(Written by my husband) While staying on the big island my wife and I enjoyed the Gold Coast and Cloud Forest Explorer tour by KapohoKine Adventures. This four hour tour includes stops at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, a cloud forest preserve and the Mountain Thunder Coffee Farm. The pick up point for this tour is the Kailua pier, where we met up with our fellow tourists who had just disembarked from their cruise ship. We were met by our guide Cody and escorted away in a van to see some less frequented parts of the big island.
Our first stop was Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. This park is the site of ancient fishponds and remnants of traditional Hawaiian society. A brief walk over rugged lava flows and through scant kiawe groves led to sites of numerous petroglyphs carved by ancestral grafitti artisans and preserved for our amusement. A checker-like game board was also carved into the rock and makes one ponder what the daily life of an ancient Hawaiian would have been like.
As we neared the shore, the sound of crashing waves and a cool sea breeze ushered us onto a picturesque sand beach lined with Niu (coconut) palms and fringed by the remnants of an ancient Loko i’a (fish pond). A glimpse out over the shallow bay revealed the heads and shells of numerous green sea turtles and one could easily imagine awaiting the arrival of Lawai’a (fisherman) with the catch of the day. Our next trip to the island will hopefully allow more time to wander along the shores of this spectacular piece of Hawaiian history. Traditional Hawaiian land divisions were called ahupua’a and extended from the upper slopes of the island all the way down to the coast to include all the necessities of life within their bounds. From the ocean to the mountain, this ahupua’a would provide all the fishing, farming and timber an extended family group would need to survive.
The Van left the coast behind and traveled up the slopes of the Hualalai Volcano and as the elevation increased, the barren exposed lava was overtaken with vegetation. Numerous vines and luscious flowering plants and trees gradually overtook the roadside vistas until we reached our second stop on the tour, the cloud forest. The cloud forest is a unique climate zone where the plants absorb water directly from the always present clouds. Tree ferns, bamboo and towering trees covered with vines create a jungle canopy which we took a short half-hour hike through a private sanctuary used as a laboratory by the local botanist/owner for research into the restoration of native habitats and the adaptability of a variety of species to this unique environment.A quick 5 minute drive down the road we made our final stop of the tour at Mountain Thunder coffee farm. World famous Kona coffee is grown, harvested, sorted, roasted and packaged at this farm which has been featured on Dirty Jobs and won many awards for its delicious and unique flavors.
Judy, an enthusiastic Mountain Thunder employee and a coffee grower of her own right gave an informative tour of the operations including detailed descriptions of the coffee plants, harvesting procedures and a tour of the sorting and roasting facility. Words cannot describe the aroma of the farm and only a trip to the site with the free coffee samples can do this justice. If you are a coffee drinker just make sure that your visit to the big island includes a trip to this facility on the slopes of the Hualalai Volcano.
The KapohoKine Adventures Gold Coast and Cloud Forest Explorer tour is a great way to see a unique cross section of the big island. Our expert local guide provided an exciting and informative glimpse into ancient Hawaiian society and the evolution of the aloha spirit. Check them out if you get to the Big Island!
Our tour was hosted, gratuity, purchases made, and opinions all our own.