Hawaii Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

Hawai‘i IslandThe Orchid Isle

Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

 

Kailua-Kona

Kailua Pier

Ahu‘ena Heiau / Kamakahonu

Moku‘aikaua Church

Hulihe‘e Palace

St. Michael’s Church

South of Kailua-Kona

Keauhou

Kahalu‘u Beach

St. Peter’s Catholic Church

Ku‘uemanu Heiau

Kapuanoni / King Kalākaua’s Summer Beach House

Ke‘ekū Heiau

Keauhou Bay

Birthplace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli)

Kealakekua

Kona Historical Society Museum

Kona Union Church

Kealakekua Bay

Captain Cook Monument

Hikiau Heiau State Monument

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church

Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens

Kona Field System

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Park

Hale-o-keawe

‘Ale‘ale‘a

Miloli‘i

Manukā State Park and Natural Reserve Area

Ka Lae (South Point)

North of Kailua-Kona

Honokōhau Harbor

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

‘Ai‘ōpio Beach

Honokōhau Beach

‘Alula Beach

Māmalahoa Trail (King’s Trail)

Aimakapā

Kaloko

Fort Alexander

Kahinihiniula (Queen’s Bath)

Kailua-Kona to Kawaihae

Kohala Coast

Ka‘ūpūlehu

‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay

Kalāhuipua‘a Fishponds

Malama Trail

Puakō

Hokuloa Church

Hāpuna Beach

Hāpuna Beach State Park

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau

Mailekini Heiau

Hale o Kapuni Heiau

Pelekane

Waimea (Kamuela)

‘Imiola Church

W. M. Keck Observatory Office

Waimea Visitor Center

Kamuela Museum

Parker Ranch Historic Homes, Museum, and Visitor Center

Mānā Hale

Pu‘uōpelu

Pu‘u-o-Mahuka Heiau

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Mo‘okini Heiau

Pōhaku-holehole-kānaka

Kapa‘au and Hāwī

Statue of King Kamehameha I

Kalāhikiola Church

Pololū Valley Lookout / Pololū Beach

Waipi‘o Valley

Hi‘ilawe Falls

Waipi‘o Valley Overlook

Kukuihale

Mauna KeaVolcano

NortheastCoast 

Waipi‘o to Hilo along the Hāmākua Coast

Honoka‘a

Kalopā State Recreation Area

Laupāhoehoe Point / Onomea Drive

Laupāhoehoe Train Museum and Visitor Center

Honomū

‘Akaka Falls State Park

‘Akaka Falls

Kahūnā Falls

Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden

Pepe‘ekeo Scenic Route

Hilo 

Banyan Drive

Lili‘uokalani Gardens

Kalākaua Park

Lyman House Memorial Museum and Mission House

Naha Stone and Pinao Stone

Pacific Tsunami Museum

Rainbow Falls State Park

Pe‘epe Falls / Boiling Pots

Nani Mau Gardens

Mauna LoaVolcano

Historic Eruptions

Recent Activity

Predicting Future Eruptions

Mauna Loa Visitor Center

 

Puna

Pāhoa

Lava Tree State Park

Waha‘ula Heiau

Punalu‘u

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park—Kīlauea Volcano

Summit Calderas

Chain of Craters Road

Pu‘u Lo‘a Petroglyph Area

Crater Rim Drive

Kīlauea Iki Crater

Kīpuka and Lava Trees

Lava Tubes and Skylights

Park Accommodations and Trails

Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater 

 


 

Hawai‘i Island

Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions

Kailua-Kona

Kailua-Kona is located at the base of the 8,271-foot (2,521-meter) high Hualālai Volcano on the island of Hawai‘i’s Kona Coast. King Kamehameha ran his kingdom from Kailua from 1812 until his death in 1819.

Today the Kona Coast provides great fishing, diving, and snorkeling opportunities. Boat charters depart from Kailua Pier as well as Honokōhau Harbor.

Kailua-Kona hosts the Ironman Triathlon every October. The popular and extremely competitive event involves swimming 2.4 miles (3.9 km) in the ocean, biking for 112 miles (180 km), and then running 26 miles (42 km). Each year about 1,500 contestants begin the event at Kailua Pier.

A seawall between Kailua Pier and Hulihe‘e Palace (see below) is a favorite local pole-and-line fishing spot. Kailua-Kona’s main street is Ali‘i Drive, which runs for 2 miles (3.2 km) along the coast.

Sport-fishing in the Kailua-Kona region is world renown, including ‘ahi (yellowfin tuna) as well as a‘u, the Hawaiian word for fish in the family Istiophoridae, which includes spearfish, swordfish, and marlin.

The most prized catch of all is the Pacific blue marlin, which may top 1,000 pounds (454 kg). A marlin weighing 1,805 pounds (819 kg) was caught off O‘ahu in 1970. Anglers congregate at the annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament every August.

North Kona is known for its macadamia nuts while South Kona is a major coffee production area.

Ahu‘ena Heiau / Kamakahonu

Ahu‘ena Heiau on the north end of Kailua Bay, across from Kailua Pier, is an ancient luakini heiau, a sacred place of worship where human sacrifices were offered. The heiau was restored by King Kamehameha I, and was located near his royal residence, called Kamakahonu (“The turtle eye”[i]), where he lived from 1812 until his death in 1819.

Ahu‘ena Heiau was also the site of the breaking of the kapu by King Kamehameha I’s son, Kalaninui ‘Iolani Liholiho, who took the throne on May 20, 1819.

Within months of assuming the throne, and with the urging and support of his mother, Queen Keōpūolani [Keōpūolanikauhiakama; Kalanikauika‘alaneokeōpūolani], and Kuhina Nui (Premier) Ka‘ahumanu, King Kamehameha II (Kalaninui ‘Iolani Liholiho) ate in public with the dowager queens, breaking the kapu (prohibition) against men and women eating together.

When the defiant act brought no retribution from the gods, eating together was no longer kapu, and this began a process that eroded away at traditional Hawaiian religious beliefs and eventually led to the complete overturning of the traditional kapu system.

Chief Kekuaokalani, the son of King Kamehameha I’s younger brother, rebelled against Liholiho’s abolishment of the eating kapu in favor of preserving traditional ways.

Because of this he was killed in an 1819 battle at Kuamo‘o against the forces of Kalanimoku [Kālaimoku; William (Billy) Pitt], which were supported by canoe-mounted American swivel guns (see Timeline: 1820, May 8). Terraced graves on the lava plain are a reminder of the estimated 300 warriors that died on the battlefield.

Ahu‘ena Heiau is now part of the grounds of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. A thatched structure on the site represents how the heiau may once have appeared, including ki‘i, carved statues of sacred images.

On display in the lobby of the hotel are large marlin from the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, including a 1,062 pound (482 kg) fish caught in 1986, and a 1,166 pound (529 kg) marlin caught in 1993. The fish were weighed in at nearby Kailua Pier.

Also on display at the hotel are many genuine Hawaiian artifacts and Hawaiian cultural exhibits, including musical instruments, and beautiful portraits of Hawaiian royalty, including a painting of King Kamehameha I by Herb Kane. Free historical tours (at 1:30 on weekdays) provide information about the lobby exhibits as well as the sacred sites located just outside the hotel.

[Ahu‘ena Heiau, 808-329-2911; located behind King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, 75-5660 Palani Road.]

Moku‘aikaua Church

Moku‘aikaua Church, with a steeple that rises to 112 feet (34 m), is located along the Kailua-Kona waterfront. Moku‘aikaua Church was originally a thatched structure, built in 1820, making it the first Christian church built in the Hawaiian Islands.

Then in 1823 under the direction of Kuakini [Kaluaikonahale; John Adams], the brother of Queen Ka‘ahumanu), four thousand people assisted in the construction of a lava rock church. The walls were held together by sand and coral lime mortar.

On December 10, 1823, Moku‘aikaua Church was dedicated, with Queen Ka‘ahumanu in attendance.

Unfortunately, an 1835 fire destroyed the church. Rebuilding began in 1836 using coral mortar and stones from an abandoned heiau. A steeple was also constructed. The rebuilding was completed in January of 1837, including an interior of native koa (Acacia koa).

At the back of Moku‘aikaua Church is a model of the brig Thaddeus, the ship that brought the First Company of American missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands in 1820. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1820, March 21.)

[Moku‘aikaua Church, 808-329-5179, 75-5713 Ali‘i Drive, Kailua-Kona.

Hulihe‘e Palace

Just across Ali‘i Drive from Moku‘aikaua Church is Hulihe‘e Palace, which was built in 1838 and is now restored as a museum. The palace was built by Kuakini [Kaluaikonahale; John Adams], Governor of Hawai‘i Island and brother of the late Queen Ka‘ahumanu. Hulihe‘e means “Turn flee.”[ii]

Hulihe‘e Palace was built of lava rock and coral mortar using the same construction as Moku‘aikaua Church, which was built by Kuakini one year earlier (see above). The construction Hulihe‘e Palace included the native woods of koa (Acacia koa) and ‘ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros species).

Hulihe‘e Palace later served as a home for Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani (the great granddaughter of King Kamehameha I), and then became the summer palace of King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua], who renamed it Hikulani Hale (“Seventh ruler house”). This name referred to himself, the seventh leader of the monarchy that began with King Kamehameha I.

Hulihe‘e Palace was later owned by Prince Kūhiō [Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Pi‘ikoi] (1871-1922), the nephew and adopted son of Queen Kapi‘olani. Prince Kūhiō had been named as heir presumptive to the throne by Queen Lili‘uokalani [Lydia Kamaka‘eha Pākī-Dominis Lili‘uokalani] after she ascended to the throne in 1891.

In 1885, King Kalākaua had Hulihe‘e Palace plastered over to give the building a more refined appearance. In 1927, The Daughters of Hawai‘i, dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of the Hawaiian Islands, restored Hulihe‘e Palace and turned it into a museum. Hula is performed at Hulihe‘e Palace on the last Sunday of each month at 4 p.m.

On display at Hulihe‘e Palace are many items of fine furniture as well as numerous Hawaiian artifacts, including the war spears of King Kamehameha I. The museum’s Palace Gift Shop sells books and gift items.

[Hulihe‘e Palace, 808-329-1877, 75-5718 Ali‘i Drive, Kailua-Kona; open 9-4 M-F, 10-4 weekends.]

St. Michael’s Church

A thatched chapel on Ali‘i Drive represents Kona’s first Catholic Church, originally built in 1840. The thatched structure is next to the newer church, which was built in 1850. A coral grotto shrine on display in front of the church includes 2,500 coral heads.

[St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 808-326-7771, 75-5769 Ali‘i Drive.]

South of Kailua-Kona

South of Kailua-Kona is Keauhou and numerous small towns—Honalo,[iii] Kainaliu, Kealakekua, Captain Cook, and Hōnaunau. Off the main road is Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, as well as Ho‘okena (“To satisfy thirst”[iv]) and Miloli‘i, which means “Fine twist (as sennit cord),” possibly referring to “...an expert sennit twister who lived there.”[v]

Beyond Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Māmalahoa Highway are Wai‘ōhinu (“Shiny water”[vi]), Nā‘ālehu (“The volcanic ashes”[vii]) and Punalu‘u (“Coral dived for”[viii]). The southernmost point on Hawai‘i Island and in all of the Hawaiian Islands is Ka Lae, also known as South Point.

Keauhou

Keauhou is located along the coast south of Kailua-Kona, beginning at Kahalu‘u Beach, which is protected by an ancient stone wall known as the Menehune Breakwater, which is said to have been built by the legendary ancient race of people known as menehune (See Menehune section, Chapter 3).

Though the wall is battered by waves and time, it continues to create an ideal snorkeling area teeming with reef fish and other marine life.

Kahalu‘u Beach provides excellent snorkeling opportunities and a black sand beach. St. Peter’s Catholic Church is located on the north side of Kahalu‘u Bay.

The small, blue-tin-roofed church is affectionately known as the “Little Blue Church,” and is the site of many weddings. It is also one of the most photographed churches in the Islands. The blue-tin-roofed church was moved from White Sands Beach in 1912.

Though Keauhou is now the site of hotels, condos, and a golf course, it was once a major Hawaiian settlement. Some historical and cultural sites still stand amidst the more modern structures.

Located on the north side of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Ku‘emanu Heiau was used by Hawaiian royalty as a place to pay respects to their gods before surfing the waves of Kahalu‘u Bay.

Kapuanoni / King Kalākaua’s Summer Beach House

Located just south of Kahalu‘u Beach is the Keauhou Beach Resort, where several historical sites may be seen. On the north side of the hotel are the ruins of Kapuanoni, a fishing heiau (sacred place of worship).

Just inland is King Kalākaua’s summer beach house (now reconstructed), located next to a spring-fed pond once used by Hawaiian royalty.

Ke‘ekū Heiau.

Ke‘ekū Heiau is located on the south side of Keauhou Beach Resort. Also to the south of the hotel is a tidepool area where one may see a variety of marine life including sea urchins and reef fish (low tide is best).

Also exposed at low tide are lava rocks etched with petroglpyphs. These petroglyphs are located just off the north end of the closed Kona Lagoon Hotel, and may be seen when the water recedes (low tide).

[Keauhou Beach Resort, 800-922-7866, 78-6740 Ali‘i Drive, Kailua-Kona.]

Keauhou Bay—Birthplace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli)

Keauhou Bay provides safe harbor for a couple of dozen small boats and is a popular launching point for outrigger canoe paddlers. A stone at the site marks the location as the birthplace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli).

[Keauhou Bay, Directions: From Ali‘i Drive, turn right on Kamehameha III Road.]

Kealakekua

The Kona Historical Society Museum is located in Kealakekua in the old Greenwell Store, a stone building constructed in 1875 by Henry N. Greenwell. The Museum exhibits ancient Hawaiian artifacts as well as memorabilia relating to the island’s history of cattle ranching and coffee plantations.

The homestead was first established in 1850, eventually including a cattle ranch, store, post office, and sheep station.

The Kona Historical Society offers walking tours of local areas. Also in Kealakekua is the Kona Union Church, constructed of lava rock in 1854.

Kealakekua means “Pathway [of] the God,”[ix] referring to a string of heiau (sacred places of worship), perhaps 40 or more, that once stretched from Kailua Kona to Kealakekua.

[Kona Historical Society Museum, 808-323-3222, 81-6551 Māmalahoa Highway (Hwy. 11), 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Kealakekua town, www.konahistorical.org; open 9-3 Mon.-Fri.]

Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay, now a marine life preserve, is where Captain Cook was killed in 1779. Cook’s death occurred on the north end of Kealakekua Bay, and is now marked by the Captain Cook Monument, a white obelisk monument that stands 27 feet (8.2 m) tall. The memorial is reached by Nāpō‘opo‘o Rd., about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the town of Captain Cook.

On February 4, 1779, Cook left Kealakekua Bay to survey the other Hawaiian Islands before heading off again on his explorations. As Cook and his crew departed, the foremast of the HMS Resolution broke, and Cook returned to Kealakekua Bay. Various differing accounts have been given detailing how Captain Cook died, but the story is generally told as follows:

One of Cook’s boats (a cutter, the Discovery’s largest boat) was stolen during the night of February 13. In the morning Cook’s men blockaded the harbor so no one could escape.

Cook went ashore with nine of his men to retrieve the boat. Their plan was to bring Kalani‘ōpu‘u (the ruler of the island of Hawai‘i) back to the ship, and then hold him captive until the stolen boat was returned.

Cook and his men awakened the chief and compelled him to come to the ship, and then they proceeded toward shore. Meanwhile, a canoe attempted to pass the harbor blockade, and members of Cook’s crew fired on the natives, killing a chief.

A large crowd gathered nearshore when the natives learned that one of their chiefs had been killed. Just then Cook and his men, with Kalani‘ōpu‘u, reached shore to go out to the ship.

In an encounter with the angry natives, Cook and his men fired upon the group. As they reloaded they were attacked. Cook yelled for his men to “Take to the boats!,” but it was too late. Cook was stabbed in the neck and killed, and floated face down in the water. At least four of Cook’s men were also killed.

Accounts of this event as well as the events of the following days vary. See Captain Cook section in Chapter 3 for more information.

[Kealakekua Bay, end of Nāpō‘opo‘o Road.]

Hikiau Heiau State Monument

When Nāpō‘opo‘o Road reaches the ocean, Nāpō‘opo Beach Park is to the right. This is also the location of Hikiau Heiau, now designated as a State Monument.

Hikiau Heiau was a luakini (temple where human sacrifices were performed), and was also the place where Captain Cook was brought when he first arrived at Kealakekua in 1779. Kāhuna (native priests) put sacred red kapa (tapa) barkcloth on Cook and offered sacred chants.

Many uncertainties remain about how the native people regarded Captain Cook (e.g., as the god Lono) and why particular honors were bestowed upon him. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1779, Jan. 17.) Hikiau means “Moving current,”[x] referring to the tumultuous ocean at the nearby surfing site. (See The Early Battles of Pai‘ea Kamehameha, Chapter 17.)

[Hikiau Heiau, end of Nāpō‘opo‘o Road, Kealakekua Bay.]

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church

St. Benedict’s Catholic Church was once located on the shore of Kealakekua Bay near Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, the sacred place of refuge (see below). Around 1900 the church was moved 2 miles (3.2 km) to its present location.

Known as “the painted church,” St. Benedict’s includes a Gothic Revival steeple built by the Belgian-born Father John Berchmans Velghe, who came to the Hawaiian Islands in 1899. Velghe’s paintings on the church walls were intended to help the native Hawaiians learn the Bible.

The wall directly behind the alter is modeled after the Gothic cathedral in Burgos, Spain. Hawaiian hymns are still sung at the Sunday services.

[St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, 808-328-2227, 84-5140 Painted Church Road, Hōnaunau. Directions: From Highway 160; go ¼ mile (.4 km) north at Mile Marker 1.]

Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens

This 15-acre (6-ha) ethnobotanical garden near Captain Cook on the island of Hawai‘i includes examples of coastal habitat as well as lowland dry forest and upland forest habitats as Hawaiians used them in ancient times. The Garden includes an archaeological remnant of an ancient Kona Field System, covering about 5 acres (2 ha).

The Garden’s collection of about 250 different native and Polynesian-introduced plants includes many food and fiber crops such as kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro), mai‘a (Musa species, banana), ‘ulu (Artocarpus altilis, breadfruit), ‘uala (Ipomoea batatas, sweet potatoes), uhi (Dioscorea alata, yam), kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane), ‘awa (Piper methysticum, kava), ‘ōhi‘a ‘ai (Eugenia malaccense, mountain apple) and wauke (Broussonetia papyrifera, paper mulberry). (See Native and Polynesian-Introduced Plants sections, Chapters 8 and 9, for more information about the plants mentioned above.)

[Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens, 808-323-3318, 82-6188 Māmalahoa Highway (Hwy. 19), Captain Cook, www.bishopmuseum.org/greenwell, open M-F, 8:30-5.]

[Photograph: Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden]

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Located along the South Kona coastline on Hōnaunau Bay is Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. The Historical Park encompasses 180 acres (73 ha), including the royal grounds, a heiau (sacred place of worship), and a pu‘uhonua (place of refuge) located on the westernmost point of the site.

The ancient heiau and pu‘uhonua have been reconstructed, along with ki‘i, carved images of ancient gods.

Within the Historical Park is a 10-foot (3-m) high, 1,000-foot (305-m) long, 17-foot (5.2-m) thick stone wall thought to be built without mortar around A.D. 1550, and is now known as the “Great Wall.” The wall was apparently constructed long after the heiau was constructed (possibly around A.D. 1200 or earlier).

The royal grounds are located on the east side of the wall, while the pu‘uhonua (place of refuge) is located on the west side of the wall. A self-guided walk is detailed in the park brochure, and includes other nearby heiau as well as a petroglyph site, loko ‘ia (fishpond), and lava tree molds.

Located on the coastal point is the reconstructed heaiu (sacred place of worship) called Hale-o-Keawe (“House of Keawe”[xi]). Constructed by Keaweikekahiali‘iokamoku [Keawe] around 1650, or possibly by his son Kanuha, the sacred site was formerly the repository of the bones of 23 chiefs.

These bones were said to have held mana (spiritual power), which was imparted to those that came near and also brought stronger protection to the pu‘uhonua, where those who broke the kapu could go to avoid being put to death.

Once located near the center of the site was a heiau known as ‘Āle‘ale‘a (“Light [of] joy”[xii]). After Hale-o-Keawe was constructed, ‘Āle‘ale‘a was used for games and sporting events.

[Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, 808-328-2288; 20 miles (32 km) south of Kailua-Kona, www.nps.gov, Mon.-Thurs., 6 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sun., 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; Visitor Center open 8-4:30 daily.]

Miloli‘i

The remote Hawaiian fishing area known as Miloli‘i is located 5 miles (8 km) off of Highway 11 (Hawai‘i Belt Road) south of Hōnaunau.

Manukā State Park and Natural Reserve Area

Manukā Natural Reserve Area is an 8-acre (3.2-ha) arboretum, has a picnic area as well as a 2-mile (3.2 km) interpretive nature trail through native forest and past a pit crater. This land of lava is the site of buried villages.

[Manukā State Park and Natural Reserve Area, 808-974-6200, Highway 11, north of Mile Marker 81; open daily 7-7.]

Ka Lae (South Point)

Ka Lae, also known as South Point, is the southernmost location on the island of Hawai‘i and also the southernmost point in the United States. Ka Lae means “The Point.”[xiii]

Some old structures on the coast at South Point were used around the turn of the century to lower cattle and produce onto ships. Also seen on the cliffs are canoe-mooring holes thought to be carved more than 1,000 years ago.

[Ka Lae (South Point), Directions: take Māmalahoa Highway (Hwy. 11) to just past Mile Marker 70, turn south on South Point Road, drive 12 miles (19 km).]

Mahana Beach (Green Sand Beach)

Mahana Beach is reached by a 2¼ mile (3.6 km) hike that begins near South Point at the Kaulana Boat Launch. The beach’s green sand comes from a vein of the semi-precious gem mineral olivine in a nearby littoral cone that the waves slowly pulverize into sand.

Mahana’s green sand is mixed with black sand. The occasional olivine nugget is also found, particularly at the next cove over, which is accessed from the northeast end of Mahana.

North of Kailua-Kona

Honokōhau Harbor

At Honokōhau Harbor, built in 1970, you will see fishermen weighing in their catches of ‘ahi (yellowfin tuna) and a‘u (marlin). From 11:30-3:30 is generally the best time to see the big fish come in.

The harbor complex includes a restaurant, bar, and fish market. Honokōhau means “Bay drawing dew.”[xiv]

[Honokōhau Harbor, 2 miles (3.2 m) northwest of Kailua-Kona on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy. 19).]

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Located near Honokōhau Harbor, the Historic Park encompasses the oceanfront land between Honokōhau Harbor and Kaloko. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park was designated a National Park in 1978, and spans over an area of 1,160 acres (469 ha), including several important cultural sites.

Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park also includes three beaches. Just north of Honokōhau Harbor is ‘Ai‘ōpio Beach, with a protected area that is great for kids. ‘Ai‘ōpio means “Youth eating.”[xv]

Honokōhau Beach, north of Honokōhau Harbor, is about ¾-mile (1.2 km) long with large grain sand (a mix of shells, lava, and white coral), and includes the remains of ancient loko ‘ia (fishponds).

The beach is reached by taking Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy. 19) to the Honokōhau Harbor road, turning right and going ¼ mile (.4 km) to the trail that begins at the gap in the lava wall. ‘Alula Beach is located beyond the lava to the left of the entrance to Honokōhau Harbor (at the south end of the harbor).

Within Kaloko-Honokōhau is an ancient heiau (sacred place of worship), and an ancient stone footpath known as Māmalahoa Trail, or King’s Trail. About 1 mile (1.6 km) of the trail has been restored. Also located within the park are ancient burial caves. Some say King Kamehameha I was secretly buried here.

Fishponds at Kaloko-Honokōhau include Aimakapā (to the south) and Kaloko (to the north). Also located at Kaloko-Honokōhau are petroglyph sites as well as an ancient site once used for he‘e hōlua (hōlua sledding), where papa hōlua (wooden sleds) were used to slide down a hillside or a ramp slide constructed of stone and lined with pili grass (Heteropogon contortus, twisted beardgrass) or tassels of kō (Saccharum officinarum, sugarcane).

Located in the middle of a lava flow (just inland from a spot about 200 yards (183 m) from the north end of Honokōhau Beach) is Kahinihiniula (Queen’s Bath), a brackish water lava pool that is about 20 by 15 feet (6 by 49 m).

The pond is spring fed and seemingly disconnected from the ocean, yet its water level is affected by the ocean tide, and the water in the pool is brackish. Twelve large rock piles surround the pool.

[Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park, 808-329-6881, www.nps.gov, open 8-3:30. The access road to the park is located north of Kailua-Kona, and south of the airport, off Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy. 19) between Mile Markers 96 and 97, or from Honokōhau Harbor.]

Kailua-Kona to Kawaihae

This 33-mile (53-km) route north of Kailua-Kona, along the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hwy. 19) is known as the Kohala Coast. This stretch of road goes through a hot and dry moonscape of lava flows of many different shapes, textures, and colors.

Also along the way are several world-class resorts, including: The Four Seasons Resort Hualālai; Kona Village Resort; Royal Waikaloan; Hilton Waikōloa Village; Waikōloa Resort; Mauna Lani Resort; Hāpuna Beach Prince Hotel; and Mauna Kea Beach Resort.

Amidst these resorts are numerous important historical, cultural, and archaeological sites. The Kona Village Resort, built on the site of the ancient fishing village at Ka‘ūpūlehu also has a boardwalk from which ancient petroglyphs may be viewed.

Petroglyphs can also be seen on the old King’s Trail at Waikōloa Resort on ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay, the site of ancient heiau and houses as well as fishponds. Locally known as A-Bay, ‘Anaeho‘omalu Bay is protected by an offshore reef that makes the waters safe for swimming unless the surf is exceptionally large.

The area around the Mauna Lani Resort includes numerous archaeological sites as well the restored Kalāhuipua‘a Fishponds, just south of the hotel. The loko i‘a (fishponds) are connected to the ocean through mākāhā (sluice gates), and stocked with awa (Chanos chanos, milkfish). Kalāhuipua‘a means “The family [of] pigs.”[xvi]

The Malama Trail leads 1.4 miles (2.3 km) north of the Mauna Lani Resort to Puakō, the site of more than 3,000 petroglyphs. Also at Puakō is Hokuloa Church, constructed in 1859 by missionary Rev. Lorenzo Lyons.

[King’s Shops, 808-886-8811 (guided tours of King’s Trail).]

[Hokuloa Church, 808-883-8295, Puakō Beach Drive.]

Hāpuna Beach

Hāpuna is the site of a beautiful white sand beach, which is located near the Hāpuna Prince Hotel, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Kailua-Kona. Hāpuna Beach is about ½-mile (.8-m) long and about 200 feet (61 m) wide (during the summer). Part of the 61-acre (25 ha) Hāpuna Beach State Park, Hapunā Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island of Hawai‘i.

Voted top in the nation by Condé Nast Travel Magazine, Hāpuna is a crescent beach with rocks at each end. It’s a great swimming and snorkeling beach in the summer when the water is generally calm.

During the winter, however, rough surf and strong currents create dangerous ocean conditions. Restrooms are available, as well as picnic pavilions. Hāpuna is a popular body boarding beach, and body boards and snorkeling gear are available for rent.

North of the Hāpuna Beach is a small cove that is often calmer than the main beach. A-frame cabins are available for rent at Hāpuna.

[Hāpuna Beach, 808-974-6200; located off Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway (Hawai‘i 19), near Mile Marker 69, 12 miles (19.3 km) north of Waikōloa, between Mauna Lani Resort and Mauna Ke‘a Beach.]

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau

Pu‘ukoholā Heiau overlooks the Pacific Ocean at Kawaihae about 30 miles (48 km) north of Kailua-Kona, and north of Hāpuna.

The rising warrior Kamehameha constructed Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, a luakini heiau (where human sacrifices were performed), as a result of a 1790 prophecy that it would allow him to unite all of the Islands under his rule (see Chapter 11, Timeline: 1775).

Kamehameha had thousands of his men work to construct the 224-foot (68-m) long, 100-foot (30-m) high structure. A chain of people 20 miles (32 km) long passed stones from hand-to-hand all the way to the site. The stones were laid by hand, without mortar.

With construction of the heiau Pu‘ukoholā at Kawaihae completed in 1791, Kamehameha asked Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula [Keōua] (chief of the island of Hawai‘i Island’s Puna and Ka‘ū districts) to attend the dedication, saying his presence was important if there was to be peace between the rivals. Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and 26 of his chiefs and friends, including the highest chiefs of Ka‘ū, arrived at Kawaihae Bay in two large canoes

Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula was in one of the canoes, and in the other canoe was a young chief named Pauli Ka‘ōleiokū, the son of Kamehameha (his first child) and Kānekapōlei (who was also the mother of Keōuakuahu‘ula with Kalani‘ōpu‘u). Greeting Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and his men were Kamehameha’s war canoes arranged in a great crescent shape surrounding Kawaihae Bay to prevent Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula’s escape.

Kamehameha’s men onshore had muskets and cannons. Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula and many of his chiefs and other members of his group were killed. [Note: Historical accounts of this event (by prominent early historians) differ considerably on various points. See Appendix 2: Writings of Ancient Hawaiian History]

After the initial attack on Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula [Keōua], Kamehameha reportedly prevented his men from attacking the people in the other canoe (including Kamehameha’s son). The bodies of the killed chiefs (including Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula [Keōua]) were then sacrificed on the altar of the luakini heiau (where human sacrifices were performed) atop the hill at Pu‘ukoholā.

With his rival, Keōuakū‘ahu‘ula, dead, Kamehameha controlled the island of Hawai‘i. Today the heiau’s impressive stone foundation remains, but the site was once adorned with a thatched structure as well as ki‘i (sacred carved images).

Also found at the Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site are the ruins of Mailekini Heiau, thought to have been constructed around 1550, and used by King Kamehameha‘s ancestors. King Kamehameha used the heiau as a fort. Hale o Kapuni Heiau, dedicated to a shark god, is now submerged offshore. A visitor center proves information about the three heiau. Pu‘ukoholā means “Whale hill.”[xvii] The park encompasses 77 acres (31 ha).

Nearby is Pelekane, where the royal court was located. Across the highway is the homestead of John Young (I) [‘Olohana], military advisor and ally of King Kamehameha. John Young (I) later became Governor of Hawai‘i Island.

Note: Pu‘ukoholā means “Whale hill”[xviii] according to Pūku‘i, but was later explained by Frazier to instead be spelled Pu‘ukohola (no macron), and meaning “built as the house of the god, a pu‘u [desire] for death and not for life. The death which was to be bound securely within this heiau was in the lagoon (kai kohola) and not in the deep sea nor on land.”[xix]

[Pu‘ukoholā National Historic Site, 808-882-7218, Akoni Pule Highway (Hwy. 270), 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Kawaihae, www.nps.gov; open 7:30-4 daily.]

Waimea (Kamuela)

In the Kohala Mountain foothills, the town of Waimea (also called Kamuela) sits at an elevation of about 2,670 feet (814 m). The Waimea-Kohala region is paniolo country, but also includes high-tech science enterprises, fancy restaurants, and many cultural sites. In recent years many homes have been built in the area’s new subdivisions located on former ranch land.

Kamuela is Hawaiian for Samuel, and is said by some to refer to Samuel Spencer, a former postmaster. The more common belief, however, is that Kamuela refers to Samuel Parker. Surrounding the town is the historic Parker Ranch, one of the nation’s largest and oldest ranches.

Headquartered in Waimea, Parker Ranch is the largest ranch in the Hawaiian Islands and also larger than any other single-owned private ranch in the United States. The ranch covers nearly 10% of the island of Hawai‘i (see below).

Waimea’s ‘Imiola Church was established by Father Lyons. The church’s interior is constructed using native koa (Acacia koa), and calabashes are suspended from the ceiling. ‘Imiola Church was established in 1832 and then rebuilt in 1837. ‘Imiola means “Seek salvation.”[xx]

Waimea is also home to many international astronomers who work at the observatories atop Mauna Kea (see Mauna Kea Astronomy, Chapter 4). Some exhibits and a short video may be seen at the W. M. Keck Observatory Office in the town center.

The Waimea Visitor Center is located in the historic Lindsey House, a ranch cabin built in 1909 and now restored. Operated by the Waimea Preservation Association, the visitor center provides information about historic and cultural sites of the Kohala region.

[‘Imiola Church, Church Lane, Waimea, 808-855-4987.]

[W. M. Keck Observatory Office, 8-4:30, M-F.]

[Waimea Visitor Center, 65-1291 Kawaihae Road, Waimea, www.northhawaii.net, 808-885-6707; open 9:30-4:30 Mon.-Sat.]

Kamuela Museum

[Kamuela Museum, 808-885-4724, Kawaihae-Kohala Junction, Highways 19 and 250, Kamuela, open 8-5 daily.]

Parker Ranch Historic Homes, Museum, and Visitor Center

Parker Ranch Museum includes exhibits dedicated to the life of John Palmer Parker and his descendants. John Palmer Parker first saw the Hawaiian Islands aboard a fur trading ship. After jumping ship and staying in the Hawaiian Islands for a while, Parker traveled to China during the War of 1812.

Parker returned to the Hawaiian Islands, arriving in Waimea on Hawai‘i Island in 1815 to kill wild cattle for King Kamehameha I. The animals had proliferated in Waimea due to a kapu (prohibition) placed upon them with the intention of letting the animals multiply after they were brought to the island by George Vancouver in 1793 (see Chapter 11, Timeline: 1792, March 5).

Parker was contracted to shoot cattle for their meat, which was salted and sold to visiting ships. The hides were also exported. John Palmer Parker later claimed to have shot well more than 1,000 cattle.

Parker was later a supervisor of loko i‘a (fishponds) for King Kamehameha I. Parker married Kipikane, daughter of a cousin of Kānekapōlei, the wife of Kalani‘ōpu‘u. Parker’s wife took the Christian name Rachel, and gave birth to two sons and a daughter.

John Palmer Parker began building up his own cattle herd. He also built a sawmill and acquired thousands of acres of grazing land.

John Palmer Parker’s son, John Palmer Parker II, continued to increase the size of the ranch. In 1837, John Palmer Parker II began a cattle ranch on the northern part of the island of Hawai‘i.

Today Parker Ranch encompasses more than 225,000 acres (91,054 ha), along with more than 30,000 head of cattle (Angus and Charolais), with an annual production of more than 15 million pounds (6.8 million kg) of beef. The ranch also has about 250 horses and 850 miles (1,369 km) of fence.

The Parker Ranch Museum, located in the Visitor Center, includes various memorabilia relating to the Parker family (e.g., portraits) as well as the cattle ranch (e.g., saddles, antique ranching tools, etc.). Also on display are various ancient Hawaiian artifacts. A 45-minute horse-drawn wagon tour leaves from the Visitor Center.

Tickets to visit Parker Ranch Historic Homes may be purchased at Parker Ranch Museum. Located just south of Waimea, the homes include a recreation of John Palmer Parker’s original 1840s home, called Mānā Hale (“House of the spirit”) with its original koa interior.

The house was once the center of ranch operations, and was also used extensively for entertaining guests by the John Palmer Parker’s grandson, Samuel Parker, and his wife Panana.

Another historic home available for tours is located on a scenic hill called Pu‘ōpelu. Originally purchased by John Palmer Parker II, Pu‘ōpelu was also the residence of Richard Smart, a 6th generation Parker who collected European art (e.g., Renoir, Degas) as well as antique vases from China, and other fine art (one of the Hawaiian Islands’ most prominent private art collections).

Visitors to the homes are also shown the grounds, which include well-manicured gardens. Parker Ranch also offers Hawaiian craft demonstrations, horseback riding, wagon rides, and hot air ballooning.

[Parker Ranch Historic Homes, Museum, and Visitor Center, 808-885-7655, Highway 19, Waimea, www.parkerranch.com; Museum open 9-5 Mon.-Sat. Directions: Turnoff on Māmalahoa Highway (Hwy. 190), ¾-mile (1.2 km) south of Highway 19. Parker Ranch Historic Homes, 808-885-5433, Hwy. 190, Kamuela. Home tours are offered from 10-5 daily.]

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park is the site of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village called Koai‘e, which was inhabited as long as 600 years ago. The self-guided walking tour is about 1 mile (1.6 km) long and includes interpretive exhibits about traditional practices (e.g., fishing, salt gathering, native plant propagation).

[Lapakahi State Historical Park, 808-974-6200, makai (ocean side) of Akoni Pule Highway (Hwy. 270), North Kohala, 12 miles (19 km) north of Kawaihae, North Kohala.]


Mo‘okini Heiau

On the northern point of the island of Hawai‘i is the heiau known as Mo‘okini (“Many lineages”[xxi]), with walls that are about 259 feet (79 m) long by 125 feet (38 m) wide, and up to 25 feet (7.6 m) high and 10 feet (3 m) thick.

Mo‘okini Heiau is thought to have been built as early as A.D. 480 with lava rocks that were passed along a chain of people stretching over 9 miles (14.5 km) along the coast from Niuli‘i.

An altar at the northern end of the heiau is said to have been added around the 12th century by a Tahitian kahuna (priest) by the name of Pā‘ao, who introduced the practice of human sacrifice to the Hawaiian Islands.

According to tradition, sometime before the year A.D. 1200, Pā‘ao founded the high priest line known as kahuna nui. Pā‘ao returned to Tahiti and brought back a chief named Pili, who ruled the island of Hawai‘i and sired the royal line leading to King Kamehameha I, beginning a 700-year dynasty.

Pā‘ao also introduced the war god Kūkā‘ilimoku, and the goddess of fire and volcanoes, Pele. Pā‘ao initiated the social order that separated ali‘i (royalty), kāhuna (priests and experts in a given profession), maka‘āinana (commoners who were mostly farmers), and the kauā (or kauwā) class, who were the lowest outcast members.

Place Names of Hawaii (1974) states, “Stones near here [Mo‘okini Heiau] were called Pā‘ao’s canoe, paddles, and fishhooks, and the fields he cultivated were called nā mau‘u o Pā‘ao (Pā‘ao’s grasses) and left untouched for fear of storms. A stone east of the heiau was called Pōhaku-holehole-kānaka (stone [for] stripping human [flesh]).”[xxii] After the sacrificial victims had their flesh removed, “the bones were made into fishhooks and other objects.” [xxiii]

Mo‘okini Heiau was dedicated to the war god Kūkā‘ilimoku, and became a luakini, where human sacrifices were performed. Before the arrival of Pā‘ao the Hawaiians had built various heiau, but Pā‘ao constructed the first luakini (temple of human sacrifice). This luakini was called Waha‘ula (“Red Mouth”[xxiv]), a seacoast heiau built in the 13th century at Puna on Hawai‘i Island. (See Waha‘ula Heiau in Puna section below.)

[Mo‘okini Heiau & Kamehameha ‘Akahi ‘Aina Hānau, 808-974-6200. Directions: From Mile Marker 20 on Akoni Pule Highway (Hwy. 270), near Hāwī, at the ‘Upolu Airport sign, go north 1¾ miles (2.8 km) to ‘Upolu Airport and turn left (parallel to coast). Go 1½ miles (2.4 km) to fork in road and go left. This last part of the road may require a four-wheel drive vehicle if it has been raining. Park near the gate and walk to Mo‘okini Heiau (about a five minute walk).]

Kapa‘au and Hāwī

Back in the days when sugar plantations were thriving in the Hawaiian Islands, Kapa‘au and Hāwī were bustling plantation towns with bustling saloons, theaters, hotels, and a railroad. Many of the town’s old structures are now restored, and house various gift shops and restaurants.

One of Kapa‘au’s main attractions is the Statue of King Kamehameha in front of the North Kohala Civic Center not far from where the future ruler of the Hawaiian Kingdom was born. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1753.)

This statue of King Kamehameha at Kapa‘au is the original 9-ton (8-mton) statue cast by American sculptor Thomas Gould in Italy in 1883 (based on an early engraving). It was lost in transport to the Hawaiian Islands, but later found in the Falkland Islands soon after a duplicate statue arrived in Honolulu.

The King Kamehameha I statue is about 8½ feet (2.6 m) tall, showing the warrior king holding an ihe (spear), and wearing a mahiole (feather-crested helmet). He is also wearing an ‘ahu ‘ula (royal feather cloak) a malo (loin cloth), and kāma‘a‘ie (braided sandals). The statue is said to represent King Kamehameha I at the age of about 45.

The duplicate statue now stands in front of O‘ahu’s Ali‘iōlani Hale, the judiciary building opposite ‘Iolani Palace. The O‘ahu King Kamehameha I statue was unveiled in 1883 as part of King Kalākaua’s coronation ceremony at ‘Iolani Palace. (See Statue of King Kamehameha I in O‘ahu section, Chapter 2.)

Kapa‘au’s Kalāhikiola Church was constructed in 1855 by Elias and Ellen Bond, Protestant missionaries who came to Kohala in 1841. The church was damaged by a 1973 earthquake but later restored.

[Kalāhikiola Church, Kapa‘au—Location: Near Mile Marker 24, ½-mile (.8 km) east of King Kamehameha statue, drive inland ½-mile (.8 km).]

Pololū Valley Lookout / Pololū Beach

Pololū Valley Lookout is located at the end of Akoni Pule Highway (Hwy. 270) on Hawai‘i Island’s northwest coast. The view from above looks over Pololū Beach about 400 feet (122 m) below, where the shoreline is pounded by waves.

Pololū is accessible only by kayak, or by descending a steep trail on foot or mule. The trail takes about 20 minutes to walk, and a good viewing spot is located about half way down.

Black lava worn away from the river bed is responsible for the black sands of Pololū Beach, including sand dunes up to 100 feet (30 m) high (mostly grown over). Due to large waves and strong currents. Pololū is not a recommended swimming beach. A trail on the opposite side of Pololū Valley leads up and over to the next valley called Honokāne (“Kāne’s Bay”[xxv]).

Pololū Valley was once well-populated by Hawaiians. The waterworn stones of Pololū were highly valued for use in Hawaiian construction projects, including King Kamehameha’s construction of the infamous heiau Pu‘ukoholā at Kawaihae, 25 miles (40 km) away.

[Pololū Valley, end of Akoni Pule Highway (Hwy. 270), east of Kapa‘au.]

Waipi‘o Valley

In ancient days Waipi‘o Valley was the home of Hawaiian ali‘i (royalty). Today Waipi‘o Valley is home to probably less than 100 residents, but each day many visitors descend the extremely steep 4-wheel-drive-only road down the 2000-foot (610-m) cliffs into the valley. Walking down the road into the valley is also an option, but be prepared for a hardy hike back up.

Waipi‘o Valley is about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide by 5 miles (8 km) deep, culminating at the island of Hawai‘i’s tallest waterfall, Hi‘ilawe Falls, which drops more than 1,200 feet (366 m) down the Kohala Mountains.

Atop the hill above Waipi‘o Valley, at the beginning of the road down, is the Waipi‘o Valley Overlook. The Overlook provides a stunning view into the steep-walled valley that is the first of seven amphitheater valleys of the Kohala Mountains. A shuttle tour of Waipi‘o Valley is also available.

[Waip‘o Valley, Hāmākua Coast Highway (Hwy. 240), 8 miles (12.9 km) northwest of Honoka‘a.]

Kukuihaele

The tiny town of Kukuihaele is located on a short loop road off Highway 240, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) from the Waip‘o Valley Overlook. Kukuihaele means “Traveling light,” and it was said to be the home of “...a healing god, Ka-maka-nui-‘aha‘ilono (the great eye messenger).”[xxvi]

The town of Kukuihaele includes the Last Chance Store (open Mon.-Sat., 9-5), and Waipi‘o Valley Artworks (open 8-5, daily).

Mauna KeaVolcano

Mauna Kea Volcano is dormant, but not extinct. Just 3,000 to 4,500 years ago, Mauna Kea’s most recent eruptions formed some of the volcanic cinder cones near the summit. The summit is also home to rare plants and several native insect species, including a tiny, wingless predator known as the wēkiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola). Wēkiu means “Summit,” or “Peak.”[xxvii]

The wēkiu bug has dark coloration to absorb heat, and also has an antifreeze substance in its blood that allows it to withstand the freezing temperatures. The wēkiu is about ¼-inch (6 mm) long, and feeds on insects blown up on the winds from lower habitats, first injecting the prey with digestive enzymes. The population of the wēkiu rises when there is lots of snow.

Mauna Kea’s summit is a sacred place in Hawaiian culture. The summit contains petroglyphs, religious shrines, burial sites, and an adze quarry that is the largest in Polynesia.

Also at Mauna Kea’s summit area is Pu‘u Poli‘ahu cinder cone, home to Poli‘ahu, the Hawaiian snow goddess of Mauna Kea. An ancient proverb states, “Poli‘ahu, ka wahine kapa hau anu o Mauna Kea” (“Poli‘ahu, the woman who wears the snow mantle of Mauna Kea.”)[xxviii]

Some topographical features on the summit of Mauna Kea are the result of glacial events that coincided with the advancing and retreating of glaciers on Earth’s continents during the last 200,000 years. Just below Mauna Kea’s summit, at 13,020 feet (3,968 m), is a cold and shallow lake called Lake Wai‘au (“Swirling water”[xxix]), one of the world’s highest lakes.

Despite its fiery origin, Mauna Kea’s summit is now a frigid place, typically around 60º Fahrenheit in spring and summer, but often below freezing in the winter when it’s frequently wreathed in snow.

The Hawaiian meaning of Mauna Kea is “white mountain,”[xxx] reflecting the fact that Mauna Kea may see blizzard-like conditions about six times per year, and may see snow any month of the year. Snowdrifts sometimes build to 15 feet (4.6 m) high.

The summits of Mauna Kea Volcano and Mauna Loa Volcano both receive an average 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm) of snow per year. The summit area of Maui’s Haleakalā volcano only receives about half as much snow.

Mauna Kea’s summit is the highest peak in the Pacific Basin, at 13,796 feet (4,205 m) above sea level. Mauna Loa is technically “bigger” (more overall mass) than Mauna Kea. However, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth if measured from base to summit, rising more than 6.3 miles (10.2 km) from the seafloor. (See Mauna Kea Astronomy, Chapter 4.)

 

NortheastCoast 

Waipi‘o to Hilo along the Hāmākua Coast

The 45-mile (72-km) drive from Waipi‘o Valley to Hilo along Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19), also known as the Hilo-Hāmakua Heritage Coast, is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the Hawaiian Islands.

Highway 19 traverses Mauna Kea’s wet windward slopes and includes several cantilevered bridges spanning deep ravines. The coastal route includes many places to stop for stunning ocean views, shoreline adventures, major and minor waterfalls, and an array of interesting shops and restaurants.

Much of this corridor is former sugarcane land now planted with macadamia nut trees and a whole array of diversified agricultural products. Towns along the route include Honoka‘a, Pa‘auilo, and Honomū.

Honoka‘a

Honoka‘a is the largest town along the Hāmākua Coast, though it is still a small town with a population of only about 2,000. Honoka‘a’s main street, Māmane Street (Highway 240), is lined with 1920s era wooden buildings that hearken to bygone days. These buildings house various antique/gift/craft shops and galleries.

Honoka‘a is a former sugarcane boomtown that was inextricably linked to the Hamakua [Hāmākua] Sugar Company, which was established in 1873 and closed in 1994. Many of the Honoka‘a’s residents are descendants of immigrant sugarcane plant workers from Scotland, England, China, Portugal, Japan, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

Honoka‘a town also has a grocery store, and movies are shown on weekends at Honoka‘a People’s Theater, which is housed in a restored 1930 building.

Kalopā State Recreation Area

Kalopā State Recreation Area is located about 40 miles (64 km) north of Hilo and encompasses about 100 acres (40 ha). The park includes a great rainforest hike with lots of native plants and trees such as koa (Acacia koa) and ‘ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros species).

Depending on your route, the hike can be up to 4 miles (6.4 km), with an elevation change of about 400 feet (122 m). Camping facilities are available.

[Kalopā State Recreation Area. Directions: Off Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19) between Mile Markers 39 and 40.]

Laupāhoehoe Point / Onomea Drive

A sign on the highway marks the turnoff to Laupāhoehoe Point, which is located about halfway between Honoka‘a and Hilo. The turnoff leads 1-1/3 miles (2.1 km) down a twisting, scenic road to Laupāhoehoe Point, which was formed by a river of lava that flowed from a relatively late eruption of Mauna Kea. Laupāhoehoe Harbor has restrooms and picnic facilities.

The name Laupāhoehoe means “Smooth lava flat,”[xxxi] describing the flat peninsula that forms the point. A plaque at Laupāhoehoe memorializes those who perished in the April 1, 1946 tsunami, which swept away the village located there.

[Photograph: Tsunami memorial plaque.]

The April Fool’s Day 1946 tsunami was caused by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, 2,400 miles (3,862 km) north of the Hawaiian Islands. The first of the tsunami waves, which was said to resemble an extra high tide, arrived in the Hawaiian Islands about four hours later, around 6:30 a.m., surrounding homes and buildings.

The third and fourth waves were the biggest of some 15 tsunami waves, each arriving about 15 minutes after the previous one, with some of the waves reaching heights up to 56 feet (17 m) above sea level, killing people and destroying property.

Ninety-six people in Hilo were killed by the waves. Nearly 500 homes and businesses were destroyed and more than 1,000 more damaged along with railroads, bridges, piers and ships, totaling an estimated $26 million of damage.

Other coastal areas on the island of Hawai‘i were also affected, including Laupāhoehoe where 24 people were killed, including 21 school children. The schoolhouse on the point was demolished.

The 1946 tsunami also hit other Hawaiian Islands, killing 17 people on Kaua‘i, 13 on Maui, and six on O‘ahu (one at Makapu‘u, two at Kahuku, and three at Kahana). (See Tsunamis, Chapter 4.)

[Laupāhoehoe Point, 808-961-8311; located off Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19), north of Laupāhoehoe, daily, 7-sunset.]

Honomū

Honomū (“Silent bay”[xxxii]) is a historic former sugarcane plantation town located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Hilo. The town’s main street now includes wooden boardwalks and tin-roofed buildings that house a variety of shops featuring food as well as local woodwork and crafts.

[Honomū, 2 miles (3.2 km) mauka (toward the mountains) from Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19), on the way to ‘Akaka Falls.]

‘Akaka Falls State Park

Located off Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19) inland from Honomū is ‘Akaka Falls State Park. It is well worth the 20-minute hike to see the ‘Akaka Falls plunging 442 feet (135 m) straight down the cliff and down Kolekole Stream. The more it has been raining, of course, the more tumultuous the cascading waterfall.

Along the ½-mile (.8-km) circular trail is jungle-like vegetation including ferns, heliconia, orchids, fragrant ginger (red, pink, and blue), bamboo groves, and giant philodendron vines. Also seen along the trail is the 100-foot (30-m) high Kahūnā Falls.

[‘Akaka Falls State Park, 808-974-6200, ‘Akaka Falls Road (Hwy. 220), 3.5 miles (5.6 km) west of Honomū, open daily 7-7. Directions: Off Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19), near Honomū, turn inland on ‘Akaka Falls Road (Highway 220), between Mile Markers 13 and 14, and drive through Honomū and then another 3¾ miles (6 km) to ‘Akaka Falls State Park.]

Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden / Pepe‘ekeo Scenic Route

Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden is located on the 4-mile (6.4-km) long Pepe‘ekeo Scenic Route off the Hawai‘i Belt Road (Hwy. 19) in Onomea Valley between Honomū and Hilo.

Founded in August of 1978 by Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse, the Garden features many rare and exotic plants, including many palms, gingers, bromeliads, heliconias, and a great diversity of ornamentals.

Streams and waterfalls add to the park’s beauty, with more than 25,000 plants of 2,500 different species, including more than 2,000 orchids (750 different species) in the Orchid Garden. Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden is also home to six South American macaws.

This scenic drive winds through the region formerly known as Pepe‘e-ke-ō, which means, “The food crushed, as by warriors in battle,”[xxxiii] and it is said that “...a stream and rock here are named for Kama-pua‘a, who tried unsuccessfully to drown Hina, mother of Māui here.”[xxxiv] There are views of Onomea Bay.

[Hawai‘i Tropical Botanical Garden, 808-964-5233, 27-717, www.hawaiigarden.com, 9-4 daily; on Pepe‘ekeo Scenic Route (Old Māmalahoa Highway) off Māmalahoa Highway, Pāpa‘ikou, about 7 miles (11 km) north of Hilo.]

Hilo

Hilo is Hawai‘i Island’s capital city and also a major port (the second largest in the Hawaiian Islands). About one third of the population of the island of Hawai‘i lives in Hilo.

Relatively cool and wet, Hilo is located on Hilo Bay on the island’s northeast side where rain falls most days of the year. Hawai‘i Islands’ prodigious rainfall has led to the town’s nickname, “America’s rainiest city,” and the rain produces the town’s luxuriant jungle-like growth, cascading waterfalls, and of course rainbows.

Hilo’s lush weather also allows for plenteous flower production in local nurseries and greenhouses. Popular commercial flowers produced in Hilo include anthuriums, orchids, and gingers, many of which are exported to various locations outside of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hilo is a college town, as home to the campus of the University of Hawai‘i-Hilo. Hilo is also home to the Hawaiian Islands’ premier hula competition, the Merrie Monarch Festival, which is held each April.

Hilo’s Banyan Drive travels around the Waiākea Peninsula on Hilo Bay, and passes Hilo’s bayfront hotels, the Naniloa Country Club golf course, and Lili‘uokalani Gardens.

The large, sprawling banyan trees lining Banyan Drive are marked with plaques identifying the various celebrities and royalty who planted the trees, including Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, Cecil B. DeMille and many others.

Lili‘uokalani Gardens was originally designed as a tribute to the region’s Japanese immigrants. The park now encompasses 30 acres (12 ha) along Banyan Drive, and includes bridges over streams as well as pagodas and a ceremonial tea house. Hilo is also home to the Big Island Visitors Bureau (see below).

[Big Island Visitors Bureau, 808-961-5797, 250 Keawe Street (at Haili Street), open 8-4:30, M-F. Brochure available: Walking Tour of Historic Downtown (also available at Lyman House), www.bigisland.org.]

Kalākaua Park

Kalākaua Park is located in downtown Hilo. A sundial in the park was placed there by King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] in 1877.

Under a banyan tree in the park is a bronze statue of King Kalākaua holding a leaf of kalo (Colocasia esculenta, taro) and a pā ipu, a hula drum made from an ipu (Lagenaria siceraria, bottle gourd). The statue was sculpted in 1988.

Kalākaua Park also includes a war memorial. Adjacent to Kalākaua Park is King Kalākaua’s summer home, called Niolopa.

[Kalākaua Park, downtown Hilo, add.]

Lyman House Memorial Museum and Mission House

The Lyman Mission House is the oldest frame structure on the island of Hawai‘i. The house was built in 1839 for missionaries Reverend David and Sarah Lyman from New England.

The Lymans had seven children, and in 1931 the Lyman descendants established the Lyman Museum, which is now listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

The Lyman Museum features numerous exhibits on many different aspects of Hawaiian culture, from the making of kapa (tapa) barkcloth to pili grass houses and ceremonial items. Other exhibits highlight the various ethnic groups that arrived in the Hawaiian Islands as immigrant laborers.

The restored mission house displays exhibits about early mission life. Next door is the Lyman Museum building next door was dedicated in 1973 and includes displays about Hawaiian geology, the Earth’s formation, and Hawaiian flora and fauna as well as a rock and mineral collection.

A significant mineral exhibit is on display as well as an astronomy exhibit that includes computers linked to the astronomical observatories atop Mauna Kea. The Museum also offers walking tours of Hilo.

[Lyman House Memorial Museum and Mission House, 808-935-5021, 276 Haili Street, Hilo, www.lymanmuseum.org, Mon.-Sat., 9-4:30.]

Naha Stone and Pinao Stone

Exhibited on the front lawn of the Hilo Library is the Pōhaku Naha (Naha Stone). A prophecy predicted that whoever could move this nearly 5,000-pound (2,268-kg) stone would conquer all of the Hawaiian Islands.

In 1775, the young Kamehameha reportedly met this challenge, and later became the ruler of a united Hawaiian Kingdom. In attendance when Kamehameha performed the feat was the prophetess Kalaniwahine. It was said that a newborn child placed who stayed quiet when placed on the stone was of royal blood if he/she remained quiet.

Also on the Hilo Library lawn is the Pinao Stone, which is said to have been a entrance pillar to the Pinao Heiau (sacred place of worship) near Wailuku River.

This same heiau was also formerly the site of the Pōhaku Naha (Naha Stone), which is said to have previously been brought to the island of Hawai‘i from Kaua‘i. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1775.)

[Hilo Library, 300 Waiānuenue Avenue, Hilo.]

Pacific Tsunami Museum

The Pacific Tsunami Museum is located near the Hilo Bayfront in the historic First Hawaiian Bank Building, a restored Art Deco style building that was designed by Charles William Dickey (1871—1942) in 1931. The Pacific Tsunami Museum includes exhibits about the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis that devastated Hilo, including personal stories of survivors.

Information is provided about the Pacific Tsunami Warning System as well as myths and legends about tsunamis. A theater shows videos about tsunamis, and there is also a keiki (children’s) area and an interactive computer area.

The 1946 tsunami destroyed all of the buildings makai (on the ocean side) of Kamehameha Avenue except the Mo‘oheau Bandstand, which still stands across the street and down a bit from the museum.

[Pacific Tsunami Museum, 808-935-0926, 130 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, www.tsunami.org, open 10-4, Mon.-Sat.]

Rainbow Falls State Park

Rainbow Falls is located on the Wailuku River in west Hilo, up Waiānuenue Avenue in Rainbow Falls State Park. Waiānuenue means “Rainbow [seen in] water.”[xxxv]

The waterfall, which is reached by hiking a short trail, plunges down about 80 feet (24 m) into a huge pool below. The trail also passes by a large banyan tree and luxuriant tropical growth that includes large ferns and groves of bamboo.

According to Hawaiian legend, a large cave at the base of the Rainbow Falls is said to be home to Hina, the mother of Māui who pulled the Hawaiian Islands up from the ocean. An ancient proverb states, “Ka ua lei mā‘ohu o Waiānuenue” (“The rain of Waiānuenue that is like a wreath of mist.”)[xxxvi]

[Rainbow Falls, Directions: Take Waiānuenue Avenue west of Hilo 1 mile (1.6 km), stay to the right at fork in road; a warrior sign marks the Falls.]

Pe‘epe‘e Falls / Boiling Pots

About 1½ miles (2.4 km) above Rainbow Falls is Pe‘epe‘e Falls and Boiling Pots, with four streams cascading down a sheer cliff into large, round pools. These depressions in the lava rock, where the water churns and boils, has given this site its common name, Boiling Pots.

[Pe‘epe‘e Falls / Boiling Pots, 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Hilo on Waiānuenue Ave.]

Nani Mau Gardens

About 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Hilo is Nani Mau Gardens, encompassing 20 acres (8 ha) propagating a variety of well-groomed native and exotic plants, including many flowers (e.g., anthuriums, orchids).

Popular among the tour bus companies, Nani Mau Gardens also offers tram rides through the sculpted and artistically arranged gardens. A botanical museum provides information and displays. There is also a restaurant offering a Polynesian buffet.

[Nani Mau Gardens, 808-959-3500, 421 Makalika Street, Hilo, www.nanimau.com, open 8:30-5 daily. Located 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Hilo. Directions: Just before Mile Marker 4 on Kanoelehua Highway (Hwy. 11), take Makalika Street, www.nanimau.com.]

Mauna Loa Visitor Center

This is where the Mauna Loa Company processes their macadamia nuts.

[Mauna Loa Visitor Center, Kanoelehua Highway (Hwy. 11), between Mile Markers 5 and 6.]

Mauna Loa Volcano

Mauna Loa Volcano rises 13,677 feet (4,169 m) above sea level, and descends another 18,000 feet (5,486 m) below the sea. The most massive mountain on Earth, Mauna Loa is 10,000 cubic miles (25,900 km) in all, making it more than 100 times as large as Washington’s Mount Rainier.

The summit caldera of Mauna Loa is called Moku‘āweoweo, and is about 3 miles (4.8 km) long, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, and 600 feet (183 m) deep, having filled in somewhat from its depth of more than 985 feet (300 m) in 1794.

Historic Eruptions

In the last 1,100 years, Mauna Loa’s eruptions have poured lava over some 1,000 square miles (2,590 sq. km), which is about half of the volcano’s total land area. Mauna Loa has erupted 37 times since 1832, and 14 times in the last 100 years. Between 1843 and 1949, Mauna Loa erupted 35 times.

Lava flows from Mauna Loa eruptions have repeatedly threatened the town of Hilo. When it happened in 1880, the flowing lava took 280 days to reach the edge of Hilo, where King Kamehameha’s granddaughter, Princess Ruth Ke‘elikōlani is said to have supplicated the wrath of the volcano goddess Pele by traveling to the area and offering chants and gifts.

The lava flows stopped just on the edge of town. When lava flows again threatened Hilo in 1930 and 1940, the Army Air Corps attempted (unsuccessfully) to divert or disperse the flows by dropping bombs.

Lava flows from a Mauna Loa eruption could reach the South Kona area, as they did in 1950, reaching the ocean in only about three hours. The 1950 event lasted for 23 days, destroying many homes and ranches. A 1975 summit eruption lasted for several days and blocked a road near the volcano’s summit.

A 22-day eruption of Mauna Loa in 1984 sent lava flowing for 16 miles (26 km) down to the 3,200-foot (975-m) level of the mountain, and covered more than 18 square miles (47 sq. km). The flow came close enough to Hilo to make many people very nervous.

Residents on Hawai‘i Island can’t purchase volcano insurance but they may purchase fire insurance and then hope their homes are ignited before they are buried.

After its most recent eruption in 1984, Mauna Loa was in an inflation phase with magma collecting beneath the summit. Then from 1994 until May 12, 2002, Mauna Loa was in a deflation phase, possibly due to the cooling of the magma beneath the summit, leading to contraction.

Recent Activity

On May 12, 2002, Mauna Loa’s summit caldera (Moku‘āweoweo) gradually began swelling, and outward spreading began along a northeast rift (facing Puna and Hilo) at an elevation on the volcano between about 10,000 and 13,000 feet (3,050 to 3,960 m).

Though the swelling decreased in early 2003, researchers remain cautious, as the pattern of swelling during the second half of 2002 was similar to what occurred previous to the 1975 and 1984 eruptions, and the rate of swelling was actually higher in 2002 than before the 1975 and 1984 eruptions.

Volcano researchers have long considered Mauna Loa and Kīlauea Volcanoes to be fueled by separate magmatic systems.

When a recent increase in lava flow activity at Kīlauea began on the same day that Mauna Loa’s summit crater began to inflate, it led researchers to consider the possibility that the two simultaneous events may not be a coincidence, and that the magma systems of Mauna Loa and Kīlauea may be connected much closer to the surface than previously believed.

The summit of Mauna Loa is more than 2½ miles (4 km) above sea level, but the magma collects in a region about 3 miles (4.8 km) beneath the summit (just beneath sea level).

This collecting magma caused the summit caldera to stretch (inflate) by about 4/5th inch (2 cm) since from May 12, 2002 until 2003. This geophysical data was gathered by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory volcanologists monitoring six tiltmeters and four global positioning system instruments on Mauna Loa.

Predicting Future Eruptions

Earthquakes or “mini-quakes” usually occur wherever large amounts of magma are moving beneath the earth’s surface, and increased seismic activity (earthquakes) will likely precede any major eruption of Mauna Loa, giving at least several hours warning for those who might be in the path of the lava flows.

An increase in earthquakes near Mauna Loa’s summit was recorded in 2002, though not significant enough to signal an imminent eruption.

Researchers agree that the most likely site of a new volcanic eruption of lava from Mauna Loa would be at the volcano’s summit. Such an eruption could threaten Hilo (to the east) as well as Kona and its Gold Coast resorts (to the west).

Subdivisions above South Point, near Mauna Loa’s southwest rift zone, are considered the most likely to be inundated by a Mauna Loa eruption. More than $2 billion has been spent since 1984 for new construction on this part of the volcano near the southwest rift, and some of these structures were built on lava flows less than a century old.

Puna

The Puna district is located on the eastern side of the island of Hawai‘i, and is known for lava flows, lava tidepools, tree molds of lava, and areas where villages once stood that are now covered with....lava! Puna is also the region where Kīlauea Volcano’s famously active east rift zone has been pumping out molten earth pretty much non-stop since 1983.

Kea‘au Pāhoa Road (Hwy. 130) leads to Pāhoa, known as the “heart of Puna.” Pāhoa has a rustic cowboy architecture as well as raised wooden sidewalks. Also in Pāhoa is the Akebono Theater, built in 1917. Recently renovated, the theater once again shows films and hosts concerts. The town itself is somewhat known for its renegade and outlaw spirit.

Lava Tree State Park is located on Pāhoa-Kapoho Road (Highway 132) about 2½ miles (4 km) from Kea‘au Pāhoa Road (Highway 130). A 1790 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano’s east rift zone created the lava tree molds now seen in the park.

When a fast-moving lava flow moved through the area and then receded, lava stuck to many of the trees. This burned the ‘ōhi‘a lehua trees (Metrosideros species) but left behind a forest of lava molds up to 10 feet (3 m) high. A 20-minute loop trail leads through the area.

In north Puna is the small town of Kea‘au. Formerly located in Puna was Waha‘ula Heiau, an ancient heiau (sacred place of worship) built by a Tahitian kahuna (priest) by the name of Pā‘ao who, according to tradition, founded a high priest line known as kahuna nui sometime before the year A.D.1200.

Pā‘ao returned to Tahiti and brought back a chief named Pili [Kaaiea], who ruled Hawai‘i Island and sired the royal line beginning a 700-year dynasty culminating with the Kamehamehas.

Before the arrival of Pā‘ao the Hawaiians had built various heiau (sacred place of worship), but Pā‘ao constructed Waha‘ula Heiau at Puna on Hawai‘i Island. Waha‘ula was the first luakini (temple of human sacrifice). (Note: Waha‘ula Heiau was buried by the lava flow in 1997.) Pā‘ao also introduced the war god Kūkā‘ilimoku, and Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes.

Pā‘ao initiated the social order that separated ali‘i (royalty), kāhuna (priests and experts in a given profession), maka‘āinana (commoners who were mostly farmers), and the kauā (or kauwā) class, who were the lowest outcast members.

There was a system of laws (kānāwai) that determined if something was kapu (sacred or forbidden). Commoners fell prostrate to the ground in the presence of chiefs, who possessed more mana (divine power).

 

[Pāhoa, From Kea‘au on Kanoelehua Avenue (Hwy. 11), go southeast on Kea‘au Pāhoa Road (Hwy. 130) for 11 miles (18 km).]

[Lava Tree State Park, Hwy. 132, Puna District, 808-974-6200; open from just before sunrise to just after sunset.]

Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach

This black sand beach lines a small bay that is also a nesting site for the endangered Hawaiian Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), which digs a hole in the sand then buries its eggs, which are about the size of ping pong balls.

A short walk from the north end of the beach leads to the ruins of a pier and warehouse of the Pahala [Pāhala] Sugar Company.

On the south side is Punalu‘u Beach Park, with picnic and camping facilities. Punalu‘u means “Spring dived for.”[xxxvii]

The concrete wall near Punalu‘u’s boat ramp was dynamited by the United States Army after the December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack to prevent its use by Japanese in the case of an invasion.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park—Kīlauea Volcano

Visitor Center: 808-985-6000, open 7:45-5 daily.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory “Volcano Watch”: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

Hawai‘i Center for Volcanology: www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/HCV/Kilauea

Volcano House: 967-7321.

Park open 24 hours; Internet site: www.nps.gov/havo.

Kīlauea Volcano extends over an area of about 600 square miles (1,550 sq km) of the southcentral region of the island of Hawai‘i. During the last century, Kīlauea was erupting approximately 48% of the time, but the volcano was noticeably quiet from the 1920s until the late 1950s. Kīlauea has erupted at least 20 times since 1959.

From January 3, 1983 to 1986, Kīlauea erupted spectacular fountains of lava, and the volcano has been erupting almost continuously since that time. Since 1983, Kīlauea Volcano’s lava flows have covered more than 38 square miles (98 sq. km), destroying more than 180 homes and adding more than 535 acres (217 ha) of land to the coast of the Big Island (including more than 10 acres (4 ha) just since May, 2002.

Earlier centuries may have seen even greater eruptive events. Researchers recently used radiocarbon dating to reveal that an area called the ‘Aila‘u flow was the result of a continuous eruption that likely lasted from 1410 until 1470.

Summit Calderas

The summit calderas of Kīlauea, Mauna Loa (on Hawai‘i Island), and Haleakalā (on Maui) all formed when magma (subsurface molten rock) beneath the summit areas drained away, causing the summit to collapse inward.

The summit caldera of Kīlauea Volcano is up to 2.5 miles (4 km) across and 400 feet (122 m) deep. Within Kīlauea Caldera is a pit crater called Halema‘uma‘u Crater. At an elevation of 3,646 feet (1,111 m), Halema‘uma‘u is a pit crater within the larger Kīlauea Crater.

Halema‘uma‘u Crater is about 3,000 feet (914 m) across and more than 280 feet (85 m) deep. The crater is said to be the site where Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes, still protects her sacred fires (see The Legend of Pele below).

Magma funneled up into Halema‘uma‘u Crater from deep in the earth ebbs and flows, and this magma movement has caused the size of Halema‘uma‘u Crater to vary over the last century.

Halema‘uma‘u Crater was about 1,200 feet (366 m) deep in 1924, but eruptions as recently as 1974 and 1982 poured lava onto the crater floor and filled it to its present depth, now only about 280 feet (85 m). Today pungent sulfur fumes continue to steam up from mineral-encrusted cracks on Halema‘uma‘u’s black-rock floor.

Pit craters similar to Halema‘uma‘u Crater also line the East Rift Zone that leads from Kīlauea’s summit toward the ocean. The aptly named Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700 feet (1,128 m) from the summit to the sea. In 1986, the road was blocked by lava flows, and then eventually reopened, but closed again in 1987.

More than 9 miles (14 km) of the original road have been covered since 1986. The increased activity, which began on May 12, 2002, once again sent lava flows over the road. Also found along Chain of Craters road is the Pu‘u Lo‘a Petroglyph Area, a remarkable display of Hawaiian petroglyphs. (See Petroglyphs, Chapter 3.)

During nearly a century of continuous volcanic activity, the pit crater of Kīlauea’s Halema‘uma‘u Crater was a lava lake. In 1924, there was a violent steam eruption as the lava lake drained out. Since then approximately 40 more eruptions have occurred in the area of the summit and rift zones that run down the volcano’s flanks.

Kīlauea’s summit area has seen only two eruption events since 1982, and each of these lasted less than one day. The most recent activity is a flank eruption on the East Rift Zone that began in 1983 and continues today.

Since 1983, Kīlauea Volcano has released more than 67 billion cubic feet (1.9 billion cu. m) of lava that has covered at least 40.7 square miles (105.5 sq. km).

Crater Rim Drive

Crater Rim Drive circles Kīlauea‘s summit caldera, allowing a tour of pit craters, lava tubes, sulfur banks, steam vents, and recent lava flows. The magma is still very near the surface of the summit area, and steam vents are common there just as they are along the rift zones.

Kīlauea Iki Crater

Kīlauea Iki is a smaller crater found in the summit area, and likely formed about the same time the summit collapsed to form the caldera. Kīlauea Iki means “Little Kīlauea,” and last displayed a stunning fire show in 1959 when fountains of lava erupted to heights of 1,900 feet (579 m), the highest ever recorded in the Hawaiian Islands.

Kīpuka and Lava Trees

Kīpuka are “islands” of forest surrounded by lava flows. Kīpuka support many native plants that have evolved in these unique and isolated habitats on Kīlauea Volcano. Tree molds and “lava trees” form when lava engulfs trees and hardens.

The lava-covered areas of the cataclysmic summit environment on Kīlauea Volcano appear quite desolate, but the summit is bordered by lush rainforests dominated by ‘ōhi‘a lehua trees (Metrosideros species) and hāpu‘u tree ferns (Cibotium species).

[Photograph: Kīlauea Summit]

Lava Tubes and Skylights

Lava tubes are formed when flowing hot lava cools and crusts over as the still-molten interior lava continues to flow downhill through the tunnel. When the molten lava eventually drains out from the hardened outer crust it leaves behind a lava tube, which is just the hardened shell of the flowing lava.

The most prominent example of a lava tube is found along Crater Rim Drive at the Thurston Lava Tube, known by the Hawaiian name of Nāhuku, which means “The protuberances.”[xxxviii]

In active lava tubes on the East Rift Zone or near the sea, one might see what is known as a “skylight.” Skylights occur when the walls of a lava tube are very thin, and close to their melting point, or when the lava tube roof collapses giving a view of the flowing lava within.

Park Accommodations and Trails

At the 4,000-foot (1,220-km) elevation on the northern rim of Kīlauea Caldera is Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Headquarters as well as the Visitor Center, Volcano Art Center, and the Volcano House Hotel and Restaurant. Along Crater Rim Drive is a second visitor center known as the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

Hiking trails in the summit area include: the 11-mile (18-km) long Crater Rim Trail that circles the summit caldera; Halema‘uma‘u Trail (6.4 miles; 10.3 km); Kīlauea Iki Trail (5 miles; 8 km); the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku) walk (1/3 mile; .5 km); and Devastation Trail, through Kīlauea Iki’s cinder outfall (1 mile; 1.6 km).

Mauna Iki Trail (3.6 miles; 5.8 km) leads to the footprints of Hawaiian warriors preserved in ash from an eruption in 1790. Mauna Iki is a dome that was formed during an eruption on the southwest rift in 1920.

A 14-mile (22.5-km) round trip hike called Nāpau-Kalapana leads to Nāpau Crater and close to the extremely active region of Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō and the East Rift Zone (see below).

O ka lā ko luna, o ka pāhoehoe ko lalo.

The sun above, the smooth lava below.

Said of a journey in which the traveler suffers the heat of the sun above and the reflected heat from the lava bed below.

(Pukui: 2417-264)

Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater

Though Kīlauea’s summit has had some spectacular eruptions in the recent past, most of the current activity on Kīlauea Volcano occurs along the Southwest and East Rift Zones. In 1984, at a site along the East Rift Zone called Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater, explosions of fountaining lava reached heights of more than 1,500 feet (457 m).

Since Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater began erupting on Jan. 3, 1983, its lava flows have destroyed more than 187 structures. These were mostly homes, but also included churches, heiau (sacred places of worship), and native sacred sites).

Dozens of homes in the Royal Gardens subdivision in lower Puna were destroyed. In May of 2001, the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Vent flow covered almost a mile of an unpaved access road to the subdivision, blocking nearly 1,500 people from the lots they owned.

[Photograph: Lava destruction]

Papapau kākou, he ‘a‘ā ko ka hale.

We are all destroyed; only lava rocks will be found in the house.

Utter destruction, as by a lava flow.

(Pukui: 2603-286)

In 1997, amidst a swarm of earthquakes, Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater erupted and collapsed, sending abrasive red cinder dust (fine-grained lithic tephra) over dozens of square miles of Kīlauea’s eastern flank. The iron in the volcanic rock oxidized as it was ejected, creating red dust-sized particles that were a kind of volcanic rust.

About 3 miles (5 km) up the East Rift Zone from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater, and 9 miles (14.5 km) east of Kīlauea’s summit, curtains of fiery lava up to 100 feet (30 m) tall shot from fissures in the Earth.

[Photograph: Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō Crater collapse]

A significant increase in lava flows from Kīlauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent began on May 12, 2002, the same date that Mauna Loa showed volcanic activity (see below).

Kīlauea’s May 12, 2002 outbreak of lava first reached the ocean along the Puna coast on July 19, 2002. As many as four thousand visitors per day flocked to the area to see the increased activity, including streams of lava cascading up to 45 feet (14 m) off the seacliffs into the ocean.

Visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park should be extremely cautious. Molten lava produces sulfuric fumes and a lava haze (nicknamed “laze”) that may be hazardous if inhaled, particularly for those with lung or heart conditions. Where the lava enters the ocean scalding sprays of water are produced along with the gases.

At least seven people have died during lava-viewing visits in the last two decades, including four people who died because they got too close to the active areas where 2,000º Fahrenheit (1,093º Celsius) lava flows into the sea.

Three people died some distance from the active flow areas—one from a heart attack and one from a fall while hiking over the hardened lava. On April 19, 1993, a man died when a section of the newly created lava shoreline that he was standing on collapsed into the ocean.

Much of Kīlauea’s erupting lava flows to the sea through underground tubes beneath areas hardened surface lava that may still be very hot from the lava flowing underneath.

Some hardened lava may be extremely unstable, including shelves of lava near the ocean that may be particularly unpredictable and dangerous. Walking across expanses of jagged lava to get to the active flows also provides its own difficulties, and sturdy footwear is recommended, including thick soles and ankle support.

Since May of 2002, the lava flows have added at least 10 acres (4 ha) of land to the island of Hawai‘i, also creating new black sand beaches along the island’s southeast shore. The eruption also sparked a fire that burned 3,600 acres (1,457 ha).

Updates on volcanic activity may be seen at the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park website and the United States Geological Service (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website (see above).

Lava Types, Black-Sand Beaches and Volcanic Gas

If you visit a lava flow area you will see two distinct types of hardened lava: ‘a‘ā (pronounced ah-ah) and pāhoehoe (pronounced puh hoy hoy). Both types of lava have the same chemical composition, but differ in their appearance.

Pāhoehoe lava has a ropy, smooth texture, because it is hotter and more fluid than ‘a‘ā when it erupts. ‘A‘ā has a rougher, chunkier look, and may be spiny. Both types of lava may be shiny black or a dull brownish color.

‘A‘ā lava contains less gas upon erupting, being at a lower temperature than pāhoehoe. Pāhoehoe’s hotter temperature allows it to flow in wrinkles and folds, rather than chunking up like ‘a‘ā.

[Photographs: Pāhoehoe lava; ‘a‘ā lava (comparison)]

When hot flowing lava explodes into the ocean, tiny particles of the material are carried by currents toward nearby shorelines where black-sand beaches form.

Steam clouds created by lava entering the ocean contain hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles, which may cause respiratory problems. Beware of getting too close! Two visitors died in 2000 from breathing the heated gases near the flowing lava area.

Kīlauea’s eruptions are estimated to be emitting about 1,000 tons (907 mton) of sulfur dioxide gas into the air each day (almost continually since 1982), making it one of the biggest sources of air pollution on the island of Hawai‘i.

This volcanic gas known as “Vog” is a brown haze that accumulates in the lee of Mauna Loa, to the misfortune of South Kona residents. When the island winds blow to the northwest, the Vog may reach all the way to Kaua‘i, the northernmost island of the main Hawaiian Islands.



[i] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[ii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iii] A heiau at Honalo was called Kualani (“chiefly back”). Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[v] p. 151, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[vi] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[vii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[viii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[ix] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[x] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xi] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xiii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xiv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xvi] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xvii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xviii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xix] p. 309, p. xxiv, Desha, Stephen L., translated by Frazier, Frances N. Kamehameha and his Warrior Kekūhaupi‘o. Honolulu: Kamehameha Schools Press, 2000; originally published in Ka Hoku o Hawaii (The Star of Hawai‘i) between December 16, 1920 and September 11, 1924.

[xx] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxi] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxii] pp. 157-158, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxiii] pp. 157-158, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxiv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxvi] p. 122, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxvii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Elbert, Samuel H. Hawaiian Dictionary: Revised and Enlarged Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

[xxviii] p. 294, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 2687.

[xxix] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxx] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxi] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxiii] p. 183, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxiv] p. 183, Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxv] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxvi] p. 170, Pukui, Mary Kawena. ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1983. Proverb 1580.

[xxxvii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[xxxviii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.