5 Recommendations for a Stay in Hamakua, Hawaii
Known for its expansive coastline, lush tropical rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, and serene green valleys, stretching as far as the eye can see, the Hamakua Coast along the northeastern side of the Big Island provides an incredible opportunity to witness the natural wonders of Hawaii. What was once covered with sugarcane plantations is now small farms where locals grow fruit, vegetables, and taro, bringing their crops to nearby towns like Honokaa, Kapaau, and Waimea in nearby Kohala to farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands.
Geologically diverse and teeming with possibility, making time for every opportunity presented by this incredible area can be difficult. So whether you’re spending a day or a week along the Big Island’s northeastern section, these are our five best recommendations for a stay in Hamakua.
Find a Cozy Place to Call Home
While there aren’t many traces of corporate or major commercial resorts or hotels in Hamakua, locally-owned and operated accommodations are numerous and highly recommended for their hospitality and friendliness. The Lai Nani Oceanfront Estate is across the street from Umauma Falls and provides private, relaxing quarters for every guest. For a private vacation home, Cliff House Hawaii is among the best on the entire island. And of course, plenty of locals open their homes as bed and breakfast establishments and the options are many.
Explore the Nearby Attractions
There’s plenty of historical and recreational areas along the Hamakua Coast and within easy reach of the accommodations there. Waimea, an old ranching town, has exploded with growth in recent years and offers wonderful restaurants, a top-rated Hawaiian brewery, and excellent art galleries. The Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park provides stunning ocean views along with a monument detailing the 1946 tsunami that destroyed a school and killed 24 students and teachers. There’s also the Kalopa State Recreation Area that offers a family-friendly hike through an ‘ohi’a forest that shouldn’t be missed.
Spend Some Time on the Coast
For an up-close, offbeat look at the coast, the Pepe’ekeo Scenic Drive along Highway 19 takes you through 4 miles of dense jungle canopies with plenty of reasons to say “let’s stop here!” You’ll have the opportunity to park and hike in for a day on the beach. For easier access to the water, the popular Kolekole Beach Park combines a rocky beachfront with a gentle, swimming-friendly stream that feeds into the bay.
Honokaa Town is a must-stop for a trip to Hamakua. With boutique stores, gift shops, coffee houses, and a few restaurants, taking a leisurely lunch on your way to or from the Waipio Valley Lookout is recommended. Try a slice of pizza at Cafe IL Mondo or grab a bite at Tex Drive-In for a truly Hawaiian take on the traditional burger with ingredients sourced right here on the Big Island.
If you’re inclined to sightsee but don’t want to commit to a multi-hour hike, the Hamakua Heritage Corridor offers plenty of natural attractions throughout the scenic drive. Starting from Hilo and ending at the Waipio Valley Lookout, you’ll see incredible, lush gulches carved out by water, the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and the Botanical World Garden, three amazing waterfalls in Umauma Falls, Akaka Falls, and Kahuna Falls, and one of the most expansive and breathtaking scenic lookouts on the planet.