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Kailua-Kona and the Kona District

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Situated on the west, leeward coast of the island of Hawaii, Kailua-Kona served as a royal center for Kamehameha I during his final years. Here the Protestant missionaries first landed and established a mission station. Royalty used Kailua-Kona as a retreat from the bustle of Honolulu in the late 1800s, and with the construction of Kona Inn by the Inter-Island Steamship Company in 1928, it became a destination for the visitor industry. Following statehood and the increase in visitors, the town greatly expanded to address tourist needs, making it the heart of the Kona coast, with its hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers in close proximity to the airport.

The lands mauka (toward the mountains) and south of Kailua-Kona have a long history of agricultural use, stretching back to at least the fourteenth or fifteenth century, when Hawaiians cultivated bread fruit, sweet potatoes, dryland taro, and other crops in what archaeologists have named the Kona Field System. Foreigners settling in the area during the nineteenth century took up ranching, tried sugar cultivation, and ultimately converted much of the lands to coffee farming. Mamalahoa Highway (County Highway 180 and HI 11) travels across this broad swath of land for approximately twenty miles, passing neighborhood stores and several small towns, including Holualoa, Kainaliu, Kealakekua, and Captain Cook, all of which serviced the agricultural community. Until the 1960s, when the visitor industry brought Kailua-Kona to the fore, Kealakekua was the population center of this rural district.

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard

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