Part 2: Coastal Kealakekua
Kealakekua Bay Archaeological and Historical District/Captain Cook Monument
Kealakekua Bay is one of the most truly magical spots in the State of Hawai’i. Beautiful and peaceful Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the Gods) opens beneath steep, beetling cliffs on the ancient surfing beach along the shoreline of Napo’opo’o Village. The site of arguably the most important single event in the history of Polynesia and of unparalleled, majestic scenery, Kealakekua Bay is today home to pods of frolicking dolphins, hosting the greatest density of hammerhead sharks anywhere in the Pacific Ocean and providing some truly breathtaking snorkeling.
Captain James Cook made his longest visit with, and deepest impression on, the native Hawai’ians when he first arrived late in November of 1778. And it was along the shores of Kealakekua Bay where he met his tragic end in February 1779 during his second visit. Forever altered from the moment of Cook’s arrival, the evolution of Hawai’ian society would soon change in ways the Native Hawai’ians could scarcely have imagined just days before the Englishman made shore here.
In 1874, British sailors erected the current white obelisk monument to Captain Cook on a spot quite a bit distant from where he was actually killed. The area remains a piece of British Territory on American soil and is maintained by Brit sailors passing through.
One can see the monument, across the bay from Napo’opo’o, rising among the ruins of Ka’awaloa Village. Today, most tourists choose to come by boat to visit the actual monument. However, the monument is also accessible by hiking a trail down from the highway; this hike takes four to six hours round trip and drinking water is not available anywhere along the journey. Perhaps the most sought-after snorkeling area in Hawai’i, visitors also frequently kayak from Napo’opo’o to the monument to enjoy the Class Triple-A waters and abundant sea life.
High along the cliff walls can be seen numerous burial caves of the iwi (bones) of Ali’i, and in the late afternoon light, a grayish streak is visible on the northwest wall. Local legend has it that a canon-ball fired by Cook to impress the Hawai’ians left this streak as it smeared and bounced along the cliff. Close in along the beach, historic Hikiau (Moving Current) Heiau stands through the ages, witness to the tsunami of enormous changes that swept through Hawai’i with the coming of Cook and the Europeans, which began right here at Kealakekua Bay.
St. Benedict’s Catholic Church (Painted Church)
In 1899, Catholic Father John Velghe landed in Honaunau and built his parish church. Having decorated the inside of previous parishes in the Marquesas and Tahiti with painted scenes from Biblical stories, he proceeded to decorate the interior of the church with scenes whimsical to inspiring, earning this church the nick-name it is most commonly known as “Painted Church.”
Place of Refuge/Pu’u Honua O Honaunau National Historic Park
One of the most enchanting, beautiful, and restful spots in all the Hawai’ian Islands, Pu’u Honua O Honaunau is a place of ease and regeneration for even the most weary and jaded soul. Of enormous historical and cultural significance, the sacred grounds at Honaunau are the best-preserved and largest remaining Pu’u Honua, or Place of Refuge, complex in Hawai’i.
The temple and royal complex and royal residences at Pu’u Honua O Honaunau, established as a National Historical Park in 1961, are vast, well preserved and pervaded by a soul-filling peace. On the grounds of the refuge itself stands the stone platform, ‘Ale’alea, which was used for sports, the Keoua Stone, legendary resting place of the Ali’i and the Ka’ahumanu Stone, where it is said the favorite wife of Kamehameha the Great hid after quarrels with her husband.
Down the center of the Park runs the Wall of Honaunau, 100 feet long, 10 feet tall and 17 feet thick. It separated the palace grounds of the Ali’ from the temple grounds of the Pu’u Honua. The wall was made without mortar or dressing the stones and has survived for over 500 years.
In the royal residence area are the canoe landing at Keone’ele Cove, Heleipolala Fishpond, several reconstructed residences and a canoe hale as well as the famous Hale Keawe, where the iwi (bones) of as many as twenty-three Ali’i ancestors of Kamehameha were once stored.
King’s Trail/Lava Tube
The King’s Trail, or Ala Ali’i, was renamed the Trail of 1871 when residents were asked to square their tax bill to the monarchy by repairing the over-grown and run-down trail. The trail leaves the road from the City of Refuge proper along the road to the National Park Picnic Area, or can be joined by the Shoreline Trail, taken out of the south end of the picnic area. Along the trail are ruins of several Hawai’ian villages, Heiau, cattle pens and so forth. The trail also crosses over a large lava tube, which is only about 150 feet long and leads to spectacular views of the ocean, where it emerges from the cliff about 40 feet above the water.
To celebrate the conclusion of your Historical Soirée, as long as you are in Honaunau you really ought to plunge into the refreshing waters at Honaunau Bay at wonderful Two Step Beach, swim with the colorful tropical fish, amazing green sea turtles and playful dolphins. Or, you could stop in for a cup of famous Kona Coffee at any one of a number of local coffee shops between Captain Cook and Kainaliu … not the harsh sameness of the ubiquitously monotonous Starbucks, each individually special Kona coffee cafe reflects the personality of the local growers and roasters who produce Kona Coffee, widely held to be the best in all the world. Also, the singular and exclusive galleries and stores along this stretch of highway makes perfect shopping for completely unique gifts to take home.
(Part 1) | Part 2
For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general or touring the BigIsland in particular, visit tourguidehawaii.com , tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com  and lovingthebigisland.wordpress.com .