There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.
Lapakahi State Historical Park
How did the Hawai’ians of olden time survive in such an inhospitable, barren wasteland as Kohala? At Lapakahi (literally “Single ridge”) State Historical Park you can walk through the partially–restored remains of a 600-year old Hawai’ian fishing and farming village, Koai’e. Though the soil is stony and the area is quite windy, the people of Koai’e thrived here into historical times, when they were displaced by grazing cattle.
One must bear in mind that Kohala was not always the barren wasteland seen today. Initially dryland forest, a thousand years ago or more the native Hawai’ians burned the forest to clear farmland for dryland crops such as sweet potato. Primitive farming techniques, overpopulation, erosion from storms, lava flows and lack of irrigation water eventually desertified much of the previously forested coast.
With the coming of Europeans, over-grazing by cattle prevented the ecosystem from repairing itself once the native Hawai’ians had deserted it.
The docents are quite knowledgeable about local history and Hawaiian culture. There is self-guided tour which takes visitors past reconstructed houses, temple ruins and a canoe halau (long house). When park personnel are available, visitors may try spear throwing, ‘ulu maika (disc rolling) and konane (checkers) in the game area.
Stunning views of Haleakala on Maui can be had from the shoreline, and visitors should remember to look for salt-drying pans and small offering shrines to Ku’ula, the god of fishermen along the shoreline.
Contrary to what Park staff may tell you, snorkeling is both permissible and delightful in Koai’e Cove, adjacent to this site. However, respect the ancient sacred sites and graves, and enter the bay only to the right of the rocky spine at the center of the bay. No towels or clothing may be left on the beach, only hat and shoes. Remember there is no water to rinse off with after your swim, and there is no lifeguard. Surf or winds can create treacherous currents, especially in winter. However, abundant fish, amazing turquoise waters and lots of coral make this one of Kohala’s (and the Island’s) prime snorkel spots when conditions are right. You should not miss it.
Admission is free, the self-guided tour takes about 45 minutes. Portable toilets, but no water are available. In late 2009, NOAA’s Coastal Estaurine Land Conservation Program awarded the State of Hawaii $1.25 million to purchase 17 acres of privately held land adjoining the southern boundary of the park.
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All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.