Big Island, Hawaii (Part 4): Captain Cook and The Painted Church

captain cook - hawaii

Captain Cook is named after the English captain James Cook, who was the first Westerner to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

Big Island, Hawaii Road Trip in 15 Days (Itinerary Overview)


(Top photo: The Painted Church. Captain Cook, Hawái. © Doug James)

Day 13-15 – Captain Cook and The Painted Church (Southeast)


Day 13 – Goodbye to Volcano Village

Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii!

Departing from the Volcanoes National Park and its impressive lava flows was difficult, so before heading back to Kailua-Kona we had breakfast at Volcano House to admire the Kilauea volcano through the large window of the restaurant for the last time. (See VIDEO Kilauea Volcano).

volcanoes national park - hawaii

Then we made a brief stop at the Lava Tube. We walked through the lush rainforest to explore a 500-year-old lava tube. The path is less than half a mile long.

The Painted Church

The next stop was St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, better known as The Painted Church, because of the beautiful frescoes that decorate its interior walls.

captain cook - hawaii

Nestled on the slopes of Mauna Loa overlooking Kealakekua Bay, the Painted Church was built between 1899 and 1902 under the direction of a Belgian Catholic Missionary, Father John Velghe, who depicted on his walls various biblical scenes.

Without any professional training as an artist, Father Velghe embellished the walls with his paintings, at a time when few Hawaiians could read and write. His paintings helped him to literate and evangelize the Hawaiians.

captain cook - hawaii

Designed as a miniature European Gothic cathedral, this small parish is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States for its historical value.

Mar Twain Monkey Pod Tree

Before we arrived at The Painted Church we stopped in the small town of Waiohinu to admire the famous Mark Twain Monkey Pod Tree. In 1866, the American writer visited Hawaii, rented a horse and spent three months riding the island and sending his letters to the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper.

captain cook - hawaii
Mark Twain Monkey Pod Tree. Mamalahoa Hwy, Mountain View, Hawái. (Source)

The Mark Twain tree, the second generation of which can still be seen today, is practically the only attraction in Waiohinu. But it’s worth stopping and reflecting on the site where one of America’s most beloved writers was 150 years ago.

captain cook - hawaii
Mark Twain Monkey Pod Tree. Mamalahoa Hwy, Mountain View, Hawái. (Source)

 Twain mentions his passage through the island in a letter published in the Sacramento Daily Union on October 25, 1866:

“… In this rainy spot trees and flowers flourish luxuriantly, and three of those trees – two mangoes and an orange – will live in my memory as the greenest, freshest and most beautiful I ever saw…”

Captain Cook

The return trip promised more adventures in Captain Cook, a true oasis for snorkeling. Marine animal life is in its splendor in this place to the southwest of the island. You can see dolphins, stingrays and tropical fish. Unfortunately, there was construction on the road and it was difficult to find access to the beach.

captain cook - hawaii
Keylakekua Bay, Captain Cook, Hawái. (Source)

Later we confirmed what we knew before arriving at this point: It was necessary to make reservations to depart aboard a boat to reach the coast of Captain Cook by Kealakekua Bay, since the access by road was limited.

The place is named after the English captain James Cook, who was the first Westerner to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, during the celebrations in honor of Lono, the god of fertility.

captain cook - hawaii
Anemone and urchins. Keylakekua Bay. (Source)
captain cook - hawaii
Giant Triton. Kealakekua Bay. (Source)
captain cook - hawaii
Butterflyfish. Kealakekua Bay. (Source)

The Hawaiians welcomed him with great fanfare, thinking it was Lono. However, he died a year later after his arrival in Kealakekua Bay, when the Hawaiians finally discovered that he was no god. What and end for Captain Cook!

Day 14 – Pictures with Captain Jack and lunch at Jackie Rey’s

Back in Kailua-Kona that morning we decided to walk along the boardwalk, sip a cup of coffee, and take pictures with Captain Jack.

captain cook - hawaii

A carved wooden sculpture of the smiling Captain Jack decorates the small plaza on Waterfront Row. A nearby plaque tells the story of how he was shipwrecked during a storm and rescued by local fishermen. Now, Captain Jack takes the Hawaiian sun on a bench just below the watchtower and welcomes visitors with a cordial: “Ahoy Mates!”

We had lunch at the popular Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. Their great variety of salads, pastas, meats, fresh fish and a wide range of national and international wines left us satisfied. Everything we ordered was delicious!

captain cook - hawaii

Established in 2004, Jackie Rey’s is named after the owners’ daughter, who founded it in 2004. Its casual and family atmosphere makes it enjoyable for children and adults alike. A new branch of the same restaurant was opened in Hilo in 2016.

Day 15 – Goodbye to Hawaii

The last day was to rest and say goodbye to Big Island.

captain cook - hawaii

After packing, we spent much of the afternoon in the pool of the house where we stayed. We had to be at the airport in the evening. So, we said goodbye to the island shortly before midnight.

Paradisiac beaches, erupting volcanoes, incandescent lava, stargazing, impressive sea life, cheerful people, delicious food and internationally renowned coffee … 15 unforgettable days.

captain cook - hawaii

Mahalo, Hawaii! So long!

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