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Ka'u / Volcanoes
Big Island - Kohala Scenic Tour
The Kohala District occupies the Big Island's northern peninsula. It is actually three different areas: North Kohala, South Kohala, and Waimea, which is also known as Kamuela. It is dominated by the Kohala Mountains, the plateau and plains of the expansive Parker Ranch, and the seemingly endless white-sand beaches to the south.
North Kohala is the birthplace of King Kamehameha I. Take the scenic Kohala Mountain Road through Kahua Ranch to Kapa'au, the hometown of Kamehameha. There, one can find a statue of this great monarch that is a twin to the more well-known statue in Honolulu. This particular statue was actually lost at sea, but it was miraculously recovered! Nearby Mo'okini Heiau can be reached down a bumpy road, and the experience will be well worth the trip.
North Kohala is also a remote plantation region, where cows and sheep graze in lush, green meadows along the slopes of Mauna Kea. Traveling westward on the main road, you will soon arrive at Lapakahi State Historical Park. This site houses cultural treasures and hands-on exhibits that illustrate the lifestyle of ancient Hawai'i-fishing, food crops, hale (houses), games, and legends.
Approximately 50 miles south is Pu'ukohola Heiau, which is indeed an interesting archaeological attraction. It sits at Kawaihae Bay, and is a massive heiau or temple. It was constructed by King Kamehameha the Great to lend him the power to conquer and unite the islands. A smaller heiau, Mailekini, is located across the road. The visitor center provides information about the history of the two heiau.
Immediately south of Pu'ukohola Heiau is Samuel Spencer Beach Park. The seaside is attractive here, and it is protected by a reef, with large shade trees. It's a nice place for picnicking and partying.
By contrast, South Kohala is a realm almost devoid of humidity. It's a more developed area that is home to some of the island's most elegant resorts. Situated on sumptuous white-sand beaches amongst the lava fields, South Kohala's spas are truly world-class.
Even if you are not staying at a resort, the beaches are always accessible to the public. A few places offer tours of culturally important areas-fishponds, petroglyphs, and portions of the King's Highway, an ancient Hawaiian footpath.
A destination which comes highly recommended is Anaeho'omalu Bay. It's a golden crescent of beach with good snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing, sailing and scuba-diving. It is next to the Royal Waikoloan Resort, so there are equipment rentals. You can wander around ancient fishponds, and see petroglyphs as well.
Waimea, which is also known as Kamuela, is cowboy country, Big Island-style. More appropriately, paniolo country. This term refers to the Spanish vaqueros, who were originally called espanolos. When in Waimea, be sure to stop by the Kamuela Museum, which has a fascinating array of artifacts from around the world.
Encircling Waimea in all directions is Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle spreads in the U.S.A. To learn more about this grand farmstead, and its history simply go to the Parker Ranch Visitor Center and Museum.
You will need a few days to explore all of Kohala, as there's a lot of territory to cover, and many a sight to see. Depending on where you end up, you may find yourself in Kona or Hamakua when you're done!