I go to the Big Island for a lot of reasons; less traffic, less people, same great Hawaiian paradise. Add to that the chance to swim and snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles and manta rays you can imagine that this would be right up my alley. So, when I bump smack-dab into a treasure like Kaloko-Honokau National Historical Park it was a really big treat. This place wasn’t even on my radar when I went to the Big Island, just recently. It wasn’t even a blip. You can imagine how excited I am that I found what was, to me, a hidden gem.
The day before we visited Kaloko-Honokohau a local fishermen had died when he was speared by a sword fish after trying to spear it. And the day before that our snorkel guide on the night manta ray outing told us about a `14 foot tiger shark that lives in the harbor named Laverne. So, the Honokohau Marina and Small Boat Harbor were on my radar at that time. We wanted to get a better look at it during the day.
We walked down towards the harbor entrance to the open ocean, spoke to a fishermen who confirmed Laverne’s existence but stated that she hadn’t seen her that day. While down in that area we ran right into the Historical Park. We checked it out, liked it, and planned to come back the next day when we had more time. And we did.
Ancient Hawaiians divided land amongst peoples and extended families. These land divisions are called ahupua’a. The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park preserves the lands of two ahupua’a that ranged from the mountain tops, to the land and cooled lava flows, to the shoreline and into the water.
Ancient Hawaiians had a very organized social structure and the ahupua’a were always divided in order to provide adequate land and resources for the size of the group or families that resided in them.
Within the preservation you can still see the remains of ancient fish ponds that were used to trap fish by allowing them to gather in the enclosed areas during high tides and then become trapped as the tide went you. The park was established in 1978.
We talked to a Park Ranger who said that many Hawaiian residents and locals don’t frequent the area and I thought that was odd. It’s not an area that is overrun with tourists as there were only about 50 people on the beach area while we were there from about 1100am to 5pm.
The land preservation is pretty awesome and that is probably the highlight. There are some off limits areas that are sacred sites, though, so mind the signs and the rules that you’ll see once you enter the park.
The main park entrance is on the north part of the park and there is a visitor center and a petroglyph walking tour as well as a ranger if you had questions or needed assistance. The south part of the park has a small informational booth.
We were able to see several Hawaiian green sea turtles (endangered and protected) resting and taking in the sun on the sand and LOTS of them swimming just a few feet from the shore. We snorkeled and took at look at them from the water, too. This isn’t a snorkeling post, though, as the water is kind of murky at Kaloko-Honokohau…or at least it was on THIS day. We also saw a sting ray swimming by (small guy), crabs, ne ne (endangered and protected).
All in all, this was a pretty great experience. It’s close to the airport. It’s a history lesson, a nature walk, a beautiful piece of land, and a beach. It’s all that is great about Hawaii in one place.
I picked up a brochure on the way out of park and it was full of great information. Here’s my favorite paragraph from it, though:
“Native Hawaiians sometimes speak of a mo’o, a water-dwelling guardian spirit, who rests on a rock as it watches over the Kaloko fishpond. As long as the pond is cared for and treated with respect, the mo’o will allow bountiful fishing. But if the pond is disrespected, the mo’o will take the fish away, punishing not just those brought the harm to the sacred waters but everyone else as well.”
The native people of Hawaii have always had a deep respect and protective attitude towards the land and the ocean. It’s an attitude that should be cultivated and not scoffed at. When you’re visiting Kaloko-Honokohau you can really feel what it may have been like to be one of the hundreds who resided there so many years ago and lived off their own hard work and what the land provided.