National Historical Park
After checking in at the modest building that does multiple duty as visitor center, park store and ranger station, a wander over the undulating nearshore lava fields here in the Kona sun will bring you through rich archeological sites and along the rocky coast, where juvenile honu (Hawaiian Green sea turtles), forage for seaweed in shallow water. The peoples who settled the Hawaiian archipelago arrived sometime around 2,000 years ago. The first areas of settlements were along shorelines near fresh water. Villages were vibrant places that included hale (structures), set aside for cloth making, canoe building, healing and worship. Fishermen worked the nearshore area as well as the open ocean. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park enfolds the remains of one of these settlements on 1,160.91 acres along the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island.
Here, two enormous fishponds and two fishtraps remain, their black lava rock walls dividing the open ocean from calmer inshore aquaculture areas. Petroglyphs depicting the joys and sorrows of daily life—birth, death, travel, fishing, sailing—are found throughout the park.
Wetland birds such as the aeʻo (Hawaiian stilt) forage and breed in the calm flooded areas inside the fishpond walls, and the beaches are sanctuary and forage for migrating shorebirds such as ʻakekeke (Ruddy Turnstones) and kola (Pacific Golden Plover). Without a doubt, however, it is the basking honu, hauled up and snoozing in the hot sand, that most delight and fascinate the visitor. Basking turtles are resting, and should be given plenty of space and respect. Federal law protects them from harassment, in and out of the water.
Hawaiians are often said to have been the first Pacific islanders to have undertaken nearshore aquaculture on a truly large scale. Many, if not most, natural embayments were enclosed with rock walls and utilized to raise ʻamaʻama (mullet), awa (milkfish) and other nearshore schooling fishes. Time, tsunamis and neglect have disintegrated many of these fishpond walls, but at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park it is possible to see the restored, massive fishpond walls and imagine the pulse of the productive community that once lived here.