The Hāmākua Coast spans approximately 50 miles on the north east side of the Big Island of Hawaii, stretching from the county seat in Hilo to the ranchlands of Waimea. This dramatic coastline is known for its fertile land, tumbling waterfalls and dramatic sea cliffs, which combine to make it one of the Big Island’s most beautiful regions.

The rich volcanic soil and precipitation make the Hāmākua Coast especially fertile, and when the Kingdom of Hawaii signed a Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1876 sugar plantations soon sprang up throughout the area. With this lucrative new agricultural development came immigrant field workers from China, Japan, the Philippines and Portugal to name just a few, helping to establish the deep cultural diversity that the area enjoys to this day.

“King Sugar” dominated the region for most of the 20th century, but eventually the industry was enticed by the cheap labor in other locations. The last sugar plantation on the Hāmākua Coast ceased operation in 1993. Now the area has moved on to other agricultural offerings, including tropical fruit, taro, gourmet mushrooms and the ever popular macadamia nut.  It is home to world class botanical gardens, including Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and World Botanical Garden. The island’s tallest waterfalls, including Akaka Falls and Hi`ilawe Falls, cascade down its steep, green landscape.

The dominating geographic feature in Hāmākua is the volcanic mountain Mauna Kea. The district stretches south through the central plateau to the summit of Mauna Loa. Hāmākua was one of the six traditional districts of the island in ancient Hawaii (known as moku). In Hawaiian mythology, Mauna Kea (“white mountain”) was the home of snow goddess Poliʻahu, and the place of several other legends.

History surrounds you on the Hamakua Coast. When you visit the picturesque planation towns that dot this stretch of HWY 19, you can’t help but feel that you’ve stepped out of the modern world and into a bygone era. Honoka'a, Honomu, Laupahoehoe and O'okala offer great opportunities to visit, learn, explore and escape the modern world for a little while.

The Hāmākua Coast is also the gateway to Waipi’o Valley, perhaps the most beautiful and sacred of all the Island’s treasures. Massive 2,000-foot cliffs flank this verdant “Valley of the Kings”, which in times past was a favorite residence of the Ali’i, or Hawaiian royalty.  Stop at the stunning overlook just past Honoka’a for a vista that will take your breath away.

Today Waipi’o Valley is only accessible via a narrow and VERY steep lane open only to 4WD vehicles and placed strictly off limits by most rental car companies. Several tour operators take visitors into the valley via shuttle, mule wagon and on horseback.  The valley is still lightly populated, in spite of its extremely remote and difficult to access location – or perhaps because of it! It’s a beautiful and fascinating place to visit, even only briefly, and provides a glimpse into the Hawaii that existed long before sugar cane and resort hotels.

While it may not have white sandy beaches or hotel luaus, the Hāmākua Coast bursts with natural beauty and is steeped in history and mythology, making it a unique and fascinating place on the Big Island.  Kailani Villa is fortunate to have its place along the Hāmākua Coast, taking advantage of the rich soil with the tropical plants and flowers covering the landscape.  See some of them on the Plants & Flowers page!