Pu'uhonua Honaunau / Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

Pu'uhonua Honaunau / Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Heather Goodman

Coconut Island in Hilo, Hawaii - the Beautiful Area That Once Protected Criminals

Shaka Guide


Why is Coconut Island called 'Moku Ola'?

Coconut Island is also called Moku Ola, which means 'healing island' or 'island of life' - and it used to be the home of an ancient temple that was dedicated to healing. Legend has it that swimming around the island three times would heal any ailments or ill feelings. Fortunately, the island isn't very large, so swimming around isn’t too challenging!

Ancient Traditions on Coconut Island

The island also used to be a place of refuge, or a Pu'uhonua', in ancient times. Any person who was caught breaking the laws, or Kapu, could swim to the island to redeem themselves. If they reached the island before the warriors that were chasing them, they would be pardoned for their crimes and allowed to return to their people. Hawaiian mothers would practice the ancient tradition of burying their children’s umbilical cords under the rocks on the island too. Umbilical cords, called Piko, are sacred to ancient Hawaii, as they are the connection to their mothers and to their bloodline.

How to get to Coconut Island in Hilo?

Coconut Island is connected to Hilo's shoreline by a short footbridge. Head to Liliuokalani Gardens, a beautiful Japanese-style garden located on Banyan Drive in Hilo. There's ample parking available nearby. From Liliuokalani Gardens, you'll see a 75 meters long footbridge leading to Coconut Island. Simply walk across the bridge to reach the island.

Activities in Coconut Island

Coconut island is a small park, and despite the name, we have yet to find a coconut on it! It offers a great ocean breeze and a view of Hilo town, making it the perfect spot to sit, have a picnic and relax on the large grassy field. There are also tables and restroom facilities, and some tiny white sand beaches that are great spots to get into the ocean if you are itching for a swim. The water is very refreshing and usually calm - but the visibility is fairly low, so we wouldn't recommend it for snorkeling.

Attractions around Coconut Island in Hawaii

Liliuokalani Gardens

green garden in hawaiiImage from Flickr by 

Somewhat close by is a stunning traditional Japanese garden complete with ponds, bridges, and verdant vegetation.

Hilo Farmers Market

A bustling marketplace brimming with local produce, artisanal crafts, exotic fruits, and tasty treats.

Wailoa River State Recreation Area

The history and culture of Hawaii are presented through art installations, walking routes, and picnic spaces.


Want to visit Coconut Island?

Check out our North Island Jungle Adventure Loop Tour!

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