Keaau, Hawaii County, Hawaii

Everything about Hawaii exudes an ethereal feel that makes one melt with marvel: serene black and white sand beaches, flourishing tropical foliage, and sweet serenade of the waves. The Big Island's captivating aura transcends not only to the bigger cities of Hawaii but also to the smaller but equally magnificent towns and cities. In these quaint towns, best described as precious dainty pieces of paradise, one can experience the beautiful madness of minimalist and stress-free living. The Big Island's towns and cities can make anyone forget about the mundane and the superficial as one discovers the wonders of simple life.

Keaau town, anchored in the eastern part of Hawaii, is right below the center of the state. This census-designated place, like other towns and cities in The Big Island, occupies a land area of 2.47 square miles or 6.4 square kilometers. As of 2000 demographics data, Keaau houses approximately 2,010 residents, a figure that composes more or less 480 families. With a population density of 314.2 per square kilometer, Keaau serves as a sanctuary to an interesting mix of native and foreign residents. More than half of the town's total population (57%) are Native Americans but African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics also make up a significant portion of the entire population.

Since Keaau is only a thirty-minute drive away from Hilo, the rainiest city in the United States, rainfall is also frequent in this town. In this part of Hawaii, short but intense rainfall is frequent all year round, especially between the months of April and November when storms usually occur.

Keaau's History

The rich history of Keaau, formerly referred to as Ola'a, is firmly related to the historic Hawaii Consolidated Railroad and the booming sugar industry. Aside from its significant role in the Hawaiian timeline, these two developments are key factors in the growing economies of almost all the small towns in Hawaii.

In support of the then infant yet promising sugar industry in The Big Island in the 1800s, agricultural tycoon B. F Dillingham commissioned the construction of the Hawaii Consolidated Railroad. This eventually affected the economy of several towns, including Keaau which houses the last track of the aforementioned railroad. Apart from Keaau and Hilo, connecting tracks were also built in the neighboring towns of Pahoa, Glenwood, and Mountain View. The tremendous improvements in infrastructure brought in favorable results, most especially the successful system of product exportation.

From its humble beginnings in 1899, the sugar industry in Keaau began to flourish when entrepreneur Dillingham chose the fertile soils of Keaau as the cite of his famed Ola'a Sugar Mill. W.H Shipman, another pioneer cane tycoon, created the Puna Sugar Company which has a mill and central office in Keaau. In 1984, when the success of the cane industry drew to a close, the Puna Sugar Company ended its operations and Shipman focused on other agricultural products apart from cane, though they still set foot in Keaau. At present, former sugar planters channeled their interest and effort in harvesting various crops each year.

Keaau's historic affair with sugar is unforgettable. Whenever one mentions this town, images of cane plantations are what residents and some tourists picture. Even if the cane industry was already replaced by other forms of industries, Keaau will always be associated with sugar.

Keaau's Attractions

Tourists will surely be delighted to take an enchanting trip to Keaau's famed spots. In Pacific Floral Exchange, located in the busiest area in town, senses are treated to a luxurious and somehow therapeutic feast. Imagine a variety of blooms, in the most delectable and enticing hues, laid out like a gastronomic buffet.

Pacific Floral Exchange, established in 1989, is twenty-hectare property that has top-of-the-line greenhouses to ensure excellent production of flowers: anthuriums, oncidiums, green ice, fuzzy bear heliconia, red and pink ginger, and beehive ginger. But the long list doesn't end there. From the common varieties, like Orchids, to utterly rare ones, like Queen Sago, this place sells and exhibits blooms guaranteed to make guests sigh with sheer adoration. Indeed, tourists are bound to have a swell time reconnecting with nature just by admiring these wonderful creations.

For a complete nature-inspired vacation, tourists should flock to Hi`iaka's Healing Herb Garden, a few blocks away from Hilo's Puna coastline. What's so interesting and unique about this place is that it doesn't only showcase and sell blooms but also serve as a retreat and learning center. Tourists can go for pampering and soothing massages and treatments infused with organic herbal products. Named after the sister of Hawaii's volcano goddess, Hi`aka Healing Herb Garden aims to nurture residents and guests with all-natural products. Through seminars and special retreats, tourists also learn the value and benefits of herbs. Go ahead, take a pleasurable trip to these spots and experience different bliss one cannot possibly feel in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Keaau's Economy

Since a wide array of excellent quality blooms flourish in Keaau, it is no wonder flower business is a million-dollar industry. Pacific Floral Exchange, for instance, grow and export flowers amounting to an average of 4 million dollars annually. Along with other forms of agricultural industry, the flower industry is another source of employment in Keaau. The top employment providers are the industries linked to education and social services. However, because this town is a tourist destination, several residents are self-employed and manage their own enterprises which cater to tourists.

With lots of opportunities for employment and self-employment, the jobless rate in Keaau (3.80%) is noticeably lower than the national average of 5 percent. Job growth, on the other hand, is 4.47%. But analysts predict that the job growth will soon flourish, like the Hawaiian blooms, and skyrocket to 16.81% in the next few years. The government and residents alike are counting on the promising entertainment and recreational industries.

Everything looks bright and sunny for this town. Sales taxes in this part of The Big Island is registered at flat 4% while the income tax is fairly steady at 10%. Both figures are higher than the national rate. Household income, on the other hand, is pegged at $42,699, a mere two thousand dollars higher than the national rate across the United States. But the income per capita in Keaau, $15,756, is much lower than the national rate of $24,020. Meanwhile, the average home cost in this town is $398,100. Whether as a residence of summer vacation or a permanent life retreat, Keaau possesses almost all the characteristics of an ideal place.

Keaau Statistics:

Population: 2,010
Households: 608
Median resident age: 37.3 years
Median household income: $39,722
Median house value: $135,700
Land area: 2.5 square miles
Elevation: 359 feet
Latitude: 19°37'N
Longitude: 155°2'W
Zip code: 96749
County: Hawaii
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