamakua Coast:
ACTIVITIES IN HAMAKUA: HIKING, FARM TOURS, HORSEBACK TOURS, WAGON TOURS, ATV TOURS, ZIPLINE, WATERFALLS, BOTANICAL GARDENS
Edie and Tony at Taro Patch Gifts radiate Honokaa charm with a selection of local arts and crafts along with garden produce from their yard (often bananas and ducklings can be found on their doorstep, good price too!) along with Honokaa Marketplace they make Honokaa have some of the best real gift shopping on the island. Aunty Grace over at Honokaa Trading Company has antiques, her place is full of finds and is a meeting place for talk story ukulele playing next to the cats and chickens and good times. Also the Knick-knackery, a Hawaiian owned and themed vintage and antique store with style, and for new locally made items Big Island Grown keeps it fresh along with Grace Flowers next door for that quick lei on the run for everybody's special occasion everyday, while Hula Moon has some super chic shopping to go sport some flowers yourself and Chichi La Fongs keeps the exotic vintage alive. For the art collector there's the Big Island Glass Gallery, or Janice's fine jewelry & silversmithing and Hands of Tibet, while Piko Hale has some fun finds at the end of town towards Waipio.
Honokaa People's Theatre cafe has wireless and serves organic fruit smoothies, Hamakua coffee and espresso drinks, organic eggs, sandwiches, salads, chocolates, cheesecake, ice cream and more. Everyone enjoys Grandma's Kitchen (same family of 50's diner Laupahoehoe fame) for hearty homestyle local plate lunches and the "plantation museum" next door. The avocado acai or poke bowls at Hina rae's are very popular, as is the Tuna Melt and Taro pancakes at Simply Natural, and pizza's at Cafe il Mundo or the Landing, which also serves locals beer, sports, open mic nights and more. Unfortunately the rustic CC Jons closed recently, here's to hoping they reopen soon, but Hamakua Living has stepped up with crackseed and local plates, while a classic for the whole family has always been Tex Drive in, especially for the famous Malasadas, or for other sweets try the new fudge shop. For the vegan and health focused there's the new Sea Dandelion that also serves fresh juices and kava, and then for fine dining there's the Green Cafe which specializes in local and organic and has a beautiful gulch outdoor seating area.
Malasada, Egg-sized donut which deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. Maladasa is the sweet originally from Portugal with neither hole nor fillings. However, Honoka'a's famous Malasada filled with flavored cream or other fillings. Traditionally, Malasada is made in order to using up all the lard and sugar in the house, during the lent.
Saimin, noodle soup unique to Hawai'i. It is more likely the combination of Japanese Udon, Chinese mien, and Filipino pancit. It is a soup dish of soft wheat egg noodles served in hot dashi garnished with green onions. And Saimin is served like Japanese Ramen.
Hotel Honoka'a Club is the only hotel in the town of Honoka'a.
Most of the visitors visit Honoka'a from Hilo and Kona and going back by the end of the day, instead of staying at Honoka'a.