Honalo: The Hawaiian Town That Time Forgot

Honalo is true Old Hawaii. No, really. Not New, Tourist-Laden, Sad, Dirty, Smeared Hawaii, but old Hawaii, back when it was a place where you could go to be warm and live in a tin-roofed shack with no doors and forget about the outside world. It's a beautiful little one-bar town in a stunning tropical setting about halfway up the slope of Mount Kilauea on the Big Island, running in a strip of stores and homes on either side of Highway 11. If you want to see some of what Hawaii used to be, come visit Honalo. It's my favorite place on the Big Island, bar none. I was last there in September of 2000. While you're there, I recommend the following:


Teshima's alone would be reason to come to Honalo.

The first great thing about Teshima's is this: You will not find better Japanese food. Anywhere. Ever. Try the tempura. Try the teryaki. Try the sushi. It's all good. Perfectly reasonable prices, especially for Hawaii.

The second great thing about Teshima's is the ambiance and decor. It fits with the rest of Honalo -- sleepy, expatriate, serious South Pacific ambiance, heavy dose of '30s and '40s nostalgia. Beautiful. Suprisingly good place to bring a date.

The third great thing about Teshima's is that it is still run by the original Mama Teshima, who will come out to your table and be cheerful, grandmotherly and try to give you free food. She founded the restaurant with her husband in 1941. That has to be the worst time to start a Japanese restaurant ever. We should count ourselves fortunate that Teshima's is still with us. Fortunately her polite, friendly, efficient children and grandchildren have taken over day-to-day operations of the (sizable) restaurant, so we can feel secure knowing that Teshima's will be with us for many years to come.

The Aloha Theater

This beautiful old movie theater shows fine independent and foreign films. It's a well-kept secret that people from all over the Big Island -- and in my case, off it -- turn out to visit. It shares lobby space with a pleasant restaurant (nice lanai, views of the sea far down the volcano slope) and an eminently forgettable souvenir shop.

The Aloha's tin roof adds to its charm, and the sound of rain on said roof adds a suprising dimension to the movie-watching experience, making it all seem more tropical. I watched Tea with Mussolini there and did not find the rain on the roof distracting, despite the fact that it was occasionally quite loud.


There are some very fine clothing, furniture and antique stores in Honalo. They often feature fine hardwoods of suspicious extraction (I bought a piece of furniture for my parents' 33rd anniversary that, I'm reasonably certain, was smuggled out of Bali). The store owners are friendly, personable, and content to chat with you all day. They often have attractive and intelligent young women behind the counters, who are only too happy to have dashing young adventurers tell them stories of their travels around the globe, and take them out for a drink after they get off work. Mwa ha ha. Speaking of which...

Bars and Nightlife

Well, there isn't much, to be honest, but what there is -- it's worth a visit. There is only one visible bar in Honalo, the name of which escapes the author despite having spent several happy, drunken nights playing pool there with the locals. If you want to escape the other tourists and mix with some real people with interesting stories and lives as bizarre and varied as your own worldly experience, go out for a drink in Honalo. The locals are friendly, they'll invite you to join them for a drink or a game of pool. I went in for a brief pint of beer one afternoon and ended up staying all night.

How To Get There

Honalo is easy to find. Just take Highway 11 from Kailua-Kona towards Kealakekua and you'll eventually see Teshima's (which marks the border of the town) on your left. There is a bus service which travels from Kona to Honalo, as well as taxis, but on the Big Island hitch-hiking is suprisingly safe and very, very easy -- I never had to wait for more than one or two cars to go by before being picked up. Admittedly there is no guarantee that your driver will speak the same language as you -- I had to think real fast to remember enough college Spanish to get by in one case...

Come To Honalo

Come and enjoy this beautiful little town. It is a perfect, peaceful example of what the Big Island of Hawaii was like before it became a famous tourist destination.
This node is part of the E2 Tourist Guide and its associated Quest.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.