You're currently on:
Highway 270, North Kohala
This 265-acre park is the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement located along the shoreline of the Lapakahi Marine Life Conservation District. The area was first settled around 600 years ago in the 1300's. Some of the village has been partially restored but most of the rocky walls and remains are original. Marked trails and a free guide brochure lead you through several acres of this historic village. This area was rich in natural resources for the settlers - good fishing and fertile land. But life here was also difficult as the ground is rocky and the area is very windy.
Lava stone walls formed the lower portion of the homes and shelters built here. Wooden poles supported the pili grass roofs and walls. Trees, bushes, grass and rocks were all used as food sources or utensils for building, cooking or fishing. The villagers were divided into fishermen and farmers to provide a well-balanced diet of fish, fruit and vegetables. Natural coves made it easy to launch and dock canoes. The hillside provided a vantage point to watch for the return of the fishermen. Fishing shrines like this one were dedicated to the fishing god, Ku'ula, who lived in the stone. A portion of every catch was left at the stone in return for the gods blessings.
Near the entrance to the park is an educational display of implements used by the ancient villagers. Pick up the guide brochure here and take the 45-minute self-guided tour through the marked trails.
The village overlooks the protected waters of the marine conservation area. Certain water activities are prohibited here. Rock walls mark the foundation of numerous buildings that are scattered around the park. Many were homes, storage areas, and canoe shelters. This renovated structure depicts how the wooden poles supported the roof and walls of the home. Crops were grown in small plots like this one next to the house. Sweet potatoes and gourds provided food, medicine and utensils. Large gourds (ipu) were grown for multiple purposes such as containers, cooking vessels and tools.
This log was hollowed out and used as a cooking vessel. Fish and vegetables were smashed and ground by round rocks. Sea salt was used as the main seasoning and preservative. Rock shelters like this one were used by hunters as protection from the strong winds and elements. The houses were small compared to today's standards. However, the ancient Hawaiians spent all their time outdoors and only slept in these shelters.
Historians believe this village was inhabited from the 1300's until just a few decades ago. The reason people deserted the area is probably due to the lack of fresh water. It is hard to imagine living and working in this rugged coastal area. The soil is dry and rocky and ocean is often rough and unforgiving. But generation after generation cultivated and fished and made this area their home. It is a true testament to the persaverence of the human spirit. The village spreads all along the coastline for miles. Only a small portion of it has been excavated and restored for visitors to view.
From the bluff, you can see miles out to sea. The villagers would watch for the signs of nature to tell them when to fish, when to plant, and when to pray. Ancient gods and goddesses were the religious backbone of this community. Small huts such as this one were probably used as storage for food, seeds, and tools. These bamboo poles were lashed together by vines and layers of pili grass were attached to form the walls. Grass and tapa mats were woven to make clothes, sleeping mats, rugs, and more. This hand-carved item may represent a religious heiau or alter. The sharp white coral found scattered along the shore had many uses such as hooks, tools, and weapns.
The dead coral washes ashore and had many uses for the ancient villagers. Tool and weapons were often fashioned from these sharp rocks. Certain activities and fishing methods are prohibited in these protected waters due to the historical significance and conservation of this site. Check at the park headquarters for details. Sea salt provided the main seasoning and preservative for food. Ocean water is poured into these rocks and allowed to dry. The salt them remains and is harvested for use in the village and trade with others. The ocean provided the mainstay of life for the ancient Hawaiians. Easy access and natural coves made this area ideal for a settlement.
Ancient, historical site
Self-guided tour through 1 mile of marked trails
Rennovated and original structures
Open 8am-4pm daily; closed holidays; no admission after 3:30pm
Limited water activities and fishing
Marine Conservation area
Do not remove any rocks, plants, or marine life
Whale watching from October thru April
Great snorkeling and diving
Take Highway 270 north from Kawaihae. The Park is located on the left at Mile Marker #14.