Those who choose the Big Island of Hawaii as their destination will be happy to know that along with the beautiful beaches, spectacular waterfalls and scenic beauty, the Big Island has a wealth of cultural sites not found in significance or abundance on other islands. The wide open spaces have not yet compromised many of the archeological sites on the island and as a result many have been untouched for generations. The historic sites of North Kohala have some of the more significant sites in the islands.

Those who are up on their Hawaiian history will no doubt know that the islands were once ruled by independent chiefs. The most powerful included Kaumualii on Kauai, Kahekili on Maui and Kamehameha on the Big Island, particularly in North Kohala.

The birthplace of King Kamehameha the Great can be found in a corner of the Mookini Heiau along Akoni Pule Highway in North Kohala. The heiau is one of the most sacred places in Hawaiian culture and visitors to this place should treat the area with respect and not disturb the site in any way. Access to the heiau is via a long rutted dirt road that begins just south of the Upolu Point Airport along the shoreline and ends at the heiau. Mookini heiau has a history as a religious human sacrificial temple. Along with a sanctified past, the heiau offers beautiful views of the Alenuihaha channel and the island of Maui on a clear day. Hawaiian priests or kahuna prophesized the greatness of this newborn at the heiau. A pokahu or stone marks the spot where the Kamehameha dynasty began.

As western explorers began discovering the Pacific, many relationships were formed in the islands. None stronger than that along the Kohala Coast and with the Kamehameha clan. Many westerners remained in the islands including John Young a boatswain from the stranded British fur trading vessel, Eleanora. He became a trusted advisor of Kamehameha I who arranged for muskets, swords and cannons for Kamehameha’s warriors. He also strategized with Kamehameha's warriors to unify the Hawaiian Islands. Those who visit Pu’u Kohola heiau today will be treated to place in history dedicated to the Hawaiian war god Kukalilimoku. It is the largest temple in the islands where human sacrifices were held and war canoes were launched. Pu’u Kohola is located between Kawaihae Harbor and beautiful Spencer Beach where one can frolic in the waves after a long day of exploring or watch wintering whales from the shoreline.

Life in North Kohala was not always filled with guns and aggression. Along the North Kohala Coast is the remains of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village. The village now called Lapakahi State Park offers the casual visitor insight to what daily life in ancient Kohala. The seaside village offers a self-guided tour of a canoe halau, native plants that is handicap accessible and where visitors can participate in ancient Hawaiian games including spear throwing and  ‘ulu maika (disc rolling) and konane (checkers) along with spectacular views of the ocean.

North Kohala is certainly one of the most historical places in the islands. Sites are for the most part undisturbed and can be visited freely and at leisure. But, visitors are always asked to maintain a sense of respect for these sites since they are invaluable to Hawaiians.

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