Big Island of Hawaii Kohala Region Map

Kohala Sights, Tours, & Information

Things to Do & Visitor Tips for Kohala on Big Island Hawaii

On the far northwest tip of the Big Island is Kohala, one of the most diverse areas on the island. This part of the Big Island started forming around 460,000 years ago and today includes the Kohala Mountains and the Kohala Ridge Road which straddles the mountain as it makes its way northwestward.

The distinction between the windward (wet) side of the island and the leeward (dry) side couldn't be more clear here. Northeast Kohala is green and lush, while the southwest side of the peninsula is dry and sometimes even barren. At one time this part of the Kohala Coast, fittingly called 'North Kohala,' was a area of flourishing sugar cane plantations. Today it has become dominated by one of North America's largest privately owned ranches - the Parker Ranch.

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Waimea ('Kamuela') Town

It's largely in part because of Parker Ranch that the center of activity in Kohala focuses on Waimea town (called 'Kamuela' by the postal service). Waimea town is a place where you can still see real life cowboys (called paniolo's in Hawai'i), shop in western stores, and even witness rodeos.

Unfortunately Waimea has a modern touch of traffic these days too; enough to make them consider a bypass route. Currently there is a good bit of controversy over this topic. One of the most amazing views of Mauna Kea can also be found when leaving Waimea (heading toward Kona) - just look to the east and there stands Hawai'i's tallest mountain. During the winter months you might even be lucky enough to spot the mountain with its snowy cap.

Hawi Town

Hawai'i's greatest king, Kamehameha I, was also born in north Kohala above the town of Hawi. Hawi is the northernmost city on the island and is the largest city in North Kohala. Art galleries, restaurants, and other various shops attract visitors daily. On Kamehameha Day (June 11th) the statue in town is draped with gorgeous lei's. Hawi was also once a booming sugar cane town, but it too shut down in the 1970's. 

'Gold Coast' of South Kohala

The Kohala Coast region also includes an area called Waikoloa in 'South Kohala.' Some call this area the gold coast because of the many luxury resorts that have been engraved into ancient lava flows in this area. One of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Hapuna Beach, is also located along this stretch.

Kohala Top 5 Things to Do

Best Things to See & Do in the Kohala Region

Kiholo Bay Scenic Overlook

#5 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

Kiholo Bay is a little puddle of blue and green from this vantage point. The mixture of sea and freshwater gives it this interesting blend. The hike to see this lava-rimmed bay is long and hot, so this is a good way to cheat and see it without all the extra work.

The lava around the bay dates to the 1859 Mauna Loa lava flow. Take Highway 19 north from Kohala Resort Area. The Overlook is located on the left side of the road at Mile Marker #82.

Pololu Valley Awini Trail

#4 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

The trail, sometimes referred to as Awini Trail, that leads down to the black sand beach (Pololu Valley Beach) takes approximately half an hour to hike. The dirt and root trail can be steep in places, but the various views of the valley along the way make even part of the walk worth it. You will find the trailhead near the parking lot. Look mauka and you should see a brown sign guiding you to the trail. It is smooth sailing going down, but getting back up can be a real workout.

Once you reach the valley, you'll pass through a small picnic area and can either continue on the path above the beach or go down and wiggle your toes in some black sand. The beach is a lovely stretch of fine black sand rimmed with black lava rock and shockingly emerald green beach ground cover. However, rough surf and the occasional appearance of Portuguese Man-o-wars make it not the ideal beach for swimming.

Puukohola Heiau

#3 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

As you approach the junction of Highway 19 and 270 heading north, look makai (toward the ocean) and you should see a majestic stone structure atop a hill. This is Pu'ukohola heiau.

This heiau, a sacred place of worship, has a particularly interesting history. Built between 1790-91, Pu'ukohola was the project of the great King Kamehameha.

Today the heiau and neighboring structures are part of a national historic site. The entrance to the park is after the 2 mile marker makai on Highway 270. 

Hapuna Beach State Park

#2 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

This is an extremely popular beach for both locals and visitors. Conde Nast Traveler magazine has often ranked it as one of the top beaches in the US. It is hard to argue with this half-mile stretch of pristine golden sand and crystal blue water.

There are several covered pavilions to enjoy an afternoon picnic and restrooms, albeit rather pitiful ones, are available. There is occasionally a lifeguard on duty...despite the "no lifeguard on duty" sign.

Don't expect a lot of shade on this beach. Consequently, the golden sand heats to an nearly unbearable temperature on a sunny day. During the summer months, the sand reaches 200 feet wide, so unless you want steaming toes wear sandals or water shoes.

Pololu Valley Overlook

#1 Rated in Kohala on the Big Island

As you pass the 28-mile marker on Highway 270 past Hawi, the coast will open up and you will suddenly be treated to a breathtaking view of the lovely Pololu Valley.

On a sunny day, you will see the vibrant blue and green ocean crashing into the rugged sea cliffs and the deep green carpet of vegetation lining the sides of the valley.

A short walk to the lookout reveals the many folds and creases of the inner part of the valley which drop into a rich, green floor. Lines of ironwood trees divide the lush valley from the grainy black sand beach that meets the ocean.

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