Kona has a deep, rich and often colorful history. Once the home of King Kamehameha the Great, the Hawaiian ruler who unified the Islands, Kona is steeped in legend and lore. Several Big Island museums and historical parks dot the Kona Coast, and we’ve picked out the top five for you.
Built of native materials in 1838 by Governor John Adams Kuakini, Hulihe‘e Palace on Ali‘i Drive was home to Hawaiian royalty. Upon the Governor’s death, the palace with its three-foot thick walls was passed on to his son William Pitt Leleiohoku, who died shortly thereafter. Leleiohoku’s wife, Princess Ruth Luka Ke`elikōlani inherited the palace, which was later passed on to Princess Bernice Pau‘ahi Bishop. The palace was purchased by King David Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani after Pau‘ahi’s death and later inherited by their sons, Prince Kūhiō Kalaniana`ole and Prince David Kawānanakoa. In 1914, the property was sold and its contents auctioned. Today, Hulihe‘e Palace contains most of its original furnishings and houses a magnificent collection of memorabilia and Hawaiian artifacts.
Natural Energy Lab of Hawai‘i Authority (NELHA)
If you are into sustainable technologies, you’ll want to check out NELHA. Since 1974, the State of Hawai‘i has invested over $100 million in NELHA to create an outdoor demonstration site for new ocean-based and renewable technologies. Located near the Kona Airport, NELHA offers fascinating educational tours that feature bottling of deep-sea water, the production of beneficial algae such as spirulina and astaxanthin, sustainable fish and abalone farms, biofuel development and the highly acclaimed Velella Mariculture Project.
Kona Coffee Living History Farm
Love coffee? If you want to learn all about the history of world-famous Kona coffee, visit the Kona Historical Society’s Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook. This “living museum” allows you to experience what coffee plantations were like between 1926 and 1945. The only living history coffee farm in the nation, this award-winning historic farm offers self-guided tours where you can chat with costumed “residents” and “workers” of the farm, see how coffee was processed, and visit the original 1920s farmhouse.
Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Located twenty-three miles south of Kona and known as The City of Refuge, Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau isn’t so much a Kona museum as it is a historical and cultural site. In ancient Hawaiian times, if one broke the sacred laws, the punishment was death unless you could elude your pursuers and make it past the boundaries of the Pu’uhonua, where you were safe from harm. Today, you can visit this amazing historical site and learn about ancient Hawaiian history.
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
This fascinating historical park encompasses the ancient Hawaiian village and temple of Kaloko- Honokōhau and offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about Hawaiian history, culture and ancient technologies. With a number of interactive programs and knowledgable park guides, you can immerse yourself in a Hawaiian historical experience like no other.