A Brief History
Long before Captain Cook set foot on Hawaiʻi’s shores, Hāmākua was home to a bustling community composed of generations of Native Hawaiians. This was the original birthplace of kings, and locals believe this place has been infused by mana and honua—power and peace.
Legend has it that Waipiʻo Valley, located at the heart of Hāmākua, was formed by a boastful warrior who dragged his club through the land to demonstrate his strength. King Kamehameha was hidden in this Garden of Eden and raised on its fertile shores. Other stories detail how Polihau, a beautiful goddess, formed the verdant beauty and striking presence of Mauna Kea, the source of many of Hāmākua’s sheer falls and streams.
Below are just some of the historic moments of the islands and of this impossibly exquisite region:
- 1779 Captain Cook moors in nearby Kealakekua Bay.
- 1802 Chinese immigrants begin refining sugar in Hawaiʻi.
- 1820 Missionaries land in Hawaiʻi.
- 1898 Hawaiʻi is declared a U.S. Territory.
- 1899 Hāmākua Sugar Company is formed via a consolidation of seven plantations.
- 1930 Honokaʻa People’s Theatre is built.
- 1941 Pearl Harbor is attacked.
- 1959 Hawaiʻi is declared the 50th state of the U.S.
- 1986 The first Native Hawaiian wins an official position, Governor John. D. Waikeʻe III.
- 1993 Sugar plantations close; Honokaʻa People’s Theatre initiates first annual Hāmākua Music Festival.
Today the community is thriving and residents celebrate its diverse culture and roots.
Waipi‘o Valley, known to the Hawaiians as “Valley of the Kings,” most famously features Hi‘ilawe Falls, a sheer waterfall of more than 1,000-feet—heralded as the Big Island’s tallest—that plunges into a surreal deep blue swimming pond enshrouded by fragrant ginger and eucalyptus forests. More than 50 generations of Hawaiians have inhabited this iconic valley which was once the political and religious center of Hawai‘i.
With rugged sea cliffs dropping more than 2,000 feet to meet luminous black sands that stretch a mile across and fertile taro farms reaching back to meet the jungle playground nestled within the valley walls, Waipi‘o Valley never fails to ignite the imagination and render visitors in awe of the incredible life-force emanating from this Hawaiian treasure.
All this—and more—is just a few minutes from downtown Honoka‘a. It’s no wonder we call this place Paradise.
Historic Downtown Honokaʻa’s main street, Mamane Street, runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. All along Mamane Street, contemporary shops catering to residents and tourists have moved into former general merchandise or dry goods outlets. Honokaʻa’s old false-front wooden buildings are examples of vernacular architecture–architecture of a key historical period created by people without the help of a professional architect.
Many Mamane Street buildings were constructed in the 1920′s or 1930′s by Chinese and Japanese workers who left the sugar plantations and went into business. At one time, at the height of the plantation era, Honokaʻa was the second largest town on this island.
When you ask a resident what they love about Hāmākua, most likely their response will involve the quality of life available for themselves and their family. We love our keiki here, and the community support for schools, sports and extracurricular activities is strong, and many county facilities exist for community use for keeping active and fit, for celebrations, crafts, and general community involvement.