Located four miles south of Hilo , Kea‘au is situated within the 70,000-acre district of Puna. Bordering roughly nine miles of coastline, Kea‘au extends some 26 miles inland. Historical documents indicate this area had early agricultural field systems and that much of the land was used for grazing, but it was in the coastal area where the early inhabitants settled.
In 1882, the land division of Kea‘au was purchased from the King Lunalilo estate and would eventually be owned entirely by William H. Shipman, a missionary descendant. The leasing of land in 1899 to the Ola‘a Sugar Company saw the birth of Kea‘au’s plantation community. Shops, schools, churches and camp housing quickly sprang up. It was at that time that the first Japanese workers arrived, and Filipino workers soon followed in 1906. In 1960, Ola‘a Sugar Company changed its name to Puna Sugar Company but due to economic losses it eventually closed in 1984.Today Kea‘au retains its old-world, plantation-style quaintness, and it essentially remains an agricultural community. The arrival of Kea‘au Town Center and the W.H. Shipman Business Park in the 1980s indicates how determined this small town is to grow and prosper. Be sure to visit the Kea'au Visitor Center and Farmer's Market.