Pahoa, Hawaii County, Hawaii


Upon visiting the town of Pahoa, one will not be able to help but feel like being transported to the Hawaii of a century ago. Compared to other tourist spots in Hawaii, there is much to be said about the preservation of the past in Pahoa: the environment is greener, the crowd is much thinner, and the restaurants are more quaint. Despite being a little like an "isolated" village, Pahoa is nevertheless just a stone's throw away from nearby attractions such as the Kehena Beach and Lava Trees State Monument Park. Pahoa is the perfect destination for tourists seeking the solace of the bygone but still beautiful tropical Hawaiian islands.

Call Pahoa rural, if you will, but this is exactly the reason it is dubbed as the most scenic spot in Hawaii. Tourists who seek less crowded places could very well find Pahoa extremely inviting. In fact, there are only 1,037 people in Pahoa, according to the census of 2005. The town had a record of 9.61% in population growth rate. The average income and expenses per household in this quaint town is $326,500. One can say that the living cost here, as in the rest of Hawaii, is far more expensive than in the mainland States generally -- the rate is 31% far higher. The taxes are also generally higher, but this is because the government public service is given on a state instead of municipal level. Pahoa thrives on a strong tourism industry, which attracts locals and foreigners alike.

Pahoa's History

The history of Pahoa is evident in the appeal of the Western style, intermingled with the century-old Victorian style of the storefronts. One quick stroll along the wooden boardwalks and the antiquated railroad will remind tourists of Pahoa as a town that boomed first on the sawmill, then on the sugar industry. Even in other Hawaiian areas, sugar had been one of the stronger, if not the strongest, product. It was in 1876 when the US government permitted the export of sugar free of tax. Eventually, the profits in this industry further boomed. At the Mainstreet Pahoa, there used to run an old railroad -- the vintage Hilo Railroad -- a structure once considered to be the most exorbitant and ambitious railway ever constructed. Hilo Railroad had been built to support the booming sugar export industry.

BF Dillingham from Honolulu was the first entrepreneur who had financed for Hilo Railroad. It was a way to support his sugar company, the Olaa Sugar Mill. This railroad spanned the area, from the Hilo port to Keaau (the new Olaau). The company of Pahoa Lumber commissioned the Santa Fe Railroad to extend Hilo Railroad tracks, furthering the manufacture of koa and ohia railroad ties. Later on, tourists would be able to reach the Kilauea Volcano, because Hilo Railroad has been extended to Glenwood and Mountain View. Elsewhere in Hawaii, the same industrialization concepts were being put to work, as in Volcano House in 1877, which was built and dubbed as the 13-pillow establishment.

Pahoa's Attractions

The volcanic eruptions in Pahoa has shaped the town's natural beauty. Although you could see very little of the lava flowing today, it was evident in places such as the nudist Kehena Beach and the Lava Trees State Park that the volcanic activity has been forever etched into the town's tourist attractions. The Kehena Beach, for instance, wasn't yet a beach before 1955. The lava flow was responsible for its isolation and the "black sand." It is advisable for tourists to always wear sandals because the black sand can burn their feet. Calmer days are great for wave surfing, but this is almost rare. Because the beach is open sea, there are less swimmers than there are nudist sunbathers and beachcombers.

There are many forest reserves surrounding Pahoa, but the most popular of them is the Lava Trees State Park and Monument. This is also a graphic evidence of nature shaping the beauty of Pahoa. Where once stood the Ohia trees, there were now the "lava" trees -- formed when the volcanic eruption that occurred in 1790 sent out flowing lava which "wrapped" around the Ohia trees and solidified in time. Geologists revealed the remnant of the barks when they broke off the surface of the lava. Today, it has become a surreal landscape of statues where moss and foliage have formed. It is surrounded by monkeypod trees and picnic tables, and can be traversed by trails around the park.

The tourist who misses out on the sight of the forest reserves and beaches in Pahoa could find a treat in the restaurants that serve rather diverse meals such as Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Thai. Music lovers can revel at the live music (and fresh fruits and veggies) at the Sunday market as well as the Akebono theater. Those who long for scenic drives can cruise their way to the Kailua-Kona found on the other side of Pahoa.

Pahoa's Economy

There are more Asian natives and Pacific Islanders in Pahoa than any other races. Compared to the other states in the mainland US, the unemployment rate is far lower: 3.8% versus 5% in the mainland US. Hawaii's tourism industry has always been a major source of revenue for the diverse population. Because of this, the latest job growth rate has been impressive: 4.47% higher than the mainland US, which is only 1.3%. Based on the number of tourists and travelers that grace the lands of Hawaii per year, there is also a great likelihood that more and more jobs will be generated in this booming tourism business. For this reason, it is expected that Pahoa will have a 17.27% job growth rate in the future. Aside from tourism jobs, physician vacancies are also abundant in Pahoa. According to statistics, there are far more physicians in Pahoa than elsewhere in the mainland US.

The average household income in Pahoa is $35,831, much lower than the states in mainland US, but this is due to the high state capita income tax being imposed in Hawaii. The living cost for food, health, housing, and transportation is considerably higher than in the mainland US.

On the other hand, the environment is far cleaner, with the air and water quality rating exceeding the mainland United States'. The average expenditure per school is $5,948. Since there is no pervading mass transit, people pool for transportation and have more work-at-home jobs. Generally, there are less cars in Pahoa and the commute time is much faster than most of the states in the US.

Pahoa Statistics:

Population: 962
Households: 314
Median resident age: 40.6 years
Median household income: $33,333
Median house value: $97,200
Land area: 2.3 square miles
Elevation: 655 feet
Latitude: 19°30'N
Longitude: 154°57'W
Zip code: 96778
County: Hawaii
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