Captain Cook Monument Trail

The Ka’awaloa Trail

If you are looking for an adventure on your next trip to the Big Island, you should hike the Ka’awaloa Trail to the Captain Cook Monument. This trail is about 3.6 miles and takes about 45 mins to hike down. The Ka’awaloa trail leads you down sheer sea cliffs to a beautiful crystal-clear bay filled with a plethora of marine life. If you’re lucky enough, you may catch a glimpse of or even get to swim with Hawaiian spinner dolphins. We started our hike around 7:00. The start of the trail was overgrown with cane grass and shaded by mature tamarind trees (you will appreciate the shade on the way out ). The trail was very rocky, so be sure to wear some hiking boots or some sneakers. Along the way, we noticed numbered signs that didn’t really correspond to distance measurement, but once you reach number 8, you have made it to your destination.

captain cook monument

Captain Cook Monument

The Monument was put up in 1874 to commemorate Captain Cook. He was the first European explorer to land on the Hawaiian Islands. Captain Cook landed on the Big Island in 1779 during the Makahiki festival, a harvest dedicated to the Hawaiian god Lono. After two weeks of celebration, Cook left Hawaii. He ran into some bad weather and damage to his ships, so he returned back to Kealakekua Bay. Some petty theft resulted in Cook taking Chief Kalaniopuu hostage for ransom. Unfortunately for Cook and his men, their attempt failed and their lives were taken on February 14, 1779.

Kealakekua Bay is the only underwater state park on Hawaii’s Big Island, with no paved roads.

What to Bring & Wear

Make sure to bring LOTS of water, sneakers/ hiking boots, reef-safe sunscreen or rashguard, snorkel mask, towel, & your swimsuit. I brought my tabis (popular in Hawaii) neoprene felt-soled shoes; this made it easy for me to enter and exit out of the water, not to mention avoiding getting poked by a sea urchin (wana). Be careful not to step or touch the reef when exiting the water. Also, please be sure to pack out what you bring down to this beautiful place (no trash cans or restrooms).

Hiking Out

After our epic snorkeling adventure and playing around in the tidepools, we started our ascent around 11:00. What was once a charming hike turned ugly real fast. The hike instantly ascended uphill, and the sun was blazing down with full force. There were a few trees along the way with very few leaves that provided little shade. I appreciated every little shrub and took 5-10 mins to breathe and cool down under each tree. The hike back to the car took us about an hour. If you are not into hiking, you can rent a  kayak or book a snorkeling tour. All in all, this was an amazing hike and a must-see for visitors and locals alike…enjoy aloha.

Picture of the Kealakekua bay from the Nāpō’opo’o Beach Park and Hikiau Heiau.

About the Author

Sasha Boler

Sasha Boler is a REALTOR Salesperson, PSA, e-PRO® with Hawai'i Life. As a proud member of the West Hawaii Association of Realtors, I am professionally trained to assist my clients with all types of real estate transactions including traditional sales and purchases, investment property transactions, and Comparative Market Analysis (CMAs). When choosing to work with me home sellers have access to a plethora of marketing strategies & massive exposure to sell their home for top value. Some marketing strategy tools that I currently use include blogging, e-blasts, Facebook, Instagram, open houses, Caravans (local networking), mailers, photography, SEO, Google-Based Website, and our Hawaii Life TV (viewer worldwide). To my valued home buyers I offer no-cost educational resources such as First Time Home Buyer Seminars where I provide valuable information on financing requirements and referrals to qualified lenders (if needed), and hands-on assistance with finding, selecting and evaluating properties. Of course, all of my clients can expect to receive professional support in their real estate transactions from start to finish. I live by the Golden Rule and pledge to always be responsive, value your time, listen, and do whatever it takes to help you buy or sell your home. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-9383.

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Mark Rosenberg

June 5, 2020

I swam to the monument once. Wow. Now I look forward to hiking there!


September 19, 2021

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