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As small towns go on Hawaii Island, Holualoa may just corner the market on charm. Located only 3 miles uphill from the better-known hubs of Kailua-Kona and Keauhou, the rural community seems to drift back in time. Its off-the-beaten-path ambiance is defined by tin-roof homes, old stone walls and a slow pace of life.
Galleries dominate Holualoa, but its abundance of coffee farms, history and hospitality hold equal allure. Here are five of our favorite reasons to head to Holualoa.
Coffee, Coffee, CoffeeThanks to its high altitude and fertile volcanic soil, Holualoa has proven ideal for growing Hawaii’s famous Kona coffee. Around the region, farm tours offer glimpses into the planting, harvesting and roasting processes followed by tastes of the delectable finished product.
At Holualoa Kona Coffee Co., for instance, clients go on free tours of the orchard and mill and get gratis sips of bold brews. Another farm, Mauka Meadows, charges a mere $5 per person and shares dramatic views from its upcountry location. Better yet, people can savor a heady variety of java in one place during November’s annual Holualoa Village Coffee & Art Stroll, which is part of the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival.
First Friday After DarkAloha spirit steps into the spotlight at this weekend kickoff, which takes place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Stores stay open late, and locals set up tents, kiosks and chairs for visitors and residents who get to know each other throughout the evening.
First Friday presents the perfect opportunity for travelers to enjoy the best of Holualoa. Clients peruse paintings, hand-screened T-shirts and photography with a sense of place. Food vendors sate appetites with local flavors. Entertainers play their instruments, serenade the crowds and maybe even break into a hula. It’s Holualoa’s unique take on an old-fashioned block party.
Galleries and Ukulele LessonsHolualoa’s beauty and goodwill have inspired creative spirits to call it their home base. Their galleries — peacefully coexisting along Mamalahoa Highway, the main road through town — display everything from whimsical crafts to fine art, including handmade woodwork and jewelry, stylized posters and original sculptures. Standouts include Dovetail Gallery, Glyph Art Gallery and Studio 7 Fine Arts.
One of the most unique lures is Holualoa Ukulele Gallery, set in the town’s former post office. It houses stunning examples of Hawaii’s beloved four-stringed instrument, created by top ukulele makers. Guests can chat with the owner, perhaps strum a few bars and, if they’re around for at least 10 days, participate in a ukulele-building workshop.
Historic BuildingsLined up along Mamalahoa Highway, 20 historic buildings stand ready with stories to tell. Many have been renovated and repurposed, providing a sense of context to the contemporary studios and shops that now occupy them. Thankfully, their pasts live on courtesy of informational signs created by the local heritage preservation council.
Highlights include the 1906 Christian Church, where services were held in multiple languages to accommodate immigrant workers and their families. Also on hand are the Sasaki Store from 1919; a dentist office dating back to 1927; a 1923 laundry and pool hall; and the 1897 Holualoa School, one of the oldest schools in Hawaii.
Music & Light FestivalDuring this early December holiday party, Santa Claus flashes Hawaii’s friendly shaka sign while rolling down the street in a convertible, then offers his knee to kids young and old. Everyone cheers for the lighting of the town’s big Norfolk pine, and shop owners keep their doors open well into the evening, with free snacks and drinks for merrymakers.
Festival attendees can tour the area’s main hotel, Holualoa Inn, where a fireplace casts a welcoming glow. Children play games for prizes, and outdoor stages feature musicians who put their inimitable spin on traditional carols. The festivities wrap up with a family-oriented film in the Holualoa Theater.
The DetailsHolualoa Townwww.holualoahawaii.com