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Tip: This town is best known for hosting the annual Merrie Monarch Festival.

North Kohala’s Rich History

By Hawaii.com Team

The North Kohala peninsula, having risen first from the sea, is the oldest section of this still growing island. Eventually, the volcanoes that formed Kohala Mountain became extinct leaving a rugged, windswept terrain that only now is beginning to show signs of modern development. But time has not erased the historic legacy of this region. Ancient temple sites, like Mo’okini Heiau, built in 480 A.D., a Hawaiian village dating back 600 years at Lapakahi State Historical Park, and the birthplace and original statue of King Kamehameha I stand as graphic reminders of a time when the Hawaiian archipelago was virtually unknown to the Western world.

Today the upcountry hamlets of Hawi and Kapa’au cater to tourists in inventive, offbeat ways. Park and take a peek inside the boutiques, galleries, eateries and gift shops that line the main drag in both towns. The Kohala Book Shop, in Kapa’au, is a find for anyone looking for rare or unusual tomes and The Bamboo Inn, a restaurant and gallery in Hawi, is an institution that has long drawn visitors to this out-of-the-way destination. High-energy attractions like Hummer Safari Tours in Hawi and ATV Outfitters in Kapa’au bring thousands of visitors to these upcountry towns.

The drive to the Pololu Valley Lookout, beyond Hawi and Kapa’au, is spectacular. Once there, consider hiking into the valley. Leaving the North Kohala area, you might want to take the Kohala Mountain Road along Route 250 to Waimea. This is a picturesque drive through cattle ranches and largely unpopulated countryside. On a clear day, you can see three of the Big Island’s five mountains: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai. And you might even catch a glimpse of Haleakala on the island of Maui.

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