South Kohala

Ancient Hawaiian Fish Ponds

Like their Polynesian forebears, Hawaiians were among the first aquaculturists on the planet. Scientists still marvel at the ways they used the brackish ponds along the shoreline to stock and harvest fish. There are actually two different types of ancient fish ponds (or loko i'a). Closed ponds, located inshore, were closed off from the ocean. Open ponds used rock walls as a barrier to the ocean and sluice gates that connected the ponds to the ocean. The gates were woven vines, with just enough room for juvenile fish to swim in at high tide while keeping the bigger, fatter fish from swimming out. Generally, the Hawaiians kept and raised mullet, milkfish, and shrimp in these open ponds; juvenile manini, papio, eels, and barracuda occasionally found their way in, too.

The Kalahuipuaa Fish Ponds, at Mauna Lani Resort (808/885-6622), are great examples of both types of ponds in a lush tropical setting. South of the Mauna Lani Resort are Kuualii and Kahapapa Fish Ponds, at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort (808/886-6789). Both resorts have taken great pains to restore the ponds to their original states and to preserve them for future generations; call ahead to arrange a free guided tour.

Kohala Petrogylph Fields

The Hawaiian petroglyphs are a great enigma of the Pacific—no one knows who made them or why. They appear at 135 different sites on six inhabited islands, but most are found on the Big Island, and include images of dancers and paddlers, fishermen and chiefs, and tools of daily life such as fish hooks and canoes. The most common representations are family groups, while some petroglyphs depict post–European contact objects such as ships, anchors, horses, and guns. Simple circles with dots were used to mark the puka, or holes, where parents would place their child’s umbilical cord (piko).

The largest concentration of these stone symbols in the Pacific lies in the 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve next to the Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, near the Mauna Lani Resort. Some 3,000 designs have been identified. The 1.5-mile Malama Trail through a kiawe field to the large, reddish lava field starts north of the hotel, makai side. Take Highway 19 to the resort turnoff and drive toward the coast on North Kaniku Drive, which ends at the Holoholokai Beach parking lot; the trailhead on your right is marked by a sign and interpretive kiosk. Go in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler; bring water, wear shoes with sturdy soles (to avoid kiawe thorns), and stay on the trail.

Local expert Kalei'ula Kaneau leads a free 1-hour tour of the petroglyphs near the Kings’ Shops in the Waikoloa Beach Resort Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 9:30am; meet lakeside by Island Fish & Chips. You can also follow the signs to the trail through the petroglyph field on your own, but be aware that the trail is exposed, uneven, and rough; wear closed-toe shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.

Note: The petroglyphs are thousands of years old and easily destroyed. Do not walk on them or take rubbings (the Puako preserve has a replica petroglyph you may use instead). The best way to capture a petroglyph is with a photo in the late afternoon when the shadows are long.

North Kohala

It takes some effort to reach the Kohala Historical Sites State Monument, but for those with 4WD vehicles or the ability to hike 3 miles round-trip, visiting the windswept, culturally important site on the island's northern tip may be worth it. The 1,500-year-old Mookini Heiau, once used by kings to pray and offer human sacrifices, is among the oldest, largest (the size of a football field), and most significant shrines in Hawaii. It’s off a coastal dirt road, 1 1/2 miles southwest of ‘Upolu Airport; Thurs–Tues 9am–8pm; free admission).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.