Getting to know the sleepy town of Hawi, Hawaii

As we are preparing to leave the Big Island of Hawaii there is a mental check list of places I want to explore a little more deeply.  The small town of Hawi is one of them!

2 years ago a monk seal was born on the beach up in Northern Kohala and when we went to check him out a bit we drove through the charming little towns up there.  Each blends into the next with no clear distinction but they are charming, sleepy and places I knew I wanted to spend more time in.

We are leaving in May so only have a little over a month left.  With my birthday coming and the fact that we almost always choose experiences over gifts I knew this was my chance.  So we booked a hotel, researched what we wanted to do while there and after stopping at Tex's for hot malasadas we were on our way for a 3 day adventure!

For starters there really are not very many hotels in the area at all.  One that stands out though is the Kohala Village Inn.  More than just a place to lay your head this is a beautiful property in the heart of Hawi that is more a community space or hub as they call it.  There are beautifully appointed plantation style rooms, a cafe, food shop, CSA where locally grown food is the centerpiece, a children's playground, and a large barn where they hold community programs and workshops.  I love how invested in the community they are.

The room we stayed in was lovely for a family as it was 2 adorable rooms connected with a shared bathroom, giving everyone a little more space.  1 room had a Queen bed and the other room 2 double beds, perfect for our family of 5. The rooms had a really authentic feel, something I really appreciated.  It felt so welcoming and more like a hostel because of the communal vibe but with much nicer rooms and privacy.  There is an open area with books, couches, water cooler, a large dining table as well as a refrigerator (had a private one in our room as well) and microwave available for every one's use.

Comfort is a vital component to any hotel stay and the Kohala Village Inn had that in spades but another component that we have found through the years, that is almost as important as comfort, is location!  That was the other great thing about this hotel, it was perfectly placed right in the middle of Hawi, so easy to walk around and enjoy the art galleries, restaurants and cafes but it was set back enough that there was no noise issue at all at night or in the morning.  It was also right across the street from a nice locals mini mart type store as well as the meeting spots for some of the more popular adventure activities in the area.

We stayed 2 nights and loved it.  The town is quite sleepy at night but we brought games, and there was a TV with cable in each room not to mention the great playground my younger boys loved!

One of the coolest things to do in the area is to flume, or kayak, down the old ditch system.  100+ years ago when there was a lot of sugar cane production in the area an irrigation ditch was built to provide enough water for the crops.  When the sugar cane production left the island the ditch remained.  It is actually in remarkably good shape due to these companies and the upkeep they provide.

You start the tour in a 4x4 van looking at various lookout points around the area, most of which are off limits unless you are doing a tour like this one with Flumin' Kohala. The tour then moves on to a short walk through the jungle to reach the starting point of the flume.  The best part about it was all the information that the guides were able to share.  They were helpful, fun, and so passionate about the area.  You are required to wear a small life saving belt and closed toed shoes and that's about it for requirements. We wore our suits and had a chance to jump out and swim a bit, which was a nice reprieve from the heat.

I put together a little video below that shows what the flume is like.  We had a great time and learned a great deal about King Kamehameha and the surrounding area.

Tip: Bring water there was none provided until the end of the tour and we got pretty thirsty. Also good to bring some towels along with you.  You WILL get wet!

I've been hearing about Pololu lookout for the past few months.  For some reason I didn't even know it existed when we went all the way up there to see the baby monk seal so as I contemplated the what to do aspect of this trip I knew that had to make the list.  I had heard the hike was a bit rough so I decided to wait and make a decision when we got to the lookout.

As soon as we approached the lookout we were blown away, stunning seaside cliffs, large valleys, and waterfalls drifting off the cliffs into the ocean below.  I took a look at the hike starting point and although quite steep I decided to go for it.  It was just my oldest son and I as the littles had enough and wanted to stay at the playground.

The hike down took about 30-40 minutes because it was a little slick and muddy.  It was beautiful really, loads of spots to sort of stand to the side, take a break and soak in one stunning vista after another.  At the bottom there is a lovely black sand beach and a small little river, loads of balancing rocks, some hammocks, and just a generally cool vibe.  We hung out for quite some time enjoying the peace as not very many people were there at all and then hiked back up.  The way back only took about 20 minutes but was much harder cardio wise.  The path is mostly covered too so not too hot.

Tips: Definitely bring some water and a snack.  Try to take any valuables with you as there is some theft from the cars at times.  Watch the current well before getting in the water.  It was deceptively calm while we were there but upon more inspection there was quite a strong current and no lifeguards anywhere. Also as you head over to Hawi be sure to drive slow and look around, it is my favorite area on the island with sloping green hills and stunning 180 degree + sweeping ocean views!

North Kohala does not have any white sand beaches unless you head down towards Southern Kohala and visit Hapuna, Spencer, or Mauna Kea beaches.  Those would be about a 40 minute drive from Hawi.  The beaches up in Hawi area are Pololu beach (the black sand beach I mentioned above), Keokea beach where we were honored to see the baby monk seal a few times but is more of a rocky beach, Kapa'a Beach park which is also a rocky beach where monk seals often rest, or Mahukona, also a rocky beach.

We visited all these beaches and they all have facilities like bathrooms and showers.  But definitely bring water and snacks as there is not much of that kind of thing around.

History and Culture
As I said before I did a lot of research for this little mini trip.  I quickly realized that there was a lot of cultural experiences to be had in this area of the island.  But sadly we were unable to actually get to any.  They all involve at least a little bit of hiking and after all our other activities we were just out of daylight.  A reason to return soon I guess.

If you want to head that way try and visit King Kamehameha's birthplace within Kohala historical sites state monument and Lapakahi state historical park.  I don't have a wealth of knowledge about these spots but they can offer you a glimpse into ancient Hawaiian life.

Have you been to Hawi?  What did you think?  Where did you go?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

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