A Trip Down Memory Lane in Kailua Kona-Remember When…

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You know that phrase “old timers” will use when remembering the “good old days” of a town and they say things like..”I remember when there used to be only one stoplight” ? I was watching the dismantling/demolition of the Keauhou Outrigger from drone footage today and I asked my husband, “Remember going to the Verandah Lounge at the old Keauhou Outrigger for a mai tai and burger?”  My longtime resident friends wrote, “That was my neighborhood bar” and “I used to stay there” on my Facebook post about the demolition today. And don’t forget the anniversary of the Japanese tsunami is March 11 which changed a few things forever, as well.  (If you were not in Kona, here is some video)   I know that even longer time residents will say, “I remember watching the old Kona Lagoon hotel sit there for ten years rotting until it was finally demolished in 2004”.  Well, here are some of MY “old timey” thoughts and I encourage you to let us know what YOU remember about Kona and West Hawaii in the comments!

  1. Speaking of stop lights..they put a stop light on Queen K for the extension of La’aloa Avenue and at Alli Dr and Kaleiopapa Rd while I was living in Keauhou. So now I get to be that person who says something wistful about stop lights in town. (Now that I am up in Waikoloa Village, I can say that there really is only one stop light in town!)
  2. Do you remember when they started building the new parking lot across the street from  Laaloa (Magic Sands) beach? And now it is used as the primary parking for the beach as they have permanently closed the old parking lot near the ocean. The article states that the land will be reverted to the way it was originally,  as it is a sacred Hawaiian space. (And remember Jamison’s restaurant at the Magic Sands condo building?)
  3. Did you ever get a chance to see the water walk way between the Keauhou Outrigger and the old Kona Lagoon? (which was torn down and the space reverted back to open space that is used for cultural purposes). When we first moved to Kona in 2005, we stayed at the Kona Surf and Racquet Club. If you walked north on the beach towards the Outrigger you passed in front of the Kona Lagoon’s remains which included an old water walk way which was twisted and rusted by the time we found it (having originally been built in 1994).  I just found a photo of what the hotel used to look like and lo and behold, that walkway is there, plus the story of the hotel.  
  4. I remember when you either had to have a 4WD truck or walk to Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand beach). This kept the number of people on the beach to a dozen or so. Now the local residents provide shuttles for $10-20 each way to get to the cliff. Good news is you still have to have a modicum of courage to make your way down to the beach and get back up again. I get to be that resident who wants everyone to tread lightly on the island now.
  5. Lots of people say they remember when the road to Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) was a 4WD dirt trail. When I moved here in 2005, they had just opened up the road, parking lot and bathrooms at Kua Bay. The lava was still all black and not covered in white sand like it is now on the way onto and out of the beach! Currently, they are building a staircase down to the ocean on the left hand side and Kua Bay has been rated as a top beach by TripAdvisor.  Hopefully, the progress will include a full time lifeguard and a new tower down there for the safety of all.
  6.  I remember the Keauhou Bay area before the March 2011 Japanese tsunami. The Fairwinds had a check in building on the left hand side of the parking lot where they have turned that whole area into an indigenous Hawaiian garden now. The Kona Keauhou Yacht Club was hosting parties and gatherings before the relentless tidal surges on that day ruined the structure of the building. (it also killed most of the plants and grass area, turning everything yellow for weeks, until it all came back again.) I found these images of the tsumami damage in Keauhou and Kona. Around 2014 the Sheraton was managing the Akole Supply Company which went in a few years after the tsunami, and then Green Flash Coffee was there, and now..will have to see.
  7. I was fortunate to be able to tour the grounds of the Kona Village Resort before it was destroyed by the tsunami. With its palm frond roof cottages with no electricity or TV’s, huge outdoor buffet for the guests and a beautiful lagoon, this resort was the oldest resort in West Hawaii, built in 1965. In doing some research for this post, I found that they are going to reconstruct it and open it in 2019!  
  8. When we moved into our condo in Keauhou, we were hearing about a bypass that would let you continue along Alli Drive all the way to Na’poo’poo Rd. The road was going through a development called Hokulia which was tied up in litigation and the road way was stuck in the middle of it for years, and then the recession took the funding away from the construction budget. So, when you drove out near the “End of the World” you would see a guard shack that stopped anyone who was not a resident from driving down the road. Eventually, they stopped guarding the road and we were able to ride our bikes for a few miles, which had been prohibited.  One day, we actually went to where the road deadended at Halekii, the street that takes you up into Kealekekua, and ran the dirt path which would be the final leg of the Mamalohoa Bypass! To think that is now a two lane highway is crazy. Watch this video of the opening blessing discussing the hurdles this road faced to build.
  9. Yes, we were here before Target was built. And the Kona Commons and even the International Marketplace. People say that Kailua Kona wasn’t a habitable place to live until they built Costco and Lowes and Home Depot. I like to believe it became a bit more fun and social with the opening of the additonal shopping options! I run into more of my friends shopping at Target than anywhere else. Sadly, they closed Sports Authority, but having that shopping center has been great for its restaurants and Ross.
  10. Remember Java on the Rocks? Best damn Kona coffee with a view in Kona.   What do you remember “back in the day”?

If you are thinking about purchasing a home on the Big Island and you would like a recommendation for a Realtor, mortgage professional or really any awesome service professional, let me know! I have folks who I’ve known for years ready and able to help you! [email protected]

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Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Great memories,
    I always wished I would have documented all the boats that sunk in Kailua bay or were washed up on the rocks. It seemed like quite a few in the early 2000-2004 era.

  • J. Berg says:

    I first started visiting Kailua Kona in the early 1980’s. I miss the old Huggo’s Happy hour. Back then it was a lot more casual, with free pupus. On the Rocks did not exist. Also miss Sibu.

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Free Pupu’s!! Can you imagine? What was there before On the Rocks? Just open land, I guess. Yes, lots of changes.

  • Lori says:

    I lived in Kona 46 years ago. Only a blinking yellow light. Tradewinds night club, open til 4 am, Tanaguchi’s , Iolani Huahine chanting and calling in manta rays. Renting an apartment from Ripe Nelson. The Kanuha family. Billfish tournament . Pat the one-arm bartender, the haunted Kona Surf hotel. Alice Farr. The Ocean View Inn.

    • Julie Ziemelis says:

      Thanks for posting Lori. I know that Dru Kanuha is a prominent politician, so it would figure his family has old roots here. And the haunted Kona Surf..yep..

  • Lori says:

    I lived in Kona 46 years ago. Only a blinking yellow light. Tradewinds night club, open til 4 am, Tanaguchi’s , Iolani Huahine chanting and calling in manta rays. Renting an apartment from Ripe Nelson. The Kanuha family. Billfish tournament . Pat the one-arm bartender, the haunted Kona Surf hotel. Alice Farr. The Ocean View Inn.

  • Lori says:

    “Rope” Nelson

  • John Howe says:

    I remember a restaurant close to the King Kamehameha Hotel, just around the corner going south. The first time we were there, a boat had gotten caught in a storm and pulled away from it’s mooring. We watched it over the week we were there and it was basically a total loss then.
    A few years later when we were there we were disappointed to see the original restaurant gone, and replaced by a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurant. Which was a disappointment as a restaurant.
    The original restaurant was fantastic, we ate there about 5 times during the week, both lunch and dinner.
    And now to add to our disappointment, the first hotel we stayed at, The Keauhou Kona Outrigger, is also gone. We loved watching the exotic(?) fish from a balcony and feeding them crackers. When the tide was out you could actually walk under the hotel, a very pleasing experience. Sad to see it gone.
    In case you can’t tell we have loved every trip we’ve made to the Islands of hawaii, 5 so far.