History, Wildlife, and Scenery at Koloko Honokohau Park
The Big Island has some incredible parks, hikes, and beaches, drawing many visitors and locals alike. But if you’re in the mood for something a little more secluded with ocean views, wildlife and Hawaiian history to boot, stop off at Koloko Honokohau National Historic Park on the Kona side.
Located about three miles north of Kailua-Kona, and roughly three miles south of Keahole International Airport on the ocean side of Highway 19, this preserve gives an inside look at how Hawaiians once subsisted off the land while affording close encounters with beautiful scenery and wildlife.
Arriving at the parking lot, you’ll find the visitor center, Hale Ho‘okipa where you can catch some interesting exhibits and grab a map of the grounds. Admission to the park is free, and the attending park rangers are known to be friendly and informative.
Getting to the beach area requires a brief hike across an old lava field that elicits appreciation for the Hawaiians who once barefooted the rocky terrain. Though it may appear as a barren field of rock at first glance, the trail offers some interesting archaeological glimpses into Hawai‘i’s past with stone enclosures and petroglyphs.
If you’d rather skip the hike, you can do that too. The beach is accessible by driving out to the Honokohau Harbor parking lot leaving a brief five minute walk to reach the shore. Ask the friendly park rangers for directions. In any case, bring your camera. You’re in for some great scenery.
The beach is nestled in a large cove, protected by a breakwater that allows fish and turtles to enter. Your chance of seeing a turtle is highly likely, as many frequent the area, often basking in the sun on the beach. Be mindful that the turtles are endangered, and there is a law prohibiting any human contact within 20 feet.
There are also numerous fish inhabiting the stone-built ‘Ai’opio Fish Trap, which is partially enclosed by a reconstructed lava rock wall showing the ingenuity of old Hawaiian masonry work.
Besides the turtles and fish, the beach is generally unpopulated and offers a quiet, less “touristy” getaway from many of the other busy shorelines on the island. Visitors report that it’s a great place to bring the kids to snorkel, play, and catch sight of crabs, birds, and unusual plants. Though you might forget that you’re still in a first-world civilization, the on-site restrooms are a convenient reminder.
If you’re interested in getting a little more in-depth with the area, a knowledgeable geologist gives guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m., covering the local flora, fauna, history and geology of the island.
The park also serves as a wedding venue for couples looking to tie the knot in a beautiful outdoor location. All you need is a special permit for events hosting over 35 people. Visit the park’s website for more information.