Kayaking on Kealakekua Bay, South Kona.

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

South Kona Coast

Beautiful, historic Kealakekua Bay is scalloped out of the mountains, a deep-blue half moon set against a low lava point to the north, tall reddish pali (cliffs) in the center and miles of green mountain slopes to the south. Much of its appeal lies below the waves, amid coral forests and clouds of aquatic life. Local organizations and businesses are working hard to preserve the area's natural beauty as more visitors increase pressure on this marine-life conservation district.

To reach the park, take Napoʻopoʻo Rd, off Mamalahoa Hwy, for 4.5 miles. At the bottom of the road you'll turn left for the wharf. There are bathrooms and showers near Hikiʻau Heiau, a temple on the right at the bottom of Napoʻopoʻo Rd.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby South Kona Coast attractions

1. Hikiʻau Heiau

0.13 MILES

Veer right at the base of Napoʻopoʻo Rd to reach this broad stone platform temple dedicated to war god Ku that was Kealakekua's religious center. In front…

2. Manini Beach

0.19 MILES

On its southern side, Kealakekua Bay is rocky and exposed to regular northwest swells, so swimming and snorkeling conditions are poor. That said, Manini…

3. Pali Kapu o Keoua

0.67 MILES

Above Kealakekua Bay, the 'sacred cliffs of Keoua' were named for a chief and rival of Kamehameha I. Several high, inaccessible caves in these cliffs…

4. Big Island Bees

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At this roadside gift shop and tiny historical museum, genial staff will let you in on all the secrets of beekeeping, then give you a peek inside a living…

5. Keʻei Beach

1.02 MILES

Just south of Kealakekua Bay, Keʻei Beach is an attractive cove that's mostly too rough and rocky for swimming, except for a very narrow sandy stretch at…

6. Captain Cook Monument

1.05 MILES

This tall white obelisk in Kaʻawaloa Cove is visible from a mile away at Kealakekua Bay. It marks the spot where Captain Cook was killed in an armed…

7. Kona Coffee Living History Farm


Many coffee-farm tours are perfunctory 15-minute affairs. This tour, run by the Kona Historical Society, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, is…

8. HN Greenwell Store Museum

2.36 MILES

Housed in one of Kona's oldest buildings, this museum is a taste of 19th-century Hawaiʻi. Built in 1875 and meticulously restored, it has educational…