North Kohala, Big Island

There is very little modern development along the North Kohala Coast so you can get a real feel of how locals have lived here for the last 150 years. Take a leisurely drive along the Kohala Coast to the lush, undeveloped pastoral lands of North Kohala.

This area has a range of annual rainfall from 6" to 140", and terrain that dramatically ranges from sparse desert to lush tropical rain forests. Besides being a beautiful area featuring the charming town of Hawi and the amazing Pololu Valley Overlook, this is also the home of some of the most historically significant sites on Hawaii Island from Puukohola Heiau to King Kamehameha’s birthplace.

Just before Puukohola Heiau, turn east up Kawaihae Road to explore the cool scenic fields of Waimea. In sharp contrast to the lava landscapes along the coast and having more in common with lush North Kohala, this upcountry area is paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country, full of green pastures and panoramic views.

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Explore Big Island by region: HiloHamakua CoastKohala CoastKonaPunaKau.

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Island Highlights

- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Home to Kilauea Volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
- Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona): Lively, historic gathering place in the heart of Kona.
- Hilo: Home to botanical gardens, waterfalls and off-the-beaten-path local shops and restaurants.
- Waimea: Experience the cool uplands of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country.
- Holualoa: Visit coffee country and taste why 100% Kona coffee is so famous.



Travel east, inland from the volcanic Kohala Coast to discover Waimea, which is unlike any other place on Hawaii Island. Known as paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country this historic area full of rolling, green pastures is still home to cattle, cowboys and ranches.

Waimea town, also called Kamuela sits at about 2500 feet elevation and is a place where stop signs read “Whoa,” instead of “Stop.” This is the home of Kahua Ranch a working sheep and cattle ranch that allows you to learn about the paniolo lifestyle. Here you can explore the scenic landscapes of Waimea by horseback or ATV. Take time to visit the Kahilu Theatre here, a 490-seat cultural mecca on Hawaii Island featuring performances by renowned musicians, dancers and artists.

Location: Upcountry, east of the Kohala Coast.

Pololu Valley Lookout

Pololu Valley Lookout

The word pololū means "long spear" in the Hawaiian language. The Pololu Valley Lookout offers stunning views that give you a glimpse into the famous “Valley of the Kings” and a panoramic view of a beautiful valley with cliffs, hills and a meandering small river, the black sand beach is accessible by a steep 30 minute downhill hike.

Location: At the very end of Highway 270 you will reach the Pololū Valley.

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park is a large area of ruins from an Ancient Hawaiian fishing village that dates back over 600 years and is partially restored. This rugged coastal park will give you a glimpse of what it was like to live like the native Hawaiians of the past.

Take a one mile, self-guided tour of this 262-acre park and see restored hale (houses) and lava stone walls, then play traditional Hawaiian games and learn more about life in early Hawaii. The park’s rocky shoreline also faces the Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District although swimming is not encouraged. Because the Kohala Coast can get hot, the best time of day to visit is in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Location: Lapakahi State Historical Park is located just before mile marker 14 on Highway 270 in Kohala.

Kamehameha Statue, Kapaau

Kamehameha Statue

In front of the North Kohala Civic Center stands the original King Kamehameha I statue one of Hawai'i's most revered leaders, erected not far from where Hawaii’s greatest king was born.

A great warrior, diplomat and leader, King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom in 1810 after years of conflict. 

Location: Approximately 40 mi (64 km) northwest of Hilo, near the village of Honokaʻa.



Hawi town (pronounced "Havee") is at the northern tip of the Big Island, and until the 1970's was a sugar farming community. Spend a few hours browsing the peaceful haven of Hawi, North Kohala's biggest little town, best known as the bicycle turnaround for the annual Ironman World competition.

Location: Northernmost town on Hawaii Island.



Kawaihae served as the seat of kingdom of Hawaii island during the reign of the usurper king Alapaʻinuiakauaua, whose family, the Mahi's, hailed from the Kohala district; he was the king that sought to kill the infant Kamehameha at his birth.

The town's harbor includes a fuel depot, shipping terminal and military landing site, a great spot for whale watching, fishing and surfing. Outside of the man-made breakwall of the harbor is a popular surf spot and the Pua Kailima o Kawaihae Cultural Surf Park. The small town features a handful of restaurants and art galleries. To the north of the harbor is the famous Kawaihae Canoe Club and a small boat ramp. 

Location: On the west side of the island on Highway 270.

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Island Guides: Tips & Fun Things To Do