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Hawaii's North Kohala

map of North Kohala, Hawaii, illus. by Michael Klein, image
Photo caption
Tour North Kohala on the Big Island for a blend of history and stunning scenery.


There’s a 60-mile loop on the Big Island’s northern tip that travels past sugar plantation towns, expansive vistas, and rugged cowboy country. King Kamehameha I was born in North Kohala and from this fiefdom launched his conquest of all the Hawaiian Islands. To take in the sights, give yourself five hours.

  • PUUKOHOLA HE IAU NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE Kamehameha I built a temple here in 1791 to win the favor of war god Kukailimoku. Check out the new visitor center and hike the trail to the temple site.(808) 882-7218,
  • LAPAKAHI STATE HISTORICAL PARK Drive north along the Kawaihae coast to this shoreline park preserving the remains of a 600-year-old fishing village. (808) 882-6207.
  • HAWI After the area's last sugar mill closed in the mid-1970s, artists took over the town. Now you can browse art galleries and stop in the Kohala Coffee Mill for a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream.
  • KAPAAU Down the road, stroll through another small town, where a nine-ton bronze statue of King Kamehameha I is the main attraction. The Kohala Book Shop, housed in the 1898 Nanbu Hotel, also draws visitors with the nation's largest collection of rare Hawaiian books.
  • POLOLU VALLEY LOOKOUT Highway 270 dead-ends at the top of a 400-foot cliff overlooking a gloriously green valley and the Pacific Ocean.
  • KOHALA MOUNTAINS LOOKOUT Climb up Highway 250 to this picnic spot affording views of Mauna Kea. Then head downhill to the cowboy town of Waimea and take a wagon ride tour of 160-year-old Parker Ranch (808-885-7655). Finish the loop on verdant Highway 19.

Illustration by Michael Klein


This article was first published in January 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.