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

Ko’olau Loa

By Chris Oliver

This district on the windward side of Oahu includes Punalu’u and its neighbors, and is a wonderful area to explore. Historical landmarks and remnants from ancient Hawaiians, early settlers and WW II can offer a fascinating day of discovery.

Kahana Valley State Park was created to preserve traditional Hawaiian culture and is cared for by a community of resident Hawaiian families using traditional practices and values. The fishpond, dated between 1400 ad 1600 A.D., was designated a national historic landmark in 1962 and is home to salt- and freshwater fish. Opposite the fishpond on Kahana Bay’s northern shore is Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a, a fishing shrine where Hawaiians performed ceremonies and made offerings to ensure good catches.

An easy family hike is the Koa & Kilo trail, a 1.2-mile loop that climbs 150 feet from the visitor center. The first part of the trail follows that of the former Koolau Railway past the fishing shrine and the lookout to stunning views of Kahana Bay. A round trip takes about an hour.

Kahana’s Nakoa trail heads deep into the valley, a five-mile round trip through fragrant ginger groves and guava trees, crosses Kahana Stream at a swimming hole and has a short diversion to the concrete bunkers. Nakoa is a grand hike for those who love botany and easy, flat trails. Bring mosquito repellent. Hikers might also check out the Hau’ula Loop Trail and Ma’akua Gulch Trail. Both are accessed from Hau’ula Homestead Road.

Stop by Kahana Bay, Punalu’u and Hau’ula, the largest beaches in the area. There are plenty of places in between in which to rest, picnic, cast a line or just enjoy the view

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