A bit of Hawaiian history: In January 1778, Captain Cook made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands while commanding the HMS Resolution and Discovery. He and his crew are considered the first Europeans to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Cook named the island chain “the Sandwich islands” after a patron named John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich.
Originally, the crew was welcomed by the Hawaiians who were fascinated by the large ships and the use of iron. While Cook re-provisioned his ships by trading metal, some of the sailors traded iron nails for sex. The ships made a brief stop on the island of Ni’ihau then headed north to look for the western end of the Northwest passage.
A year later in January 1779, the crew returned to the islands and docked in Kealakekua Bay. The Hawaiians were celebrating the fertility god, Lono and thought the English were visiting gods. Unfortunately, the crew spent the next month exploiting the Hawaiians. During that month, a crewman died which enlightened the Hawaiians as to the crew’s mortality and the realization that they were not gods. The Hawaiians were undoubtedly thrilled and only too happy to wave goodbye to the HMS Resolution and Discovery as they sailed out of the bay on February 4, 1779.
But wait…rough seas damaged the foremast of the Resolution and, after only a week, Cook was forced to return to Kealakekua Bay. As the ships sailed back into Ka’awaloa Cove, the Hawaiians greeted them by hurling rocks and stealing a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Captain Cook attempted to negotiate with King Kalaniopuu but it all went sideways when a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death. Angry Hawaiians overwhelmed the 10-man shore party and Cook plus four sailors were killed. Before the two ships sailed back to England, the sailors retaliated by killing about thirty Hawaiians.
Despite the unfortunate events in Hawaii, Captain Cook is regarded as one of the greatest explorer, navigator and mapmaker of all time. He mapped more of the earth than any other explorer. I try to imagine what it must have been like to travel as far and as wide as he did and in such arduous conditions. I complain about my 10-hour flight to Hawaii. Yet, he sailed for years on his ship.
Many people chose to kayak to Ka’awaloa Bay or take an organized boat tour there but we preferred to hike the Ka’awaloa trail. It’s a steep trek but worth it when you get to the bay and jump in the refreshing waters for a swim and a snorkel.
The trailhead is located off of Hwy 11. Turn toward to seaward side onto Napo’opo’o Road and drive to the third telephone pole which is where the trail begins. There’s limited parking and no shade so go early in the morning.
The signs at the start of the trailhead are self-explanatory. I second all of the “think twice” advice. We ended up on the trail in the middle of the day and there’s NO SHADE for a good portion it. On the way back up the hill, I had no shame and poured water directly over my head just to keep cool. I’m sure I looked frightful to other hikers going down. Can’t stress enough to going early. It’s a two-mile hike from the trailhead to the monument and there’s a 1,300 foot descend. It took me one hour going down and 1.5 hours on the return hike ~ I didn’t stop either way except for a water breaks. It’s not an easy and I would recommend it only if you’re in decent shape. Be sure to pack lots of water, wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy hiking shoes.
The following are photos from the start to the end of the trail: