The Study Abroad Newsletter

The Sugar of Kau

By Carlos Martinez | Geography Major

On a clear Saturday morning, serenaded by the words of the mele E Hō Mai, the Kawili Kine crew set out for our adventure to Kaʻū. We were accompanied by the expertise of emeriti Geography Professors Jim and Sonia Javik. Our first stop in the town of Mountain View left me with a sense that the past and present can indeed live in harmony in spite of the passing time. There, the Mountain View Bakery was a great spot to reflect on the immigrants that built this sugar-manufacturing community. The rust of the rooftops contrasted with the blue above and I thought to myself “This is the meaning of kawili!”. Then, we headed to Pahala’s Kaʻū Coffee Mill where we learned about the coffee-making process that makes Hawai’i world famous. So, if you’re ever looking for a coffee-indulging experience that will leave you thinking “Starbucks who?” come to the Kaʻū Coffee Mill! Walking by the plantations and sipping on a freshly brewed latte was such an invigorating experience!

After our well deserved caffeine boost, we headed to Kalae. Being in the southernmost tip of the Big Island and seeing the jumpers plunge into the shimmering blue ocean was a picture-perfect moment for the Kawili kine crew. Then, we made our last stop at Punalu’u where we walked on the pulverized lava sand that gives this beach its beautiful ebony color. So, next time you’re there, thank Pele for creating such a unique coastline. Exploring Kaʻū, a historical moku that is known for its charming sugar-era towns, coffee production lands, and pristine beaches was one of the highlights of my senior year at UH Hilo!

People at the Black Sand Beach

Turtle in the Water

In spite of the long-gone sugar era, the residents of this part of the island are resilient and thrive by living in a diverse and vibrant community. Kaʻū is a unique community built by the original Kanaka Maoli settlers and the agricultural immigrants. They prevail by practicing a spirit of hard work and perseverance that makes Kaʻū’ a prime cultural hotspot. The spirit of Ohana that I encountered throughout our trip is precisely the sugar that remains. The momona (the sweetness) of its people, dilutes with the kulu'ua (raindrops) and returns it back to the aina (land). For those of us that come from Kahiki (foreign land), experiencing Kaʻū’ was an amazing, fun adventure that I will always treasure as one of the highlights of my undergraduate education. Finally, Kawini kine cultures is an amazing opportunity for the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo global community to learn and explore traditional Hawaiian culture through hands-on experience. So, until we meet again, Aloha kākou!!