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A place of both dramatic historic events and unparalleled scenery, beautiful and now peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important event in the history of Polynesia, home to pods of frolicking dolphins, hosting the greatest density of hammerhead sharks anywhere in the Pacific Ocean and providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling, Kealekekua Bay is one of the most truly magical spots in the State of Hawai’i.

Across the bay from Napo’opo’o stands the solitary white obelisk that marks the lonely Captain Cook Monument rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a greyish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealekekua Bay.

Perhaps the most sought-after snorkeling area in Hawai’i, visitors frequently kayak from Napo’opo’o to the monument to enjoy the Class Triple-A waters and abundant sea life. However, the monument is also accessible by hiking a trail down from the highway; this hike takes 4-6 hours round trip and drinking water is not available anywhere along the journey.

Written, filmed, directed and produced by Donald B. MacGowan.

For more information on visiting and exploring the Big Island of Hawaii, visit: and

Written and produced by Donald B. MacGowan; all media copyright 2009, Donald B. MacGowan; all rights reserved.


  1. I will be there in June! My novel Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii takes place in pre-contact Hawaii. We see the world through the eyes of Wai-nani, inspired by the great chiefess Ka’ahumanu, when Cook arrived. Kamehameha was there, and he was wounded in the fracus. I’m surprised you didn’t mention his name.
    Please check out my book at, or other online distribution sites.

    • Yes, Kamehameha was there, but he was a very young warrior at the time. As with all my material, I have included what is documented historical fact in the European sense (from ship’s logs, etc) as well as Hawaiian family stories passed down by people whose families still live in and around Kealakekua…as you might imagine, these family stories are sometime ad odds with eachother and with the European sense of established fact. Since family histories are, in fact, histories of a sort (the English word “history” comes from the French “le histoire” or literally, “the tale”) and out of respect for these people and their traditions, I did not include any competing histories…just the bare bones. And in this encounter, let’s face it, the young Kamehameha was still more or less a minor player.

      As one might imagine, the actions of a notable, but still rather young, Kamehameha are the subject of innumerable family histories, some in agreement, some not. Many of them impute an honorability or bravery to young Kamehameha that is obviously filtered through the hindsight of his later great deeds that may or may not be reflective of actual events–we just don’t know.

      One story in wide agreement that perhaps I should have included about Kamehameha is that he was present among the group of Hawai’ians who returned Cook’s mortal remains to the English. One of my favorite traditions has it that Kamehameha, being closely related to Kalaniopu’u and having already distinguished himself greatly in battle, was awarded Cook’s hair as a mark of honor, which in many versions of the oral traditions he privately returns to the Brits out of his personal sense of personal honor.

      If you like, I can put you in contact with friends of mine whose families have lived in and around Ka’awaloa, Napo’opo’o and Kealakekua for over a thousand years. This unfortunate incident is just a minor blip in their long and fascinating family oral traditions, which they are generally willing to share.

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