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Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

Pu'uoina Heiau in Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical ParkKona

 

Round Trip Mileage: 4 miles to do the hike described below, but you can visit this Park in several ways by different trailheads to hike as much or as little as you desire.

Elevation Gain: negligible

Gear: If you intend to do the entire loop hike described below, you might want closed-toed shoes because you'll be in a couple of areas with rough lava. Bring plenty of water. It can get very hot and stagnant when hiking the portions of trail that are inland away from the shore, especially in the afternoon after the sun has baked the lava all day. You'll probably want swimwear for a dip in the ocean.

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Map: Topographical Map of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park

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Overview: Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park contains a wealth of ancient Hawaiian history in a beautiful place to hike. It is named for the two ancient ahupua'a (land subdivisions) that it covers, Kaloko and Honokōhau. Although this Park was established in 1978, it existed in a fairly undeveloped state until recently. The addition of trail markers, a great new Visitor Center, and several restrooms in the past few years have made this a really impressive spot. When it comes to ancient Hawaiian culture, this Park really has it all: heiau (temple) ruins; ruins of homes and other structures; fishponds; a fishtrap; a canoe hale; rock art; a freshwater-fed Queen's bath surrounded by mysterious mounds; and impressive petroglyph fields. The Park contains quite a few trails that can be used for a big loop or can be hiked by themselves for a shorter day. Using three different trailheads also allows you to customize your visit to this Park. There is no camping in this Park. There is no entrance fee.

If you'd like to learn more about Kaloko-Honokōhau and other Hawaiian ancient sites, we recommend Van James' excellent Ancient Sites of Hawai'i: Archaeological Places of Interest on the Big Island. You can purchase this book by clicking the link below: 

A green sea turtle sleeps behind ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap

Getting to the Trailheads: refer to the topographical map above for the location of these trailheads.

  • Trailhead #1: Hale Ho'okipa Welcome House: This trailhead is the easiest to find and is the main visitor center for the Park as well as the main parking area. On Hwy. 19, the Queen K Hwy., turn makai (toward the sea) just south of the 97 mile marker at the signed entrance to the National Historical Park. You'll see a circular parking area and a few structures just off the highway. This trailhead is open from 8:30am to 4:00pm every day, otherwise a gate is locked. There are Park Rangers available to answer questions, information and maps, water, and restrooms at this trailhead. 
  • Trailhead #2: Kaloko Road: This trailhead is a rough, unpaved road that leads to Kaloko fishpond. Find the turnoff just north of Trailhead #1. There is a gate that is unlocked from 8:30am to 5:00pm every day. There are restrooms at the trailhead.
  • Trailhead #3: Honokōhau Harbor: This harbor is used for small boats and several commercial diving and fishing businesses. Just south of Trailhead #1, find Kealakehe Parkway at a traffic light and turn makai (toward the sea). Take the first right along the parkway and follow this road until you see the Kona Sailing Club. Park in a gravel parking lot across from a gate to the Park along a fence. There are restrooms shortly along the trail, but not at the trailhead itself.

Relaxing in ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap after a hike

Rifle PetroglyphThe Hike: The hike described here starts at the Hale Ho'okipa Welcome House and takes a clockwise loop around the Park that allows you to see nearly all of the major sites within it. However, using the map above, you could plan a much shorter or even a longer day here depending on your personal preferences. Starting at Trailhead #1, the Welcome House and main parking area, find a trail that departs from the southern side of the parking area, called Ike Hawai'i trail. Quickly pass a small fishpond and follow the trail as it passes several ancient sites for about a half-mile. Find the Ki'i Pōhaku (petroglyph rock art) boardwalk. This short boardwalk travels over some incredible rock art, including several post-western contact images such as a long rifle.

After viewing the rock art from the boardwalk, get back on the trail and quickly find an intersection where you can either head north toward ‘Aimakapā fishpond or south toward ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap. Take the southern trail and shortly find another intersection with restrooms where you can head toward ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap or just head to Trailhead #3, Honokōhau Harbor.

Sailing Ship PetroglyphIf you take the short spur trail toward Trailhead #3 at Honokōhau Harbor, there are some fascinating petroglyphs located mauka of the trail. This amazing field includes an extensive petroglyph of a western sailing vessel, several konane games (similar to checkers), and both ancient and more modern human representations.

After viewing this rock art, return to the intersection with the restrooms and head toward ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap. This picturesque ancient site is better at low tide because more features are revealed. The fishtrap used to trap fish during low tide for easy gathering for the extensive fishponds in the region. Along the shore is also a canoe hale (canoe house). Around the edge of ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap is Pu'uoina Heaiu, a ancient temple at waters' edge. Do not enter this heiau or walk on its walls. Certain areas of this shoreline are also marked as sacred, and you should avoid them. ‘Ai’ōpio fishtrap itself is a fantastic spot to wade, especially when it's not safe to swim elsewhere due to high surf. It has a nice, sandy bottom and a fairly even depth perfect for hanging out. The beach behind the fishtrap is favored by honu, green sea turtles. If you find a sea turtle sleeping on the beach, maintain at least a twenty foot radius and do not disturb it.

Honokōhau BeachIf you can peel yourself away from this amazing beach and fishtrap, hike north toward Honokōhau beach. If you'd like a nice strip of beach to yourself, you might be able to find it here. After hiking past Honokōhau beach, head north until you pass ‘Aimakapā fishpond. Past this fishpond, find a barren lava field past the foliage. If you look closely mauka (toward the mountains), you should be able to spot several large mounds of stacked lava rocks. If you find them, try to locate a faint trail at the edge of the foliage at a break in an ancient fence that leads toward these mounds. The mounds are a mystery, but may have served as lookout points or had another type of spiritual significance. If you hike to the center of the mounds you'll find a gorgeous anchialine pond in a small depression. This "Queen's Bath" is a unique and delicate ecosystem that even has a few fish inside it. If you're wondering, "Queen's Bath" refers to several freshwater-fed ponds like this one throughout the islands.

Queen's Bath

After visiting the Queen's Bath, get back on the main trail and continue north. You will soon pass an intersection with the Hu'e Hu'e Trail that heads back toward the Park Headquarters. The Hu'e Hu'e Trail used to be a ranch road. Stay on the coastal trail as it heads north. After a bit, you'll find enormous Kaloko fishpond, which has been restored to its ancient state. This eleven-acre fishpond has a nearly 800-foot seawall and is a very impressive feat of engineering. You can walk a short distance onto the seawall, but cannot walk across it due to unsafe conditions.

From Kaloko fishpond, head back inland along the Kaloko road, a rough unpaved road. After you pass several more ruins, you'll reach the intersection with the Po'e Kahiko Trail. This trail circles around to the other side of Kaloko Fishpond. If you continue east along Kaloko Road, you'll eventually reach the Ala Loa or Ala Mamalahoa, the ancient "King's Trail." This ramrod-straight ancient route will take you south past the intersection with the Hu'e Hu'e trail and eventually back to the other side of the Hale Ho'okipa Welcome House and the parking area where you began.

Kaloko Fishpond seawall