Switch your flip-flops for sneakers and follow the King's Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii for a view into Hawaii's past. The Kohala Coast on the western side of the Big Island, north of the Kona airport, is known for upscale resorts, sunshine and gorgeous golf courses. It’s also the favorite stomping grounds of Hawaii’s most famous ruler, King Kamehameha l commonly called King Kamehameha the Great, who united all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule in 1810.
Kaunaoa Bay — Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle
Born in North Kohala in the small town of Kapaau where his larger-than-life statue stands, King Kamehameha the Great frequented the Kohala Coast leaving traces of his reign throughout the region. Unlike a treasure hunt, these historical gems are easily accessible with many located on resort grounds just steps away from the pools and beach.
King Kamehameha the Great — Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle
Discover Culture and History
The attractions listed are all within a 20-minute drive of each other along the Kohala Coast and with the exception of the luau they’re all free.
Fishponds at Kalahuipuaa — Photo courtesy of Kristi Marcelle
Kalahuipuaa. If you have time for only one cultural stop, make it Kalahuipuaa, the grounds of the Mauna Lani Resort. It has a variety of sites to see on a walking path that meanders along the ocean and through a lava flow. There are seven fishponds, some dating back to 250 BC, that supplied royal families with year-round fresh fish, a replica canoe landing with full scale outrigger canoe at the adjacent bay where Kamehameha the Great reportedly had a small village and petroglyphs at the end of the trail.
Luau. When you look beyond the coconut shell tops and mai tais and listen to the story, a luau is a fascinating and entertaining way to learn about Hawaii’s past. While the premise of every luau is similar the setting, pre-luau activities and dance vary.
Waikoloa Petroglyph Field. The centuries old pictures etched into lava rock depict every day events in the lives of Hawaiians. The Waikoloa petroglyph field is wedged between a golf course, housing development and the Kings’ Shops in the Waikoloa resort area. Walk from the Hilton Waikoloa Village and Waikoloa Beach Marriott or park at the Shell gas station in the Kings’ Shops and walk two minutes to the well-marked petroglyph field that doesn’t have a palm frond of shade in sight.
Petroglyphs — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Puako Petroglyph Field. While smaller than the Waikoloa petroglyph field, this is an easier field to visit with kids. Adjacent to The Fairmont Orchid, there is also a public parking lot by the entrance with bathrooms. It has replica man-made petroglyphs at the entrance and some shade along the trail.
Puukohala Heiau Temple — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder
Puukohala Heiau Temples. The stone temples were the last major sacred structures built before western influence changed Hawaiian culture forever. Built by Kamehameha the Great to fulfill a prophecy that said he would conquer all the islands if he built a temple to his family’s war god, thousands of workers passed stones hand-to-hand on a 20-mile human chain from the Pololu Valley to the temple site. The modern visitor’s center is small but packed with information and videos about the site and the life of King Kamehameha the Great.