First-time visitors to Kona are quickly stunned by the haunting beauty of the barren lava fields juxtaposed with aquamarine waters, lush green palms swaying in tropical island breezes, and the rugged mountains towering over the sunny Leeward Coast. Kona Island is famous for a lot of things (coffee, scuba diving, volcanoes, and more) but it also has its share of secrets. How many of these interesting Hawaii facts about Kona and the Big Island of Hawai‘i are news to you?
Hawai‘i is the only state that grows coffee, vanilla beans, and cacao. The fertile volcanic soils, cool mountain nights, and warm sunny days are ideal for coffee trees. The beans produced here are highly sought after for their smooth flavor and low acidity, making them among the rarest and most expensive in the world. The cacao plant – from which chocolate is produced – also thrives here, thanks to Hawai‘i’s unique location in the global “chocolate band” (yum!) of required temperatures, rainfall, and elevation. The Hawaiian Vanilla Co. and its small 20-acre farm is the only commercial vanilla farm in the entire country, taking advantage of the bountiful rains of the Hamakua Coast and the dedicated farmers who hand-pollinate each flower within 12 hours of blooming.
A Side of Ranch on Kona Island
The Western U.S. is famous for its huge tracts of land, but did you know the largest cattle ranch in the country can be found right here on Hawai‘i? At 480,000 acres, the Parker Ranch is two-thirds the size of O‘ahu Island, and it is the largest contiguous cattle ranch in the USA, stretching from the Kona Coast up to Waimea.
A Beach by Any Other Color
Another Hawaii Facts: Hawaii is famous for its white-sand beaches, but did you know they come in other colors too? Head either direction up the Kona Coast and you can experience enchanting black sands beaches at Hawi (north) and Punalu`u (south), made from lava that was instantly pulverized when it entered the cool ocean waters. Papakolea Beach on South Point is a green sand beach thanks to an isolated pocket of olivine (a green mineral) present in the local cinder cone that was washed out by wave action 49,000 years ago. It is one of only two green sand beaches in the country.
The southern tip of the Big Island – Ka Lae – is the southernmost point in the United States. This windswept peninsula offers uninterrupted views of the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean, and the truly brave can jump off the 40-foot cliffs into the waiting waters below. Just be warned, the climb back up the cliff face on an old metal ladder is where the adventure really begins!
Not all of the Big Island belongs to the United States. A 5,000 square-foot parcel of land at Kealakekua Bay was gifted to the United Kingdom for the purpose of erecting a monument to Captain James Cook, the first Westerner to set foot in these islands. Cook was killed in a skirmish with native Hawaiians three weeks later, and today a 27-foot white stone obelisk marks the spot.