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.
The green and lush north end of Hawaii Island contains a treasure trove of interesting small towns, important historic sights and incredible scenery.
Kohala Mountain: At 5480 feet, the mountain that is all that remains of Kohala Volcano is the northernmost and oldest volcano comprising the Island of Hawai’i still above sea level. The summit crater, Kaleiho’ohei last erupted some 60,000 years ago. Perhaps the most ecologically diverse area on the island, Kohala Mountain is dissected by deep, lush tropical valleys, and the slopes are covered by dryland forest, lava deserts, lonely windswept steppes and end in some truly wild beaches. This is a wonderful playground for hiking, for 4-wheeling, mountain-biking, bird watching and kayaking.
Views from the north and west flanks of Kohala Mountain across the Alenuihaha Channel of Haleakala Volcano on Maui offer some of the best sunsets on the island. On a very clear day, and typically closer to dawn than dusk, one can also see Lana’i, Kaho’olawe and Moloka’i from the Highway 270.
Hawi: The dreamy mountain town of Hawi is one of the few remaining outposts of what locals call “old Hawai’i”. A once booming sugar mill town and center of plantation activity, sugar operations died here in the 1970s. The center of town (and that’s about all there is) is located under the ancient banyan tree. Several small shops, galleries and restaurants make this a pleasant place to visit on the way to or from Pololu Valley.
The famous Kalahikiola Church, a favorite of tourists due to its unique square bell tower, was severely damaged in the earthquake of 2006. Plaster-work inside the church is currently being restored by the international Restore Plaster Project, led by Sarel Venter. Basic shopping, gasoline and public restrooms are available.
Kapa’au and the King Kamehameha Statue: There are a few charming restaurants, shops and galleries in Kapa’au, including the justly famous Kohala Book Shop—definitely worth spending some time poking around.
In the center of the tiny town of Kapa’au on the mauka side of the highway, stands a storied statue of King Kamehameha the Great. Originally commissioned for the Judiciary Building in Honolulu, this statue was lost at sea when it was shipped from the Paris foundry where it was cast to Hawai’i. The twist in this story is that after the statue had been recast and placed in Honolulu, the captain of the ship which was lost with the original statue was wandering about the market in Port Stanley and found the original for sale–he purchased it for $500, had the broken arm fixed and it was erected on this spot in Kapa’au to commemorate the birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great.
The famous Kauhola Lighthouse, about 3 miles north of Kapa’au, was demolished on 19 December 2009 because the foundation had become unstable.
Hawi and Kapa’au have the only food and gas available north of Kawaihae Town and the junction with Highway 19.
Kamehameha Rock: 4.3 miles east of the town center of Hawi, and marked with a Hawai’i Visitor’s Bureau sign, lies the Kamehameha Rock, said to have come by double-hull canoe all the way from the Waialua district on Kaua’i. It is said that only high ranking Ali’i were able to move the rock and that Kamehameha carried this stone all the way from the sea at Pololu Valley to it’s present location, to display his strength to the men transporting stones by hand to build Pu’u Kohola (for more information on Pu’u Kohola and this engineering feat of building, please go here).
Keokea Beach Park: A lovely small park, ideal for a picnic, located a short drive just off the road on the way to Pololu Valley from Kapa’au. The turn off is near mile marker 27 on Highway 270. The short, viscous break here is infamous among local surfers as being a difficult test. Due to heavy seas, there is no real snorkeling here, however, one can get safely in the water in the region of the boat launch. Perhaps Keokea Park’s greatest allure to the visitor is the clean restrooms; they are the only bathroom facilities open to the public in this area.
Picnic tables, boat launch, pavilion, barbecue grills, shower, water and restrooms round out the facilities.
Pololu Valley: One of the major valleys dissecting Kohala Mountain, Pololu Valley, is a must-see stop for visitors to North Kohala and lies at the very end of Highway 270, about 7 miles from Hawi. For information about Pololu Valley, please go here.
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All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.