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  3. Turtles and Hawaiian culture at the Kaloko-Honokōhau Park near Kona
Written by Sandrine Updated on 02/03/20
8:30 to 16:00

The Kaloko-Honokōhau Historical Park is located between the Kona Marina and the Kohanaiki Golf Course. In addition to its historical aspect, it is above all a favourite place for sea turtles, which are very numerous to venture on the sandy coasts of the park, and therefore very easy to observe here.

The park covers a fairly large area, extending over a good part of the coastline for almost 2.5 km long. There are 3 entrances to the park so the main one in the center has a small visitor center with brochures and explanatory panels that will tell you a little more about the habitats of the early Hawaiians and how they divided the land between the sea and the highlands.

Entrance to the park is free and the park is open from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

From the visitor center, there are several trails to explore the park. You can also park at one of the peripheral car parks to access the trails, some of which allow you to make loops (see map at the bottom of the article).

1The 'Ai'Opiō Fishtrap

This small pond and old fish trap is easily accessible from the south entrance of the park. From the marina car park, a short path of about 200m leads us to the seaside where an old canoe shelter has been rebuilt.

Old canoe shelter - Kaloko-Honokōhau
The old canoe shelter.

The fishtrap is right behind it. It is also possible to go and see an ancient heiau (Hawaiian temple) by going along the fishtrap to the south for about 100m.

2See the turtles at Honokōhau Beach

The long beach of Honokōhau is one of the great interests of this park as you can easily see turtles. During our two visits, we have seen them both times and in large numbers, whether they are in the water, on the rocks or sunbathing on the beach.

Turtles in the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Turtles in the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.
Turtle on the sand at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Turtle on the sand at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

How easy is it to spot turtles?

The question may seem a little naive, but the first time we came there, it took a long time before we saw the turtles, which were right in front of us, half in the water in the small ponds by the beach.

If the turtles are on the sand or the rocks, you will spot them very quickly. But they can also be underwater. If this is the case, chances are you won't see anything at first glance because their shells are similar to small smooth rocks and the same colour as the surrounding rocks. Since their heads will be underwater, only the dome of their shells will stick out of the water.

Turtle at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Turtle at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

So look carefully for small puddles at the water's edge for smooth, rounded rocks, and maybe you'll see a little head sneaking out of the water!

Turtle at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Turtle at the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.

Access to Honokōhau Beach

The beach is easily accessible from the south entrance of the park, going up to the ocean from the fishtrap. It is also accessible from the visitor center via the Ala Mauka Makai, a pleasant 1.1 km trail that takes us a little further along the beach.

Once at the water's edge, you can go up the coast by continuing on the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail, a more or less traced trail (initially in the sand), which runs along the ocean to Wāwahiwa'a Point for about 4.7 km.

Honokōhau Beach
At the edge of Honokōhau Beach at low tide.

3Discover some petroglyphs at Ki'i Pōhaku

From the middle of the Ala Mauka Makai, a short trail leads us to discover strange petroglyphs, some of which seem to be "guns", brought for the first time by James Cook's crew.

4The 'Aimakapā Fishpond

If you walk along the ocean on the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail you will reach the 'Aimakapā Fishpond. It's not really signposted and we passed by without really seeing it! 

This fishpond can only be reached by taking the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail via the Ala Mauka Makai or the Ala Hu'ehu'e.

5The big loop of the park

Loop of 4,6km - 2h00 - Easy

If you have a little time in front of you, it might be interesting to do the big loop that will allow you to discover most of the points of interest in the park.

It starts at the visitor center but you can also easily access it from the south entrance.

From the visitor center, take the Ala Mauka Makai which will take you to Honokōhau Beach after 1.1km, stopping to see the petroglyphs at Ki'i Pōhaku. Once on the beach, walk along the beach and continue on the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail for 1.5km.

On the Ala Kahakai Historic Trail
On Ala Kahakai Historic Trail after walking along the beach.

It is then necessary to return to the visitor center by taking the Ala Hu'ehu'e, a trail that crosses a lava field for 1.1 km before branching off on another trail of 900m that arrives at the visitor center.

On the Ala Hu'ehu'e
On the Ala Hu'ehu'e through the lava field.

Be careful to borrow the Ala Hu'ehu'e only if you have enough water with you as the portion in the lava field is extremely grueling due to the heat.

Count a total of 4.6 km and about 2 hours to go and observe the turtles.

6The Kaloko Fishpond

The Kaloko Fishpond is located in the northern area of the park which is accessible from a 1.2 km unpaved track that can be easily passed by any type of vehicle (be careful, you will not be insured with a rental car on this type of road).

At the end of the road there is a car park with easy access to the Kaloko Fishpond, another fishing pond used in the past and which is this time well developed. Here you can understand the principle of fishing for fish that get caught in the pond by the tides.

There are a few picnic tables and sanitary facilities on site.

Dyke on the Kaloko Fishpond
Dike closing the Kaloko Fishpond, the access channel is located near the gates.

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