Located on the Hamakua Coast 13 miles from Waimea, Ahualoa is an unincorporated rural area originally settled by Portuguese ranchers and Japanese farmers to serve the once-thriving sugar plantations in the region. A little-known fact about Ahualoa is that coffee production took place there before Kona became the center for Hawaiian-grown coffee. Some of the older homes in Ahualoa still retain sliding roofs once used for drying coffee.
Below the highway, neighboring Honoka‘a was once the most populated town in Hawaii in the 1890s, thanks to the sugar cane industry. Although there were no sugar plantations in Ahualoa itself, the community served the industry by providing firewood that was carried by wagons to the nearby plantations. Ranching was also undertaken there. Until recently, the JJ Andrade Slaughterhouse had been operating in Ahualoa for 100 years.
One of the wettest areas on the Big Island, Ahualoa is known for its abundant rainfall sometimes lasting for weeks on end depending on the season. In recent decades, a "back-to-the-land" movement attracted new residents into Ahualoa. Small farms and cottage industries began popping up throughout the lush, remote area. Producing macadamia nuts and other products, Ahualoa Farms also grows 100-percent Hamakua coffee that features a full-bodied flavor thanks to the rich, deep soil. Another Ahualoa-based farm, Mauna Kea Tea offers private farm tours and tastings. Maker of cheese, Hawaii Island Goat Dairy boasts a fully automated milking system especially for goats. Long Ears Hawaiian Coffee gets its name from the Nightingale donkeys that used to transport bags of coffee cherry on Hawaiian farms. Making beef jerky out of Big Island-grown beef, Barefoot Farms raises hogs in the natural homestead style.
With many five-acre lots developed in recent years, Ahualoa presents a remote, close-knit community amid a spectacular setting of forests, winding roads, beautiful countryside. It's only minutes away from the commercial center of Honokaa, and less than a half-hour away from the upcountry town of Waimea.
Photo: Hawaii Island Goat Dairy