The ancient Hawaiian carved pictures and stone wind-breaks at the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve in Kohala are advertised as a tourist attraction. We thought it would be fun to take a leisurely walk on the King’s Trail to see the petroglyphs on a particularly clear and sunny day this week. We parked at the Kings Shops in Waikoloa Beach and after some searching found our way to the King’s Trail by taking a path along Kings Lake at the back of the shops. The paved path along the lake ends on Pohakulana Place across from the Waikoloa Fairway Villa condos. We crossed the street and entered the Kings Trail where a sign points the way.
The Kings Trail was built over older foot trails in the 1870’s during King Kalakaua’s reign. It was used to drive cattle through the rough lava fields from the ranches to the shore to be loaded onto ships. It was built to be relatively straight and level with stone curbs on the edges to keep the cattle in. The King used prisoners and people unable to pay their taxes to build the road. The portion of the King’s Trail in Waikoloa Beach cuts across a lava field covered with carvings and lava caves surrounded by the Kings Course of the Waikoloa Beach golf club.
We walked a short section of the trail which intersects with the golf cart road. There were no carvings on that section and it would have been easier on our feet to have just walked next to it on Pohakulana Place (which becomes a golf cart road) to the next entrance.
A sign indicated that the carvings and wind breaks were a distance down the Kings Trail.
A little way down the trail, it started to have no resemblance to a level path. We wondered how cattle could have managed it.
The trail was very difficult to walk, the sun began to bake us on the lava field, and the wind was so strong we could not keep our hats on. We had good shoes and are in decent shape, but it was far from a leisurely walk at this point and we had yet to see a carving.
Within a thousand feet we had to start crawling on all fours to get down some extremely steep and jagged drops in the “trail”. Still no carvings.
We continued on, certain that this advertised tourist attraction must have petroglyphs somewhere. We watched a young couple behind us turn back after giving up on the worst hazard of the trail and we were beginning to dread our walk back.
Finally the petroglyphs, circles, dots, and surprisingly letters, came into view.
As we progressed, carvings in the pahoehoe lava become frequent.
The most common ancient carvings are dots, holes, and circles. These markings have various interpretations including representations for journeys and indications of children born.
The age of the earliest of the carvings is estimated to be 800 AD when the Waikoloa area was first settled.
We were surprised to see names carved into the stone in between the circles and other designs.
Lava caves and stone wind breaks are located along the side of the trail.
Our progress was slow along the path. The howling wind and the sun beating down on us made us appreciate the need of wind breaks for the early Hawaiian travelers.
We reached a “Kapu” sign on the King’s Trail and a path veered to the right.
We had an easy walk back to the Kings Shops on the golf cart road. Our only hazard was dodging a half dozen speeding golf carts. And we were mighty sore the next day from crawling over rough sections of the trail
If you are interested in an easy walk to a field of ancient Hawaiian petroglpyhs, take Pohakulana Place (off Waikoloa Beach Road) until it becomes a golf cart road. When the golf cart road crosses the King’s Trail stay on it, go past the bathrooms, and turn left with the lake to your right. Before reaching the maintenance building, you will see an entrance to the petroglyph reserve on the left with a sign. The short path from the golf cart road to the King’s Trail is well marked with great views of the wind breaks, lava caves, and nearby petroglyphs. Watch out for golf carts and golf balls.