Big Island - Kohala Coast Area Attractions | Waikoloa Village | Puukohola Heiau | Hapuna Beach | Lapakahi State Park

Introduction to Kohala coast area

In various regions of the Big Island of Hawaii, the northwest area known as the Kohala Coast is less emphasized. Perhaps it's because the southern part of the Kohala Coast is close to Kona. Just a twenty-minute drive north from Kona Airport, you'll reach the upscale resort area of Waikoloa Village. Most visitors who come here spend a lot of money to enjoy life at the resort. But the Kohala Coast has more to offer than just resorts. With low rainfall similar to Kona, it boasts beautiful beaches suitable for snorkeling. Hapuna Beach State Park is the largest white sand beach on the island. It also holds rich Hawaiian historical and cultural significance, from the Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site built by Hawaiian kings to the ancient fishing village ruins of Lapakahi State Park.

The journey to visit all these places isn't long, but if possible, it's best to stay overnight. The resorts here are not just large but also very luxurious, and you could easily spend a whole day just exploring Waikoloa Village.

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Lapakahi State Historic Park

Lapakahi State Historic Park, located on the north shore of the Kohala Coast, is an ancient civilian fishing village site dating back to the 1300s, covering approximately 1.5 miles of coastline. Unlike many historical sites on the island associated with royalty, it's relatively rare to find such well-preserved remnants of a commoner fishing village. Starting from the visitor center, a half-mile loop trail takes visitors past triangular Hale structures, typically used for healing purposes, as well as remnants of stone checkers, salt-making tools, and other artifacts.

Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic site

This is one of the least crowded attractions that I found quite interesting. Pu'ukohola Heiau is the most famous Heiau on the Big Island, which is a Native Hawaiian religious building, similar in concept to a temple. If you remember the great Hawaiian King Kamehameha I, this Heiau is related to his story of unifying the Hawaiian Islands. Legend has it that Kamehameha wanted to unify Hawaii, so he went to the priests, and the priests told him that if he built a Heiau here, he would be successful, so he started a huge construction project, mobilizing 10,000 manpower to build this Heiau. In those days, the Hawaiians didn't have any machines, so this stone platform was built by 10,000 people by transferring the stone to the building.

The original Heiau actually had additional wooden structures on top, but they were ordered to be dismantled during the reign of Kamehameha's son, Liholiho.

The area below, near the sea, was called Pelekane, a royal land, and after the construction of Heiau, a religious ceremony of sacrifice was necessary. Kamehameha invited his political rival, Keoua, to kill him as a sacrifice, but Keoua knew that the invitation was for a sacrifice ceremony, but decided to go along with it for the sake of unification of Hawaii, so he was killed in the Pelekane area below, near the sea. After the ceremony, Kamehameha succeeded in unifying Hawaii.

A smaller stone platform can be seen on Pelekane, which is actually a Heiau called Hale o Kapuni Heiau, built by another ancient heiau, who believed that the souls of his family members who died became part of the sharks, and so built the Hale o Kapuni Heiau next to the shark-infested bay.

Hapuna beach state park

Hapuna beach state park is known as the most beautiful beach in Hawaii. This white sand beach is the largest on the Big Island and is internationally recognized as one of the top ten beaches. The water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling and other marine activities.

The closer you get to the entrance, the more tourists there are, but the beach is actually quite long, so it's quite easy to find a quieter spot farther away, and it's very comfortable just to lie on the beach. The first time we came here, we stayed until the sun went down, and it was a great place to watch the sunset.

Beach 69

Beach 69 is a branch of Hapuna beach, a favorite snorkeling spot for locals. The good thing about snorkeling here is that there are reefs nearby and there are a lot of fish, and there are also trees on the shore, so you won't get too much sunshine when you are resting on the shore. The sea is very blue and beautiful, some people just fish and read books here.

We snorkeled here on the last day of the trip. We snorkeled many times throughout the trip, and after we had enough experience, we bought all the snorkeling gears that we lacked before, so the snorkeling went especially well this time.

Reminding everyone to bring along essentials for snorkeling, apart from fins, snorkels, it's best to include defogging solution and water shoes. As for brands, you don't need to be too picky; having them all is what matters.

Waikoloa Village

Waikoloa Village is known for its abundance of luxury resorts, and even if you're not staying here, it can be considered as a standalone attraction. During our visit, we primarily stayed near the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel and spent two consecutive days exploring the area. While the resorts by the beach can be pricey, you can opt to pay a $39 parking fee (consider it as the family's admission ticket) or consider staying at affiliated hotels like us to waive the parking fee. We chose to stay at the more affordable King's Land, allowing us to drive into the Hilton Waikoloa Village for two days in a row.

The most luxurious resorts boast stunning scenery and incredibly lavish amenities. The reason we visited for two consecutive days is that the entire resort is quite vast, and we spent a significant amount of time just admiring the coastal views. On the first day, our original plan was to watch the sunset by the beach. However, it took us half an hour to walk from the parking lot to the beach due to its sheer size, and we missed the sunset. So, we made a special trip back the next day. Despite having shuttle trams available, it's said that some older guests get frustrated with the amount of walking required to get around the resort. Indeed, merely exploring here feels akin to hiking a trail.

Of course, paying such a hefty price isn't just for the vast grounds alone. As soon as we entered, we were genuinely astonished by the grandeur of the Hilton resort. Besides its expansive private beach, the facilities included unexpected features like water slides, a dolphin pool, waterfalls, suspension bridges, and even a tropical rainforest. Walking along the seaside promenade, there were loungers and beds scattered everywhere, and if you're willing to splurge, you could indulge in a seaside massage. The resort also boasts several large swimming pools that kids absolutely adore, spread out throughout the property. Although I didn't quite grasp the aesthetic in some areas — why place terracotta warriors alongside many Buddha statues? During the day, you can whale watch from the coastline, especially at a spot called Buddha Point, where there's a pretty sizable Buddha statue perched above.

If you're up for shopping and dining, there's a shopping street outside the hotel, and plenty of seafood restaurants along the coastline. Places like the seafood restaurant inside Hilton look fantastic in terms of ambiance, but they're very upscale. When booking, you're required to prepay a deposit of $150 per person, and even then, it's hard to secure a reservation...

Overall, whether you're planning to splurge or just visit for sightseeing, bringing the whole family along makes for quite an enjoyable trip!

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Further reading

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