From the road the park doesn't look all that impressive. We have passed the gate to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park for years on our trips from Kona to COSTCO and never thought to stop and check it out. We were finally curious enough to visit the 1160 acre park to see its touted fishpond and unique fish trap.
Kaloko fishpond, the widest and largest fishpond in the state of Hawaii, is on the northern end of the park.
To get to it you have to walk across a barren lava field to the coast or be willing to drive over a rough, dirt road accessible by a gate just north of the Visitor’s Center gate on Highway 19.
The road is deeply rutted which makes for a bumpy ride. Although we drove it in a sedan, we were worried that the sharp rocks jutting up might pop the tires or rip out the transmission.
The road intersects with the “King’s Trail” that runs along the coast.
The road also passes by ancient rock walls and foundations.
At the end of the road is a parking lot just a few steps away from the fishpond and a small white sand beach.
Kaloko fish pond is large compared to the ones we are familiar with in South Kohala, but the massive rock wall that encloses the fishpond, restored after 13 years of effort, was unexpected.
Local Hawaiians with the knowledge of how to create kuapa walls by setting interlocking stones without shaping them or using cement rebuilt the impressive wall. We walked across the solid and stable structure and looked down at the pounding surf. We marveled at how difficult it must have been to place each stone so neatly and securely within all the other stones.
The mason workers say that they “listen” to where the stone wants to be placed. The recreation of a stone wall of this scale and complexity will hopefully retain the knowledge of Uhau Humu Pohaku (Hawaiian Dry Stack Masonry) on Hawaii Island.
The ‘Ai’opio fishtrap and Honokohau beach are located at the southern end of the park. You can hike to it or drive to a south park entrance within Kona’s Honokohau Boat Harbor. The harbor entrance is at Kealakehe Parkway off Highway 19. The palm tree lined Kealakehe Parkway has a plaque on the side of the road installed in 1964 recognizing the Hawaiian Honokohau Settlement as a National Historic Landmark.
The park entrance is located near Kona Sailing Club which can be reached by taking a right turn at the first intersection on Kealakehe Parkway road in the harbor. A large parking lot is located on the left and the park gate is located on the right.
Pedestrian and animals on a leash can pass through the gate to an unpaved park trail that leads to the coastline.
The trail is rocky from the gate to the beach, not wheelchair accessible, but only about a half mile to the beach.
The beach in front of the fish trap has a restored canoe house and shade for a picnic or enjoying the view. The day we went, a few people had brought in chairs to spend the day snorkeling or fishing.
The ‘Ai’opio fishtrap is an usual stone structure in a 1.7 acre pond. The stone walls surrounding the pond were low enough to allow fish in during high tide but high enough to trap the fish at low tide. The fish trap captured and stored fish as opposed to the fish ponds where fish were raised.
At the south end of the beach is Maliu Point Resource Area, a protected historical area with stone walls and remains of a temple. The view from the point is great and we could see huge fish jumping in the ocean by perching on the rocks.
An alternate walk from the park back to the parking lot is near Mailu Point, where a gate leads to the side of Kona’s Honokohau Small Boat Harbor channel. We enjoyed the walk along the channel where the boats enter and leave the harbor.
The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Visitor’s Center is located 4.2 miles south of Kona International airport on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway (Highway 19) and a half a mile north of the entrance to Kona's Honokohau Harbor. The center has a large parking area, bathrooms, and a small store. Park information and maps are available and a park ranger is on site to talk story. Entrance is free. The gate is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (website: nps.gov/kaho)