On the far northwest tip of the Big Island is the Kohala Coast, 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.
And its largely in part because of Parker Ranch that the center of activity in Kohala focuses on Waimea town (also 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.
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.
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.
For those following along with our physical guidebook; we begin here along the south Kohala Coast, at Waikoloa Beach Resort, on Highway 19. From here we head north to the junction of Highway 19 and 270. We will follow 270 until it ends at Pololu Valley in North Kohala. Then we backtrack up to Highway 250 (Kohala Mountain Road) and follow it south until it again joins with Highway 19. We then continue our journey through Waimea Town towards the next part of the Big Island, the lush and scenic North Hamakua Coast.