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Walk along the waterfront at Kailua Village


A Drive on a Hawaii Scenic Byway – Royal Footsteps Along the Kona Coast

By: Idoia Gkikas

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Learn about Hawaii’s royal history at these scenic stops.

This coastal drive – known as the Royal Footsteps along the Kona Coast scenic byway – takes visitors from Kailua Village in the North Kona District, southward along Alii Road to Keauhou.

Historic Kailua Village

Not only is Historic Kailua Village (also called Kailua-Kona) a great destination for shopping, dining and entertainment, it’s also a place to see historically significant Hawaiian sites. Hulihee Palace was built in 1838 as a vacation home for Hawaiian royalty; today it’s a museum of Hawaiian artifacts. Across Alii Road is the Mokuaikaua Churchthe oldest Christian church in the islands, circa 1837. 

Outrigger canoeing in the blue waters of Kailua

Outrigger canoeing in the blue waters of Kailua
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Hale Halawai o Holualoa (Living Stones Church)

This restored 1855 church is significant for its coral lime and lava stone construction. Several interesting artifacts are found here, including an old canoe landing, an important gravesite and ancient papa konane boards – a type of Hawaiian board game.

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Holualoa Bay

Although there are no historic structures in Holualoa Bay, it is said that King Kamehameha I learned to surf in these waters. It’s still a great spot for beginning and experienced surfers.

Laaloa Bay Beach Park and Laaloa Bay

This beach is known as Magic Sands or Disappearing Sands – during high surf, the white-sand shoreline washes away completely. As the surf subsides, ocean currents re-deposit the sand on the beach. At Laaloa Bay Beach Park, you’ll see the ruins of an ancient temple.

Keauhou Historic District

At Kuemanu Heiau temple, it’s believed people prayed for good surfing conditions. Nearby is the tiny St. Peter’s by the Sea Catholic Church, which was built in 1880 at Laaloa Beach, dismantled in 1912 and hand-carried by men and donkeys to its current location.

Kahaluu Bay Beach Park

Known for its excellent snorkeling, the area of Kahaluu Bay Beach Park was used by several Hawaiian rulers. Visitors can still see major stone temples (heiau) here.

Only-in-Hawaii views as seen from Kahaluu Bay Beach Park

Only-in-Hawaii views as seen from Kahaluu Bay Beach Park
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Hapaialii and Keeku Heiau

These heiau (stone temples) are a must-see. Carbon dating shows that Hapaialii was built between 1411 and 1465. Hawaiian oral tradition states that Lonoikamakahiki sacrificed Chief Kamalalawalu of Maui at the Keeku temple.

Heritage Corridor Overlook

This stop offers outstanding views of the coastline along with a map explaining the historic importance of the area.

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Royal Holua Slide

The Royal Holua Slide was an incredibly dangerous tobogganing course, originally 1,200 meters long, where royal athletes would lie on a sled the width of a ski and launch themselves downhill at speeds of up to 95 kmh!

Lekeleke Burial Grounds

More than 300 warriors who fought at the 1819 Battle of Kuamoo – a significant battle that began the eradication of Hawaii’s ancient religious Kapu system of gods, goddesses and temples – are buried here.

Getting There

Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is the main gateway to Oahu and the rest of Hawaii, but airports on each island make it easy to explore the entire state. Fly into Hilo (ITO) or Kona (KOA) international airports on Hawaii Island, Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, Lanai Airport (LNY) on Lanai, Molokai Airport (MKK) on Molokai and Lihue Airport (LIH) on Kauai.

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