The largest of the Hawaiian Islands is the original home of King Kamehameha, the landing spot of the first Portuguese explorers and the island for which the chain is named. You could call it the island that started everything. (Just don’t call it the Big Island.)
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Marco Garcia
DAY THREE | Much like its birds and flowers, Hawaii’s fruit consists of colorful species rarely seen beyond the islands. You discover several amid the hubbub of the Kona Farmers Market (1) in Kailua-Kona. You’d been told about the tiny, flavor-packed apple bananas and sweet, seed-filled strawberry guavas, but it’s the white pineapple — as acid-free as candy and twice as refreshing — that steals your heart.
The pineapple has awakened your appetite, which leads you down the street to Island Lava Java (2), where you tuck into an enormous plate of pancakes topped with bananas and macadamia nuts, with syrup-soaked Portuguese sausage on the side. Afterward, you stroll through the water front shopping district that surrounds the restaurant. At Savvy Bu‘tik (3), you buy a gauzy dress and a few pairs of gold and geode earrings to soften the looming blow of having to go home. Next, you visit Kailani Surf Co. (4) to pick up gifts for friends, including T-shirts emblazoned with stylized anchors, trees and waves, and a stuffed knit jellyfish.
By now, you’ve worked up a sweat, so you walk back toward the car and run smack into Hawaiian Ice Cones (5) in the middle of the parking lot. The store isn’t much to look at, but its halo halo shave ice — a classic Filipino-Hawaiian dessert made of beans, candied fruit, coconut milk and a big scoop of magnolia-flavored purple ice cream — is cool and sweet and exactly what you needed.
After about 15 more minutes of wandering around, you’re feeling ready to take a nap from all the sun and sugar, so you stop at Greenwell Farms (6) for a cup of Kona coffee and a handful of avocados from the trees along the sun-dappled drive. The staff insists that you take a tour, and before long you’re standing in the shade of a towering coffee bush, tasting the bright red cherries and learning the intricacies of separating and drying the beans.
The sun is nearing the water again, which means it’s time for a giant beer and a guava–barbecue pork sandwich in the sand at Huggo’s on the Rocks (7). A band breaks out into some island standards while the tide rolls in, and the crowd gets rowdy. You are briefly reminded of college spring breaks — but in a good way.
Figuring the perfect end to your stay in a place famed for its animal life is a visit with the local manta rays, you embark on a night snorkel and dive with ocean guide Fair Wind (8). After donning a wetsuit, you hop off the boat to wait for the graceful sea creatures, which, when they finally appear, drift in lazy circles underneath you. It is the most arresting display of animal majesty you’ve ever seen, and you realize that your friends back home will hound you to no end if you don’t show them a photo. Then, one 16-foot monster starts performing back flips to suck up the plankton your light has attracted. It would make for a glorious photograph. It really would. Unfortunately, you forget to take it.
When she returned to New York, Hemispheres senior editor JACQUELINE DETWILER forgot to write this story for two whole weeks.
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