Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ka'u vs Puna

TresJolie asked ...." why did you choose Ka'u over Puna? "

After several exploration trips to Big Island, we actually decided that we liked the North Kohala area around Hiwi, up the mountain slope from the town. Big trees. Very green. Scenic. But very expensive. We couldn't afford a building lot let alone acreage. 

Our next favorite region was the Hamakua coast. Big trees. Very green. Scenic. But very expensive.  (notice a trend?) Land was more reasonable and we considered a few places. But we then discovered that there are loads of chemical contamination left over from the sugar plantations. We didn't want to grow our food in such contaminated soil nor breathe in that dust. 

So went off to look closer at more affordable land. Next on our list was areas around Kona and Hilo. Couldn't find anything suitable around Kona that we could afford. In hindsight we are very glad we failed to move there. Kona is currently plagued by vog which causes us sore throats and headaches anytime we spend a full day there. We also looked around Hilo but felt that it was too wet for what we had in mind. 

This left us with South Kohala next. Too dry. No trees. What land had trees on it was too cold, too pricy for us.

Moving on, we were running out of space. So we spent a couple of our trips driving around Puna and Ka'u, looking, researching, talking with shop owners and residents. We found Puna to be quite affordable. We looked at properties, with and without houses. But we just couldn't warm up to the area. Much of the land didn't have large trees, wasn't scenic without driving a distance, was scrubby and dry lacking the greenery that would indicate an area good for farming. The soil looked like it would need a whole lot of work and years to become productive. The areas around Kopoho looked real good. Plenty of moisture and sun. Soil to work with. Trees. Scenic. BUT the crime factor turned us off.  We learned that crime was common....theft, house break-ins. Junk cars were stashed everywhere. We didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling. We weren't interested in having to lock everything, chain things to the ground, have to look over our shoulders constantly, have to be suspicious of every stranger. 

Ka'u was the last area we checked. Though the district varies dramatically from rain forest to desert, there were many places that fit our criteria. So we started looking at land and found many places worth considering. Not all were within our budget, but overall things were looking promising. The trees were there. The greenery. We liked the people. Crime (theft) was primarily in pockets rather than everywhere. We found many land parcels that were free of sugar cane plantation contamination. And the scenic aspects were there too. The people in the little town of Naalehu, which of course we couldn't pronounce, were the clincher. People were friendly and helpful even though we were so obviously tourists. But Ka'u is remote. It's quite a distance to either Kona or Hilo. Ka'u hosted only one dentist, two very, very small medical clinics, one hospital that is just basic ER only. Very few stores, very few. No night life. But we were willing to accept the remoteness. 

We have no regrets with choosing Ka'u. The first acreage we purchased turned out not to be quite what we wanted, so it was sold in order to buy a better choice of land. This second parcel became our homestead. We have since purchased a small amount of land in a drier area to use as our seed production farm. 

As you can see, we did our research before buying. Even so, the first piece of land wasn't quite perfect, but when something better opened up, we sold/bought and moved on with life. 

We learned something that I'd like to pass along. Just coming on a week or two looking trip isn't the best way. We had time enough to check out the physical stuff like climate, geography, locations of services & stores. But it was hard to get a feel for the place. Did we like the people? Would we fit in? Would we be happy with the lifestyle & culture? Another biggie was that we weren't privy to the inside information .....who was thinking of selling, what properties were being sold that weren't on multiple listing? Lots of good parcels get sold privately via word of mouth. And all too often we would see a promising piece of land go on the market but get sold before we could fly over to check it. Thus what could we have done better? I could have wrapped up my own employment ties and moved over for a few months, renting a house. I could have been the official advance scout. But luckily, things worked out ok.


  1. Thank you for your thoughtful response! You validate what we found. North Kohala & Hamakua too expensive. Kona - hate the VOG Hilo - too many people. The wet is OK. South Kohala - too dry (lava!) Puna - too jungle-y but we can afford it. Crime factor - didn't know that about Kapoho! Ka'u is too far but we love South Point and the wide open spaces. It's sort of like where we live now with all the horses and (crazy) grassland. We stopped once to look at a parcel in Naalehu (I'm sure you can pronounce it now) and we had a very nice talk with the neighbor (a local) who lived next to the parcel. He had a son who was a team roper and they told us about a large arena over by Kamuela (Waimea) and we went over there but got the cold shoulder. That's OK. We really looked like tourists. What do you expect? The owner of a coffee house between Kurtistown and Mountain View introduced us to her grandchildren as uncle and auntie and we were charmed beyond recognition. And very honored! Not all Hawaiians are stand-offish. I went off topic, sorry.

    We can't get over the remoteness of Ka'u. It's too bad. It feels so good out there. I told my hubster that if we had to go to the jungle that he had to build me an observation platform so I could see the ocean. It's such a fantasy. I imagine such a platform would have to be many stories tall.

    Naalehu remote. Would we fit in? Would we be happy with the lifestyle & culture? inside information Lots of good parcels get sold privately via word of mouth.

  2. Su Ba, your advice to rent first, then buy, is very akamai. Take your time, it's not a race. I might still be either on Maui, or possibly Kauai, with that approach. But other logistics intervened, then unforeseen. And to think I once had a beachfront property opportunity if I dared to drop out of school, but I didn't.