Beyond Kona Coffee:
The Big Island of Hawaii
A Personal Perspective
People who are crazy about Kona Coffee often find themselves wanting to know more about the history and culture of this relatively small region, and before they know it, find themselves immersed in learning about the Big Island itself, or at least, wanting to know more.
Many of the comments I've received have asked for more information about the Big Island, but I prefer to keep this web site tightly focused, and there is already a great deal of information available on other web sites and the rapidly proliferating guidebooks.
However, I do have a personal perspective that I would like to share. Having spent summers as a child with my migrant worker grandparents on their farm on the Hamakua Coast, I remember the Big Island as a one-city island with the largest concentration of people in Hilo. At the time, Kona was a sleepy community where we went to find lunch while we swam at nearby beautiful sandy beaches empty of people or cast our lines near rocky shores teeming with fish.
After Kilauea erupted, I remember riding out in the back of a pick-up truck with my uncle, a bottle of soda pop in one hand, with my head hanging off the back of the truck enjoying the rush of wind like a dog. Besides seeing the floor of the crater engulfed by rivers of lava, another highlight for me was stopping at the massive a'a lava flow crossing the road. If not for the heat, it looked as though you could just walk right up to it and touch the jet-black craggy exterior.
Sugar was king on the Big Island, plantation plots everywhere that water was to be had. Waimea was a cowboy town to me, and the best (and only) place to eat then was a ranch house restaurant serving steak. Saddle Road was truly a tough route to navigate then, rough enough to shake all the bolts out of your car. Almost every winter Mauna Kea was white-capped. I remember swimming in Hilo Bay with my eyes drawn to its snowy summit.
The Big Island has changed immensely. It's not as easy now to find those then-ubiquitous eateries that offered a rainbow selection of food intended to appeal to generations of different ethnic groups raised on plantation culture. Kona seems hell-bent on following Waikiki's path to prosperity, and traffic jams regularly occur on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, a once-lonely stretch of road.
Still, my heart stirs at the thought of any chance to visit the Big Island and walk the places my mother and her parents once walked. Places change, and for that, I have my memories, but the Big Island of Hawaii still has its beauty, and each time I see her, I bring away new ones.
I end this with a photo slide show of personal images, and if they don't look like the usual photographs of Hawaii, they're not intended to be.
Mahalo for being a part of this,
To see the images and read the text, just go to
this gallery of personal images.
Copyright 2003-2013 by Lawrence Taguma. This web publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the prior written consent of Lawrence Taguma.