KONA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT is the western gateway to the Big Island. It is located in the NORTH KONA district, which when combined with the SOUTH KONA district takes up almost 90 miles of the western shoreline and includes the western slope of MAUNA KEA, the upper slopes of MT. HUALALAI’s Kona coffee country and the southern flank of MAUNA LOA. This area from ANAEHOOMALU in the north to MANUKA STATE PARK in the south at one time supported large settlements of early Hawaiian shoreline villages and upland field systems. A few miles south of the airport, is the KALOKOHONOKOHAU NATIONAL PARK, site of ancient fishponds and settlement life. Further south lies the town of KAILUA where the AHUENA HEIAU (temple or religious site) and HULIHEE PALACE are located along the ALII DRIVE seawall. Both were central to royal court life in Hawaiian history and both were used by succeeding members of the royal family as a retreat where the day-to-day business of government was conducted.

MOKUAIKAUA CHURCH, across from HULIHEE PALACE on ALII DRIVE, stands upon the site where the first Christian church in Hawaii was built in 1820. Thatched churches preceded the present structure which is built of lava rock, crushed coral and native ohia and koa woods.

South on Highway 11, half a mile south of KEALAKEKUA TOWN, the KONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY is housed in the historic GREENWELL STORE MUSEUM. The structure was built in the mid-1800s by rancher businessman H.N. Greenwell using native stone joined with lime mortar made from burned coral. This now rare-construction made it eligible to be placed on the Hawaii and National Registers of Historic Places.

Founded in 1976 to collect, preserve and disseminate information about the history of the Kona districts on the island of Hawaii, the KONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY-HISTORY CENTER maintains an orientation exhibit, a growing reference library and archive containing photographs, manuscripts, maps and oral histories, as well as artifacts reflecting the agricultural character of the districts. Two miles further south, near the 110-mile marker, the AMY GREENWELL ETHNOBOTANICAL GARDEN showcases native and exotic plants of the area, and across the road is the KONA COFFEE LIVING HISTORY FARM which depicts the daily lives of Japanese immigrant coffee farmers between 1925 and 1945. Specially led docent tours are available at the KONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY-HISTORY CENTER. Guided visits are available at the Kona Historical Society.

On the beach at HONAUNAU, a sanctuary HEIAU complex has been restored as PUUHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK. The last remaining example of a network of “places of refuge” that once existed through the islands, the park is steeped in MANA, or “spiritual power” and once sheltered Hawaiians fleeing from ancient battle or wrongdoing. Those who broke sacred KAPU laws that governed ancient Hawaiian society could also find absolution in places of refuge, thereby escaping certain death.