In the old days, during the early part of the twentieth century, it was quite a trip to cross the deep coastal ravines before reaching the town of Honoka`a, which was the third-largest city in the territory of Hawai`i. From Hilo, vacationers and soldiers on leave from Uncle Sam’s army would travel North up the Hilo and Hamakua coast to Honoka`a where night life was king. A dance hall was built above the Botelho building, where the first car dealership in the town was located. That building now hosts a curio and antique shop but one can easily imagine what an average Friday night was like at the Botelho in the 1940’s. As Hawaii’s old theaters are once again becoming popular, the citizens of Honoka`a enjoy their own historic People’s Theater. If going to a movie is not what you want to do, go for a stage performance ranging from hula dancing to Poetry Slam or just go for the feeling of nostalgia which is definitely present once you’ve found your seat inside the huge old movie hall.
Outside of Honoka`a town heading north to Waipi`o Valley the landscape changes dramatically. Legend has it that it was in Waipi`o Valley, “the land of the falling water,” the great King Kamehameha I, received his leadership training as a young boy and first learned to surf. Once a busy agricultural valley, today houses still dot the area which is separated by a river leading to open sea. Local farmers and their families continue their way of life farming taro and fishing off the sandy shores of this peaceful and remote valley.
Outside of Waipi`o Valley and Honoka`a town are other early and small settlements of the Hamakua region, such as Pa`auilo, Kukuihaele and Laupahoehoe. These towns are all filled with a rich and local culture that happily survives in this region of the Big Island.