Issue 20.6: December 2017/January 2018
Native Intelligence: Hawai‘i Island

The Hawai‘i Underground

Story by Meghan Miner Murray. Photos by Jack Wolford.

Call Kyle Davis an accidental farmer. The 31-year-old former Iraq War medic from Virginia moved to Hawai‘i Island in 2012 and attended the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. “I was going through the catalog of majors, and I didn’t like the sound of accounting,” he says. “Next up was agriculture.” By the time he delivered the 2016 commencement speech, he’d transformed a six-acre plot of lava-rock jungle into a farm with pigs, goats, turkeys, native trees and exotic fruits.

Call Kyle Davis an accidental farmer. The 31-year-old former Iraq War medic from Virginia moved to Hawai‘i Island in 2012 and attended the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. “I was going through the catalog of majors, and I didn’t like the sound of accounting,” he says. “Next up was agriculture.” By the time he delivered the 2016 commencement speech, he’d transformed a six-acre plot of lava-rock jungle into a farm with pigs, goats, turkeys, native trees and exotic fruits.

When Davis was looking for a plot to buy, he wanted it to have an unusual feature: a lava tube. Not that hard on the young and volcanically active Hawai‘i Island. “The Big Island is just a big old block of Swiss cheese,” Davis says. To find his slice, he posted a Craigslist ad offering a reward for tips leading to the purchase of his own private tube. His quest was documented in a 2015 episode of HGTV’s House Hunters Off the Grid.

The tube—which he’s named Kaimana Caves (a play on his nickname, “Ky,” and the Hawaiian word for diamond)—wasn’t then the gem it is today. Davis hauled out sixteen truckloads of trash and two dozen abandoned vehicles. He had Kaimana surveyed by experts and blessed by kāhuna. He laid down cinder to level the floor. The morning glory-draped entrance now sports a platform for “cave yoga.” About a thou-sand feet in he built a wooden pavilion and even acquired a license to perform marriages. Spiderman director Sam Raimi recently scouted the cave for a movie.

But film stardom is not in the cards for Kaimana. Davis recently sold his lot to someone who, like him, wanted a cave. “I love caves,” says Rob Pacheco of ecotourism company Hawaii Forest & Trail. “This one is marvelous, with beautiful, shiny golden microbial mats, varied features and three acres of native forest on the surface.” Plus, it’s far from the crowds at popular caves like Thurston Lava Tube in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. After Pacheco tidies up (by, among other things, pulling out the fuselage of a Piper Cub that Davis had repurposed as a DJ booth for cave raves), he plans to include the cave in his tour itineraries beginning after the New Year.