Every farmers market expresses the soul of a community. A visit to the Kona Farmers Market is celebrated with tropical fruits, Hawaiian arts and crafts, and the ease of gentle people, warm air and sea breezes.
On the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island is the town of Kailua-Kona. Most people just call it Kona. We visit Kona every few years, usually for a week in December to escape the winter weather and holiday chaos at home.
We always go birding and snorkeling, and visit the Kona Market. Every Kona visit is planned around when the Kona Market is open.
An open air market, it is located on Alii Drive, a narrow street hugging the coastline. It is open every week, Wednesday through Sunday, 7 am – 4 pm.
A parking lot on Mondays and Tuesdays, the market comes alive all the other days with locals and tourists, fresh farm produce, art, and souvenirs.
We go early–less people and more peace–and hear the rhythmic cooing of zebra doves, accompanied by squawks and chirps of the ubiquitous mynas.
On one side of the market you see the volcano Hualalai in the distance. It is an active volcano, so there are no dwellings or vegetation, just old lava spills and the vast openness.
On the other side of the market, across the street, is the sea. Lapping waves, black lava rock covered with skittering black crabs, and palm trees. Sometimes there’s a cruise ship docked in the bay; always there are surfers, paddleboarders and Hawaiian outrigger canoeists.
This town, this bay, is where the annual Ironman Triathlon takes place every October.
Occasionally there will be a green sea turtle foraging on the rocks, oblivious to the traffic on Alii Drive.
This rock wall, below, separates the market parking lot from the pedestrian sidewalk. It’s made out of the Big Island’s most prevalent earthen substance: black lava rock.
We walk to the market from our rental condo and wear backpacks, knowing we will buy a few Hawaiian togs at our favorite clothing tent…our summerwear. In December summer seems so far away; but n o t when you’ve landed in Kona.
We also fill up our backpacks with fresh exotic fruits, enjoy them all week. Papayas so ripe and tender that you can open them with a butter knife. Hawaiian apple-bananas, half the size of a grocery store banana and with a more mellow flavor. Pineapples, mangos, avocados, star fruits, rambutans, and many more.
Paintings and other fine, hand-crafted art are based on the Hawaiian themes of volcanoes, Polynesian history, the ocean and all the creatures who live in it. Kona coffee, guava jam, macadamia nuts, coconuts, and an array of touristy baubles are also for sale.
I spotted a gecko on a pole who enticed us into this flower stand. It teased us, displaying its exotic beauty but never sitting still long enough to be photographed.
On a winter day in December, there is nothing quite so sublime as slowly walking through the tropical Kona Farmers Market.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.