Looking to learn more about the lives of ancient Hawaiians? Well, look no further. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Big Island (Hwy. 19 between mile markers 97 and 98, 808/326-9057, 8:30am-4pm) houses fishponds that highlight the engineering skills of ancient Hawaiians. These places are honored for their importance in Hawaiian history, so do be respectful on your visit.

Sea turtle lounging in the sand of Honokohau Beach.

Take a walk around the fishponds to Honokohau Beach, where on any given day you’ll see plenty of sea turtles lounging in the sand. Photo © Andrea Izzotti/123rf.

These fishponds are home to birds migrating for the winter as well as endangered Hawaiian stilts and coots.As well as providing sustenance for the ancients, these fishponds have long been home to birds migrating for the winter as well as endangered Hawaiian stilts and coots. Take a walk around the fishponds to Honokohau Beach, where on any given day you’ll see plenty of sea turtles lounging in the sand. If you’re lucky you might also see a monk seal. Continue on the beach and visit the heiau (temple) that sits on the south end of the beach and then follow the well-marked trail back over the lava field to the visitors center near the restrooms and parking lot.

On weekends, the park offers informative talks; check their schedule as the time and place is subject to seasonal change. Other cultural events include ukulele and hula lessons, and geology walks, usually offered throughout the week.

Heiau (temple) on the south end of Honokohau Beach.

Be sure to visit the heiau (temple) that sits on the south end of Honokohau Beach. Photo © Blake Handley, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The park is serious about locking the gate at 4pm. Another option for accessing the park is through the Honokohau Harbor (on Kealakehe Pkwy. off Hwy. 19 between mile markers 97 and 98), where there is a parking lot and restroom area. Although this is a national historical park, quite a few people use it solely as a beach spot. It’s a nice enough beach, usually not that crowded and with calm waters, but it is at the small boat harbor and next to the airport, making the water a bit murky.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.