Shaka Guide's Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide's Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

This short loop drive guides you along Big Island’s northern tip called the Kohala Coast. Shaka Guide will take you along sprawling country roads to a number of historic spots with great significance in Hawaii. Although this is one of our shorter tours, there’s no scarcity in things to do! You’ll travel through tree-lined rolling hills, and down the scenic Kohala Mountain Road towards Waimea Town, a community that’s packed with character. On the way visit a heiau, an ancient fishing village, a famous king's statue, an artsy town, and a gorgeous lookout and hike. 

Our tour of the Kohala Coastline & Backcountry has about 30 narration audio points and takes about 3-5 hours to complete. Since this tour is fairly short, you can start it at any time of the day and still have time left in your day to do other activities. 

Shaka Guide's Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour


We recommend starting the tour around 10:00 a.m. so you can make it to all the spots before they close. No worries if you start later though, again, this tour takes roughly 3-5 hours to complete, even if you visit each spot and do every hike or walking trail.      

Learn Hawaiian History at Puukohola Heiau

Approximate time: 45 minutes 

Puukohola Heiau, Island of Hawaii 

Our first stop gives you the chance to see a very culturally important heiau for both the legendary King Kamehameha, and Hawaii. If you’re not familiar with a heiau, it’s an ancient Hawaiian temple. This specific heiau was built by King Kamehameha as a way to fulfill the prophecy that he would one day unite the Hawaiian Islands. The heiau was dedicated to the war God, Ku.

On your visit you’ll learn more about this heiau and its significance in unifying the Kingdom of Hawaii. We recommend watching the five minute introduction video then walking the quarter-mile path to see the massive temple up close. While you’re there, you might see cultural practitioners. Feel free to ask them questions to learn more about this sacred spot.

Pro Tip! If you have the time and want to keep walking, there is a half-mile loop trail that takes you down to Spencer Beach Park. 

Take a Walk through Lapakahi State Park

Approximate time: 45 minutes

A visit to Lapakahi State Park will transport you back in time over 600 years ago when an ancient Hawaiian fishing village once stood on this spot. While you’re there take a self-guided walking tour of the park to learn about the sustainable fishing and farming practices used by Hawaiians. The entire walk takes about 45 minutes if you go down to the beach -- don’t forget to pick up a brochure so you can understand what you’re seeing. This is a great place to dive deeper into the history of Hawaii and see how the people here once lived. 

Stop for a snack or some lunch in Hawi Town

Approximate time: 15-30 minutes 

At this point in the tour, you might be ready for a snack. Hawi is the perfect place to stop if you’re looking for a quick bite, some tasty ice cream, or a cup of coffee to keep you fueled for the rest of your adventure. This quaint town is located on the northern tip of the island and features eateries, galleries and boutiques in the old, plantation-era buildings that line the streets.

Marvel at King Kamehameha I’s Statue

Approximate time: 5 minutes 

King Kamehameha Statue, Shaka Guide's Kohala Coast Backcountry TourKing Kamehameha Statue in Kapaau, Photo by Blake Bronstad via Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) 

As you enter the small town of Kapaau we’ll drive by a bronze statue of King Kamehameha. Don’t worry -- we’ll tell you where to stop. You can get out and take some pictures, or just drive by. On the way, you’ll learn about a shipwreck that almost prevented this statue from reaching Hawaii!  

Listen to the Story of the Kamehameha Rock

Approximate time: 5 minutes 

This tour really showcases King Kamehameha’s ties to the region, and there’s another, subtle spot along the drive where you can learn about this famous Hawaiian figure and his legacy in Hawaii. On your way to Pololu Valley, you can pull over to the side of the road to see a rock that legend has it was lifted by Kamehameha himself! 

Hike into Pololu Valley 

Approximate time: 1 hour 

Pololu Valley Overlook, Shaka Guide's Kohala Coast and Backcountry TourPololu Valley Lookout, North Kohala, Photo by Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB)  Tyler Schmitt

Located at the very end of the road, the Pololu Valley lookout offers stunning views of the valley and coastline. If you’re up for it, there is a hike into the valley that is one of the highlights of this tour. The black sand beach at the bottom is totally worth the trek. The hike is short at just under a mile round trip, but its steep elevation makes it a moderate hike so take it slow. We recommend you only go if you’re physically fit and wearing the right shoes for the walk.   

If you plan on visiting Pololu Valley, please be respectful. If you get to the parking lot and there's no space, turn back around and try again another day or wait for a spot to open - don't park on the side of the road. Also, be sure to take out what you bring in and leave the trail better than you found it. 

Pull over for the Kohala Mountain Scenic Lookout Point

Approximate time: 5 minutes

As you drive down the Kohala mountain road you will have the opportunity to pull over for a scenic lookout point. We highly recommend this stop which offers panoramic views ranging from Waimea to Kailua-Kona. If you happen to be here later in the evening, this is the perfect spot to watch the sunset! 

Waimea Town Option OR Return to Waikoloa 

Approximate time: 1 hour

Waimea Hills, Island of HawaiiWaimea, Island of Hawaii

As we wind down our day you’ll have the option to head into Waimea Town, a historic paniolo, or cowboy, community or drive back to Waikoloa where you started the tour. If you’re hungry Waimea is a great place to grab some lunch with its many restaurants that source ingredients locally. On the way towards Waimea Town, we’ll tell you a bit about the history of this region, but you can learn even more at one of the town’s many sites that are dedicated to preserving cowboy and ranching culture in the area. We’ll take you to a few of these spots on the tour. 

Anna Ranch 

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Learn about the first lady of racing, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske at this historic site that’s dedicated to the rancher. The home is filled with stories seeing as it’s been in her family for five generations!  Open 10AM-2:30PM and closed Saturday-Monday and costs $10 per person.

Waimea Nature Park

Approximate time: 10 minutes

The name of this park is Ulu la’au which means ‘circle of trees’ in Hawaiian. It’s a great place for a stroll or a picnic to relax next to a flowing stream

Parker Ranch 

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Here you’ll find two historic houses built in the 1800’s. The houses serve as the parker ranch headquarters and free self-guided tours are available weekdays from 8AM to 4PM. They’re packed with art, antiques, and other historic relics that help tell the story of the Parker Ranch. It’s a great way to experience what life was like on this iconic ranch throughout the years.  

Return to Waikoloa 

After you’ve finished exploring Waimea Town, we’ll guide you back towards Waikoloa with some stories along the way! 

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land and wildlife. Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.

Ready to go on the Kohala Coast Backcountry Tour? Check out everything you need to know before you go here

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