Lapakahi (“single ridge”) State Historical Park is the archaeological site of the remains of a traditional Hawaiian fishing community. It was believed to have been inhabited about 600-700-years ago (1300s.)
Lapakahi was a place of the maka‘āinana, the fishermen and farmers. They worked to sustain the resources and support their families.
The rolling hills and gulches sheltered this cove from the strong Kohala wind. The sea was rich in food and the soil nurtured their crops. Black stone walls and thatched roofs soon appeared on the landscape.
As the village prospered, the families moved inland to grow their crops of kalo (taro) and ‘uala (sweet potato). Families along the shore (makai) traded fish for kalo from the uplands (mauka).
Pa‘akai (“salt from the sea” – for seasoning and preservative for food) was taken mauka while olonā plants were brought makai to make nets and fishing line. A trail curbed with stones connected mauka and makai and the people of Lapakahi travelled this trail exchanging the resources of the land and sea.
Parts of this former village have been partially restored but most of the rocky walls and remains are original. Today, this 265-acre State Park is the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement located along the shoreline of the North Kohala coastline.
A self-guided tour takes visitors over marked trails (with a free guide brochure) and leads them through several acres of this historic village.
Highlighted sites include house sites and a canoe halau (long house); runs through a game area where visitors can try spear throwing, ‘ulu maika (disc rolling) and konane (checkers); and leads to a fishing shrine and salt pans along the rocky shoreline.
Lava stone walls formed the lower portion of the homes and shelters built here. Wooden poles supported the pili grass roofs and walls. Trees, bushes, grass and rocks were all used as food sources or utensils for building, cooking or fishing.
In 1979, the nearshore waters were added to the Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD) system under DLNR. Within Koaiʻe Cove are two small beaches consisting of coral rubble (there is no sand beach). The cove provides the easiest access to the water.
The nearshore bottom is mostly boulders and lava fingers with some coral. The cove’s northern portion has some good coral growth close to shore, but coral and fish are most abundant in the southern portion. Considerable marine life is also found around the outcropping of rocks to the right of the cove’s center.
There is a remarkable diversity of fish species within the MLCD, as nearly all nearshore species typical of the North Kohala coast are represented. During the winter, humpback whales are frequently spotted just offshore.
Near the entrance to the park is an educational display of implements used by the ancient villagers. Pick up the guide brochure and take the self-guided tour through the marked trails at your convenience.
The Park is located on the northwestern coast of Hawaiʻi; Lapakahi is about 12 miles north of Kawaihae. Take Hwy 270 north from Kawaihae to Lapakahi State Historical Park. The park entrance is on the left side of the highway, and marked with a sign. Parking is available at the end of the road. (Lots of information here from DLNR.)