Papaikou, Hawaii County, Hawaii

Papaikou is located in the eastern side of Hawaii, a mile away from the second biggest city called Hilo, and is home to the Hawaiian Botanical Garden. It was not long before it was recognized as a top tourist spot in Hawaii because it is near the major airports -- the Hilo International airport, the Waimea Kohala airport, and the Kona International airport at Keahole. Some say it's the most gorgeous spot in Hawaii because of the high amount of rainfall each year. However, few tourists know that since Papaikou is near Hilo, it is steeped with history and beauty that most natives consider as unparalleled.

Papaikou is thought to be the wettest region in Hawaii. It belongs in the eastern side of the island -- a place where temperatures are moderate but can reach the extreme since at higher elevation (especially in Mauna Kea). With the rain falling almost everyday, it is no wonder the vegetation in the town is lush and always green. The tropical weather is perfect for tourists seeking refuge from the cold season in the mainland US.

There are 1,556 residents of Papaikou, according to 2005 population census. These people are mainly composed of native Asians, Pacific Islanders (whose ancestors are Polynesians), and Latinos. The remainder of the population is composed of Caucasians, Blacks, and Europeans. The population growth rate is 9.61%. Like the other towns and cities in Hawaii, the living costs are far more expensive than elsewhere in the mainland US. Despite this, the tourism is a major industrial boost. It has created jobs for most Hawaiians -- evident in Papaikou's unemployment rate, which is only 3.8% when contrasted to the US mainland average rate of 4.47%.

Papaikou's History

The town of Papaikou has been a quiet little corner of Hawaii, if not for the outstanding beauty of the non-profit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. However, since it has been surrounded by the major cities and towns such as Kona, Hilo, and Waimea, it has also been a part of Hawaii's evolution from a small, young island to a tourist spot that keeps growing new lands because of the volcanic activity. For example, it has been instrumental in the booming sugar industry of the 18th century because it is where the oldest sugar companies have been built. Papaikou also played a role in the shipping of cattle (maritime industry) on the East coast circa 1800s. By 1828, coffee was introduced to Kona and Papaikou, where almost a century and a half later, almost 6,383 acres of land were already planted with coffee.

Papaikou is close to Hilo, where the Great Kamehameha overturned the Naha stone in 1775 and declared he would rule Hawaii. In this same city was built interesting structures such as the Ancient Order of Foresters, SH Kress, Palace Theater, and S Hata Buildings in 1912 to 1932. Papaikou, being near Hilo, saw the eruption of Mauna Loa during the Second World War. The military had no choice but to divert the flow of lava with bombs. The volcanic activity in the East coast of Hawaii had caused substantial damage in the area of Papaikou, Kona in the early 1950s. The three earthquakes registered intensity levels of 6 to 6.9 on the scale. A few years later, Kona and the nearby towns (including Papaikou) were established as sportfishing capitals of Hawaii.

Papaikou's Attractions

The easy access to Papaikou has made it a big name in the Hawaiian tourism industry. But one mention of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden elicits awe among tourists who have visited the plant sanctuary. No doubt it is one hot tourist spot since it's near the city of Hilo and is the home of the island's most unique and unbelievably diverse tropical plants in the world. Before one reaches the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Big Island, one must first drive through the scenic road to Onomea Bay, which is quite an experience for everyone. Tourists will be enchanted by the bubbling streams, the waterfalls (Akaka), and ocean vistas that one espies along the way.

The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden has been preserved by naturalist organizations and the government at no profit. Because it is a natural plant sanctuary, scientists and nature-lovers can visit the garden for study and pleasure. There are already 2,000 species of heliconias, gingers, palms, bromeliads, and rare plants that tourists are not even familiar of! The botanical collection keeps on growing and the sanctuary acts as a seed bank. Because Papaikou on the East coast is a rainy area, these plants grow in optimum health and remain to be the best treasures that could be found in the Onomea Bay region.

There is more to see in Papaikou than exotic plant species. It's a 30-minute drive to Volcano's Nat'l Park and 10-minutes to reach the Akaka Falls. Papaikou is also home to the Rainbow Falls, the Liliuokalani Park, and the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. Tourists have the opportunity to shop at the nearby Hilo city and the Wailea town, which the richest village in the East Coast. Other activities one might include in the list are sailing, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, diving, biking, hiking, and golf.

Papaikou's Economy

The town of Papaikou is enjoying the economic boost brought about by the influx of tourists in the eastern region of Big Island. People have more jobs and more opportunities to earn, even in the future, in some of the state's most common industries, namely tourism, fishing, and other industries. The average household income in the town of Papaikou is $39,806, a figure which is not really far from some of the towns and counties in Hawaii. In addition, the state income capita tax is higher than elsewhere in the mainland United States, but the sales taxes are only 4%, compared to the 6% rate in the other American states.

They say it's more expensive to live in Papaikou, Hawaii, than in the mainland US, but that is because the quality of education, health, housing, transportation, and overall living is very high. For instance, the average rate of living costs is 39% higher than that of the other US states' average. There are fewer cars in this town, but on the other hand, there are more people carpooling and using mass transportation in Papaikou. This accounts for cleaner air and water, definite economic and environmental attributes that the Papaikou townspeople should be proud of. Although it is expensive to own a house in the town, not to mention that the educational expenses are far lower than the country's average, Papaikou enjoys the sublime weather -- a treasure which has generated the Hawaiian town a wealth of natural beauty and economic opportunities.

Papaikou Statistics:

Population: 1,414
Households: 475
Median resident age: 40.4 years
Median household income: $37,031
Median house value: $120,900
Land area: 1.5 square miles
Elevation: 220 feet
Latitude: 19°47'N
Longitude: 155°5'W
Zip code: 96781
County: Hawaii
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