Friday, March 23, 2012

Kona's Ranching Tradition

Although Parker Ranch in South Kohala is most associated with Hawai‘i's rich paniolo heritage, the Kona district is actually the birthplace of ranching in the Hawaiian Islands.

It all began in 1793 when Captain George Vancouver presented Kamehameha the Great with four cows in Kealakekua Bay. Soon thereafter, the king commissioned the construction of an enormous cattle pen, "Pa Nui," made of dry-stacked lava rock. Eight to nine feet high in some places, the pen encompassed nearly 480 acres and is still standing on private ranchlands near Honalo. Eventually, some of the herd escaped and began spreading across the island.

Kona paniolo load cattle in Kailua Bay
In the 1800s and through much of the last century, Kona's ranching industry thrived. In 1850, Henry Nicholas Greenwell arrived on the island and became one of the largest landholders and ranchers in the state. His ranches totaled tens of thousands of acres, and were subsequently divided between his three eldest sons, resulting in W.H. Greenwell Ranch, Kealakekua Ranch and Palani Ranch. According to local historians, Hawaiian royalty fully embraced the cattle industry, with Kamehameha V serving as president of the Royal Agricultural Society. Hawaiians became very skilled as ranchers and equestrians. Known as the paniolo, these Hawaiian cowboys developed their own unique saddle, called the Hawaiian tree saddle.

Hawaiian tree saddle
To learn more about Kona's ranching history, be sure to visit Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua, just a few short miles south of Holualoa Inn. The museum includes the old general store, a Portuguese stone oven and the impending renovation of a historic ranch home that has been dismantled and donated to the historical society. When you book a stay at our Big Island bed and breakfast, you'll find yourself in the heart of Kona's historic ranching district.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Samoan Fireknife Dancers

The grand finale of many Polynesian revues and luaus, the thrilling fireknife dancer astounds audiences with dazzling displays of athleticism, fire and danger. Taking his inspiration from the Samoan warrior, the fireknife dancer takes center stage at the luau, twirling, tossing, catching and throwing a flaming machete at breathtaking speeds.

Resembling a baton, the fireknife itself, called "nifo oti," replicates an ancient Samoan weapon that features a 14-inch blade with a hook on the end. To add fire, both ends are wrapped with Kevlar or a cotton towel tied with wire, then soaked in camp kerosene (white gas), which burns cleanly and vaporizes quickly. Before the addition of fire, the traditional Samoan knife dancer portrayed the movements of the warrior at battle. The custom eventually evolved into performance art, with the dancer slicing objects in mid-air.

Believe it or not, the idea of adding fire happened in 1946 in San Francisco. A young Samoan named Freddie Letuili was performing a traditional knife dance at a Shriners' convention in Golden Gate Park. While there, he observed a young girl twirling a baton with light bulbs attached at each end. He also saw a Hindu performer eating fire. Thus the idea for adding a little sizzle to his performance was born. Today, only a few brave and talented men take on the tradition of the fireknife dance, which involves truly perilous moves like eating the fire, holding the fire to your feet, or catching the fireknife behind the back. In addition to possibly getting burned, the performer is also at risk for fainting because the fire sucks up all the oxygen around him.

Here in Kona, you can see fireknife dancers at the three different luaus held at resorts in Kailua-Kona. Our Holualoa Inn ohana will assist you in recommending a host of visitor activities during your Hawai‘i Big Island vacation, including "sharing sparks" with the incredible fireknife dancers of Samoa.

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn

Thursday, March 8, 2012

King Kamehameha III -- Born on the Big Island

Take a drive through the Keauhou area of Kona and you might notice the name of King Kamehameha III on street signs and bronze plaques. That's because this second son of Kamehameha the Great was born right here in Kona at Keauhou Bay.

After he rose to the throne following his brother's death, Kamehameha III (1913 - 1854) became the longest reigning monarch in the Hawaiian Islands, ruling for 30 years. Notable accomplishments included introducing the first written constitution to the kingdom, and signing the Great Mahele law that redistributed lands between the government, king, ali‘i and commoners. He also uttered a phrase that today, is Hawai‘i's state moto: "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono," which means, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

Each year in March, the Kona community celebrates the birthday of this beloved ruler. This year's lineup of events includes a Daughters of Hawai‘i tribute at his birth site at Keauhou Bay on March 16, followed by a cultural lecture at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa. On Saturday, March 17, the 12th annual Kamehameha III "Lani Kauikeaouli" concert will take place on the grounds of the resort, featuring hula and live music by Ho‘okena and other favorite local artists. And don't miss Sam Choy's Keauhou Poke Contest at the resort on Sunday, where you can sample some amazing variations on this Hawaiian pupu (appetizer) made with raw fish.

When you book a stay at our Big Island bed and breakfast, you'll receive the royal treatment from the moment you enter our 30-acre coffee estate overlooking the Kona coast. We promise to treat you like a king (or queen)!!!

Innkeeper Holualoa Inn