Kohala Hawaii

A Kohala vacation will take you away from the more popular (and more crowded) attractions of the Kona Coast to a more serene and less developed part of the island that is home to some of its most historically significant sites. The Kohala Coast lies at the northern tip of the Big Island, formed by the oldest of its volcanoes—the extinct Kohala volcano that last erupted about 300,000 years ago.

The southern boundary of Kohala Hawaii begins on the island's west coast, north of the Kona Airport approximately at the town of Waikoloa. Here are numerous vacation rentals, several Waikoloa hotels and resorts with Big Island golfing spots, beautiful beaches, and all the things to do on the Kohala Coast you might expect of world-class resorts.

A little north of this developed resort area, the off-the-beaten-path part of Kohala Hawaii begins. The first site of significant historical importance is the Puukohala Heiau (temple) National Historic Site, sitting in the shadow of Mauna Kea volcano, the snow-capped White Mountain that is the largest volcano on the island. This fortress-like temple was built in 1790-1791 by Kamehameha the Great under the direction of his kahuna (priests) and dedicated to the war god Kukailimoku. The purpose of the temple was to assist Kamehameha in his efforts to unite the Hawaiian Islands—a quest that eventually succeeded. This massive stone temple is one of the last sacred structures built in the islands before the predominance of Western influence. The name of this Kohala Coast sacred site means hill of the whale, and it is also a great spot for whale watching from November through April.

North of this historic site are the truly secluded and undiscovered beaches of Keaweula Bay. Some of these are so undeveloped that you can only enjoy a Kohala vacation on them if you have secured car rentals with four-wheel drive. You will be rewarded with deserted beaches where you can enjoy camping only feet from the surf, as well as great fishing and snorkeling. While there is a picnic pavilion here, there is no drinking water, so bring your own.

A little farther north on the North Kohala Coast brings you to the Lapakahi State Historical Park, a partially restored fishing village that is more than 600 years old. There are hiking trails in this rugged 262-acre park along which you can explore thatched fishing huts, intricate stone walls, and an interpretative area where you can play traditional Hawaiian games and learn ancient fishing methods.

Travel even farther north on your Kohala Vacation and you will pass other state parks and secluded beaches, finally reaching the far northern tip of the Big Island. This is the birthplace of King Kamehameha and is one of the most sacred and important sites in Hawaiian history. Here is Mookini Heiau State Monument, and on the rocky shores are a large sacrificial temple and the site marking the revered king's birthplace.

The largest town in Kohala Hawaii is also here. Hawi is a charming and picturesque community with art galleries, shops, and boutiques, and a number of good dining venues. The village is the turnaround for the bicycle portion of the Ironman Triathlon that begins on Alii Drive in Kona. There are four great statues of Kamehameha. One stands regally in front of Iolani Palace in Honolulu, another is in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and another is in Hilo overlooking Hilo Bay. The fourth stands near Hawi, gazing out to sea. Around town, there are some guesthouses, small hotels, and charming bed and breakfast inns. Continue a little further, and you will reach the literal end of the road, as this portion of the east Kohala Coast is inaccessible by vehicle.

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