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Captain Cook Monument Trail
This hike is a fine walk through tall grass, open lava fields and dense, dryland forest, opening onto one of the most pristine ocean beaches in the world. Hiking down to the Captain Cook’s Monument from Highway 11 is a great deal of fun—great scenery, wonderful trail that involves complete immersion in Hawai’ian pre- and post-contact history and offers the opportunity for some of the finest snorkeling anywhere on the planet. However, the return hike is hot, thirsty and strenuous; but it is also highly rewarding, granting panoramic views all up and down the Kona Coast. The trail leaves the Napo’opo’o Road just 500 feet below where it drops off Highway 11 near a large avocado tree, right across from a group of three coconut trees, right at telephone pole number 4; parking is tight, but safe. The parking spots and trailhead will show signs of obvious use, usually in the form of recently deposited horse apples from the many trail riders frequenting the area.

The first avocado tree is the harbinger of wonderful things to come, as the trail passes through an area rich in guava, mango, papaya and avocado that are free for the gathering. The 2.5-mile hike takes about 1-1 1/2 hours to descend, somewhat more time to come back up. After following a jeep road for about 50 feet, the trail turns left when the jeep road turns right onto private property. Although overgrown by tall grass for the next half mile, the trail runs more or less straight down the left side of a rock wall to the sea. As the pitch straightens out, keep to the left when the trail first forks and proceed to the beach. You will strike shore several hundred feet northwest of the monument—stroll through the remains of Ka’awaloa Village along the beach on your way to pay homage to Europe’s most prolific explorer, James Cook. Remember to bear right at the trail junction when returning uphill, or you will face a long, hot and unpleasant time wandering the a’a fields of Napo’opo’o.

It is also possible, but much less pleasant, to hike most of the way to the monument along the shoreline from Napo’opo’o. This hike is an uninteresting exercise in scrambling over boulders along the beach and contains at least two places that have to be swum in rough water; as such, the safety of this trek is totally at the whim of ocean tides and swells. Highly not recommended.

For more information, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com or http://tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com

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