Kealakekua & Captain Cook Things To Do

Things to Do near Kealakekua Town & Captain Cook on Big Island

When you add Kealakekua and Captain Cook to your Hawaii itinerary, you will be sure to experience the tropical paradise of the island’s west coast. The small towns of Captain Cook and Kealakekua are both found within a short distance of one another. The town of Captain Cook is named after the first westerner to step foot onto the Hawaiian islands, which he did on the west side of what is now called the Big Island.

The tranquil beauty of the area is due to the small population. Even though Captain Cook is only a small town, it is the largest for a number of miles in all directions. Most of the surrounding centers are only villages with a few houses and ranches here and there.

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Directions to Kealakekua & Captain Cook

Since Kealakekua and Captain Cook are located on the western side of the Big Island, the best airport to start your trip from is Kona International Airport. From here, Kealakekua and Captain Cook are under an hour’s drive south on the Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 11).

You can also experience the area by foot or by kayak for a completely immersive experience into the tropical landscape!

A Brief History of Kealakekua & Captain Cook

Kealakekua Bay is a significant piece of history in the area because it commemorates where Captain James Cook first caught sight of Hawaii. Captain James Cook is a particular historical figure as he was the first westerner to land on the island of Hawaii in 1778 on Kauai. Not long after Cook landed, unfortunately, he was killed in a fight with Native Hawaiians right in the same area where he landed: Kealakekua Bay. This is the reason for the memorial monument in his name.

Besides Captain Cook, the area holds other historical monuments as well. When visiting Kealakekua Bay, be sure to visit the sacred temple called “Hikiau heiau,” which was built in honor of Lono, the Hawaiian god. In the center of Captain Cook is also the historic Manago Hotel, a local landmark that features an ono restaurant. 

The small town of Captain Cook is a typical island town. The atmosphere is cozy and laid-back, home to only a handful of bed and breakfasts, small boutiques, and a grocery store. Stock up on fresh local produce, handcrafted art from local artists, and more at the friendly farmers’ market in Captain Cook before beginning your day of adventure. The small town of Kealakekua is very close to Captain Cook and very similar in culture but directly overlooks Kealakekua Bay.

If you are visiting in March, try to attend the Kona Stampede Rodeo, where you can see real, local cowboys, otherwise called paniolos. Cowboy culture is much more prevalent in Hawaii than one might think! The tropical climate makes for rich, fertile farmland, which of course leads to cattle and cowboys. Ranchers initially arrived on the island from Mexico to teach locals how to corral their livestock. From then on, Hawaii’s farm and cowboy culture persists and is celebrated on occasions such as the Kona Stampede Rodeo.

The town is built around the enjoyment of the outdoors, which makes it the perfect destination if you want to do some sightseeing and fun activities. Expect moderate tropical weather with temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and typical tropical rainfall. Enjoy the beautiful coastal weather and try everything from snorkeling to sailing to fishing. You’ll always be surrounded by stunning views of the ocean and lush rainforest. Of course, being a beach town, Captain Cook offers water sport gear rentals so that you can head to the beach ready for adventure.

Greenwell Farms

Hawaii is undoubtedly known for its abundance of quality coffee, which means that stopping at Greenwell Farms is a must during your trip to the Big Island! Greenwell Farms is a coffee farm and processor in Kona. Besides the delicious coffee beverages and souvenirs, experience the facility through a tour that takes you through the process of coffee harvesting. Even better, these tours are free and take place every day.

From Captain Cook, head north on the Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 11) for just over a mile. Take a quick left after passing the HN Greenwell Store Museum on the left.

Photo provided by Henry Lawrence.

Discovery Antiques – Ice Cream

Well known for tasty ice cream, Discovery Antiques is the perfect spot to hit on a hot afternoon. The storefront is charmingly labeled with a rhyme, “We buy silver and gold and anything old!” which sets the scene for a quaint and fun experience when you step foot into the shop. You can explore a variety of antiques and collectibles while tasting tropical and uniquely flavored ice cream.

Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is a State Historical Park and home to the Captain Cook Monument. The park is the ideal spot for many water activities, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking. Dip your toes in Kealakekua Bay’s stunning ocean waters before having a seaside picnic in the park’s picnic area. If you watch the surf carefully, you may even spot spinner dolphins or find tropical fish under the ocean’s surface.

The park is located just 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona. From Captain Cook, head to the popular snorkeling spot by heading south on Napoopoo Road (Highway 160) then turning right onto Pu'uhonua Road after approximately 4.5 miles.

Captain Cook Monument

Visit the monument of the first westerner to step foot on the Big Island in the late 1700s by heading to the Captain Cook Monument. This popular spot along the west coast of Hawaii can be accessed by hiking the Ka'Awaloa Trail. It's a moderate hike that allows you to take in the beauty of the tropical rainforest fully. At the end of the trail, you will find the monument along with a beach to swim and practice snorkeling among tropical fish!

To get to Captain Cook Monument, park at the trailhead along Napoopoo Road (Highway 160). From there, the steep descent down is well-trafficked, so navigation is easy! If hiking isn’t your thing, you can kayak or take a boat tour to the monument as well. 


Pack your bags and your adventurous spirit because Kealakekua and Captain Cook are waiting for you!

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