At first look, Kawaihae might not appear to offer much. It is a small unincorporated area along the arid coastline about 35 miles north of Kailua-Kona. There are few neighborhoods here in the traditional sense. But what Kawaihae does offer makes life easier and enriching in many ways. Kawaihae boasts several good restaurants including Blue Dragon, Plantation Grill, Café Pesto, Seafood Bar and Grill and Kohala Burger and Taco, as well as fine art galleries. But, Kawaihae Harbor is perhaps one of the two most prominent features. The other being Pu’ukohola Heiau which I will highlight in a future historical blog.
Kawaihae Harbor: then and now
Kawaihae Harbor has played a pivotal role in the history of the Big Island for centuries. Kawaihae Bay is where British Explorer George Vancouver first introduced cattle to Hawaii in 1793 when he gifted the livestock to King Kamehameha the Great, who lived nearby at Pu’ukohola Heiau. With its protected bay and close proximity to the fertile farm lands of Waimea, Kawaihae was a thriving port throughout the 1800s with merchants, whaling ships, and missionaries stopping to resupply and conduct business.
Loading cattle, Kawaihae. Hawai‘i State Archives photograph
Kawaihae Harbor: for work and play
Today, Kawaihae Harbor continues to be an important port and serves the west side of the Big Island as a fuel depot and shipping terminal. This is key for those folks moving to, or building a home in the Waimea or North Kohala areas because Young Brothers, one of the main shippers in Hawaii, can receive shipments at Kawaihae. If you’re shipping your car (or building materials) to Hawaii, it’s super convenient to pick up items at Kawaihae.
Kawaihae Harbor is now considered a commercial port
Kawaihae is also an excellent place for those who love to sail or paddle. Growing up in Waimea, my parents owned a sailboat and it was moored at Kawaihae harbor. My family and I spent many weekends on the boat; sailing, swimming, jumping off the pylons, and walking to T.Doi Store for the best fish and teri burgers. One of my favorite things about “Doi Store” were the spider monkeys out back. The owners had these monkeys as pets and they would let us feed and visit with them. Weekends spent at the harbor are my favorite childhood memories.
“T. Doi & Sons store, Kawaihae, Hawaii,” June 1973. John C. Wright, photographer. Bishop Museum photograph.
Popular Destination For Locals
As an adult, I am still making memories and spend a lot of time right here on the small strip of white sand beach inside the harbor. This is a popular weekend and holiday getaway for locals, a perfect setting for tailgating, barbecues and fun for the whole family.
My Happy Place!
Locals also celebrate the Late and Legendary Hawaiian waterman Tiger Espere here at the “Tiger Espere Longboard Classic”, an annual surf contest/beach party that Tiger started in 1992. The contest raises awareness about this historic surfing area as both a recreational reserve and a historical/cultural resource. Through Tiger’s efforts, a surf park — called the “Pua Ka’ilima ‘O Kawaihae Cultural Surf Park” — was created at the breakwater so all can enjoy.
Kawaihae Canoe Club
Kawaihae Canoe Club also lives here, and is dedicated to promoting and perpetuating the art and sport of Hawaiian canoe paddling. The club was formed in 1972 by a group of athletic and civic minded individuals from Waimea. Approximately two hundred individuals make up this non profit organization and they encourage all who are interested to check it out. Ages range from ten to seventy. Everyone is eligible to join the club.
Kawaihae Canoe Club is at the southern-most part of the harbor
With so much to do, it’s easy to see why folks like to live near Kawaihae. Contact me to learn more about this amazing community and real estate opportunities within Kohala Waterfront, Kohala by the Sea, Kohala Ranch, Waimea and North Kohala.
Julie Keller, RB