Cowboys, Cattle and South Kohala Tradition

Tucked in the Northwest corner of Hawaii Island (Big Island) lies the district of South Kohala. Named after the majestic Kohala mountain range, the eldest of the island’s five major volcanoes, Kohala embraces the history and legends of ancient Hawaiian culture.

South Kohala begins about 20 miles north of Kona International Airport and is home to some of the Big Island’s most prestigious resorts. Surrounded by rugged, black lava fields, the Kohala coastline is an oasis of fine-dining and award winning golf courses. In fact, the island’s first resort, Mauna Kea Beach Resort was built here in 1965 by Laurance S. Rockefeller.

South Kohala receives less than nine inches of rainfall per year, making it the perfect location to lounge on the white sands of Hapuna Beach State Park. The largest white sand beach on the Big Island, Hapuna offers lovely weather and optimal conditions for swimming and bodyboarding. However, don’t let the peaceful looking waves fool you, as the currents can get strong. Always check water conditions with the lifeguards.

If history and archaeology are your thing, Anaehoomalu Petroglyphs field in Waikoloa Resort and the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve are home to a host of petroglyphs — rock carvings etched into the lava rock hundreds of years ago by early Hawaiians. Ancient etchings of humans, animals and canoes dot the landscape and are thought to tell stories of significant life events of the people who once lived there.

Another impressive archaeological site in South Kohala is Puukohola Heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple. Located just north of the resorts, Puukohola is one of the largest restored heiau (temples) on Hawaii Island. Puukohola means ‘hill of the whale’ in Hawaiian and is a popular spot to look for humpback whales during the winter months. King Kamehameha the Great ordered the temple built as a dedication to the war god Kukailimoku in hopes to aid in his efforts to unify the Hawaiian Islands. The structure was built in 1790 and the King successfully unified the islands in 1810.

A short drive inland will bring you to the charming paniolo (cowboy) town of Waimea. With stop signs saying “whoa” and bronze statues of cowboys lining the street, this historic town is also a thriving arts community with a beautiful 490-seat community theatre and fine-dining restaurants. Grab dinner at Merriman’s, Red Water Cafe or the local favorite, Fish and Hog. If you wish to spend the night in Waimea Town, check out the legendary Jacaranda Inn and wake up to the emerald hills of this stunningly beautiful town. offers more insider travel tips as well as vacation packages at

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