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Pahoa and Uncle Roberts Awa Bar Night Market
We visited Uncle Roberts Night Market in Pahoa, Wed March 4, 2020. Nobody knew it at the time, but it would be the last public market before tourism would close down a week later due to Covid. While I’ve since heard that officially the market is still cancelled, a visitor in January 2021 reported that there was a band playing on the evening of Wed Jan 6, but despite a sign “no mask, no service” and having some services, non-locals were being asked to leave. It would be best to check for updated information before venturing there for the evening as long as Covid19 is a threat. Apparently car rentals are also hard to come by with Covid having played havoc with supply/demand and pricing as the area has opened up again. Check this site for car rental deals to make comparison shopping easier. If you’re Canadian, be sure to check these flight deals once you’re safe to travel.
Uncle Roberts Night Market is held Wednesdays between 5-10pm. Music, dancing, food and craft vendors abound, and several thousand attend weekly. To get there, drive literally to “the end of the road” which is where Uncle Roberts Awa Bar is located. After a lava flow cut off the road abruptly in 1962, and created new land out to the ocean, locals were drawn here. It’s been a community gathering place ever since.
Uncle Roberts is an open-air market with semi -permanent tent/tarp structures for protection, picnic tables for seating, and a self-serve bar.
The crowd is a mix of primarily locals, with a few adventurous tourists tossed in. Hippies and free spirits young and old mix with families and kids, in a scene that can best be described as an eclectic mix found at a family wedding. The dance floor is uneven, but it didn’t seem to concern the crowd enjoying the 8-piece band and Polynesian male vocals, with a banjo, two ukuleles, sax, electric guitar and drums. We weren’t sure if the older lady by the stage doing hula hand movements, while tapping her feet, and supported by her walker, was with the band, but she certainly added to the entertainment.
We had thought Uncle Roberts Night Market was a big late-night party place, but after speaking to locals, we realized it was simply a weekly gathering of the community for food, music and a good time. This was the intent when the Uncle Roberts Awa Club was established in 1962. At the time, the market was literally “the end of the road”, marking an area of lava flow that had created land that previously did not exist. After Uncle Roberts death in 2015, the family continued to host Wednesday evening events.
One resource we found extremely valuable was Lonely Planet’s Hawaii the Big Island. Be aware it was written in 2017 though, prior to some volcanic activity since then in the southern regions. We’ve updated you here with our experiences since then.
We had stayed at The Tropical Zen in Pahoa, a small town about 15 minutes from the market the previous year. Pahoa, with it’s lush and chill atmosphere, had narrowly escaped the 2018 volcanic devastation, and was a great base for exploring the lava flows that dramatically altered the area.
In 2018 Seaview Estates, in the Pahoa region, turned into ground zero with the lava eruption, causing the Kapoho Tide Pools to be filled in, and Pohoiki Bay to no longer be a bay, but instead a new black beach at Isaac Hale Park. The acceptance of impermanence is real in a live volcanic zone.
We were reminded of all of this on our drive along the Red Road through patches of land completely decimated by fragments and shards of impermeable cooled lava flow, which now prevent through passage on what used to be the Puna Triangle through the South Puna coast . We made the drive back to Kona, via Hilo, but the sound of the Coqui frogs at night along the ocean road to Uncle Roberts as we returned to our car, brought back wonderful memories of staying in Pahoa.
Be sure to get updated information when touring this area, since access has been altered, some sites destroyed, and new ones created. The Lonely Planet Guide book for Big Island Hawaii is great, but make sure you have a copy that has been updated since 2018. See links at bottom of this post for where to get your guide book. Curios to learn more about volcanoes? Absolute Expert Volcanoes by National Geographic is a great guide.It features up-to-date geological intel straight from the field, including Mauna Loa.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Kailua-Kona, about 10 minutes from the airport. It was a wonderfully central location to explore all sides of the island, and offered up a beautiful sunset view from the hill, where we toasted to our days adventure each evening at sunset. We planned “adventure days” with relaxed “beach days” to recover in between, but admittedly many hiking adventure days involved a beach at some point – it is Hawaii after all. Why try to escape them?
Here’s where to find our little “Garden Paradise”, in Kailua, hosted by Martina. It was a short drive from the airport, offered great sunsets and was very central for all of our day trips. Book with Martina below, or check out other options in the area available through VRBO and Booking.com
We rented a 4×4 Jeep at the Kona airport, in anticipation of driving to the top of Mauna Kea, to experience the Polar Tundra climate at sunset, as well as being able to access some steep roads in the northern regions of the island by Waimea, and to travel lava rock roads in the south by Pahoa – not to mention seamlessly making the pass over the top of the island from Kona to Hilo, which can see snow at elevation in inclement weather. If you plan to venture beyond beaches and restaurants in the Kona and Kailua-Kona Coast areas, a 4×4 definitely is a consideration. Check here for car rental deals. (We’ve rented from both Alamo and National in the past and had a good experience)
I’ve written about many of the beaches on the Kona side previously, which we revisited on our rest days. In fact, last year we rented twin scooters and visited eight. Link here to get a run down on some magic places to spend a restful beach day: Touring Hawaii’s Big Island Kona Coast Beaches by Scooter Aloha!
We’ve combed the internet for some great items for travelers in this post – 8 useful, 4 cool and 2 inspirational, plus 2 more that you don’t really need – but will truly want!
Great for planning, and you’ll want to pack it along for the trip – check out Lonely Planet’s Hawaii the Big Island. Or search out all of the Hawaii guidebook options on chapters.indigo.ca or on Amazon. If you prefer immediate access in e-book format you can get that through Chapters/Indigo as well, or at ebooks.com Be sure to check get your guide to book tours, activities and attractions in this area too. There’s often deals offered in advance that you won’t be able to secure once in the area.
I also love what BookingCredits.com is doing in the accommodation space. Most hotel booking sites have access to rates not available to the public, but are required by the hotel to sell them at a the retail price. When you book your stay, they will pocket the difference between what you paid, and their commission — as profit. With BookingCredits.com instead of pocketing all the margin as profit, they give the majority of that back to you. Booking Credits was founded by former travel industry experts including the President of Delta Vacations and Senior executives from Expedia. There’s no membership required, and the credit goes back as cash on your credit card within 60 days of your booking. A simple, but cool concept! Do an accommodation search HERE and check them out.
Looking for a cheap flight to Kona? My new favorite search site is CheapOair.ca It allows you to quickly compare different flight deals available. If you’re not in Canada, be sure to use their CheapOair.com site instead. Check out the flight search tool link below:When to Buy Flights tool, Get the Lowest Fare
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