Offering, Kawa Bay, Kau, The Big Island of Hawaii
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Kawa Bay

Hawaiʻi the Big Island

Repeatedly a flash-point for coastal-access and land-rights issues, Kawa Bay is now a quiet, pebbly cove. It's bounded by a creek and cliff-top heiau (temple) on one side, and Kaʻalaiki, the island's second-largest freshwater spring system and fishpond estuary, on the other. It's a peaceful place to picnic, and some locals do surf, but beware of strong currents and sharks. Park at the yellow gate at Mile 58.5 on Hwy 11 and walk half a mile down the track to the cove.

Further down Hwy 11 an open 4WD road accesses the coast, but on the other side of the spring. Locals also come here to fish; always respect their space.

In 2011, conservation groups helped the county purchase the land around Kawa to prevent it from being sold to developers. However, Native Hawaiians claiming familial rights to the area squatted here in makeshift shacks, refusing to allow county officials to survey the land. Eventually, they were evicted, but the tension remains.

Among the area's rich cultural sites is Keʻeku Heiau. One of the largest heiau in the region, it is believed to have been a luakini (temple used for human sacrifice). The site is still visited by some Native Hawaiian practitioners whose offerings adorn several ahu (stone cairns used to mark a trail; an altar or shrine). Driftwood bars the entrance – a tacit request that visitors do not enter. Find it atop the cliff on the northeastern end of the bay.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Hawaiʻi the Big Island attractions

1. Henry Opukahaʻia Chapel

1.88 MILES

A small rock chapel and cemetery above Kawa Bay is dedicated to Punaluʻu resident, Henry Opukahaʻia. Several years after watching his parents get killed…

2. Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach Park

2.08 MILES

Beyond the nearly omnipresent green sea turtles basking in the sun, or the rare hawksbill turtles that lay their eggs here (be careful where you walk),…

3. Kaneʻeleʻele Heiau


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4. Whittington Beach Park

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Northeast of Naʻalehu, this small park has tide pools, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond frequented by birds, and the photographic ruins of a historic pier…

5. Honuʻapo Bay Overlook


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6. Ninole Hills

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7. Mark Twain Monkeypod Tree

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8. Kaʻu Coffee Mill

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