An afternoon drive to the northwest region of Hawai’i Island can take you up a winding mountain road, through green, misty hills, through a tunnel of pine trees and past horse and cattle ranches. You are about to visit one of the areas of the Big Island that is least explored by visitors, the region of Kohala. While it encompasses two districts, North Kohala and South Kohala, locals generally use the name when referring to the area surrounding the towns of Hawi and Kapa’au.
Kohala is steeped in rich cultural and agricultural history. It is the birthplace of King Kamahamaha I, who is honored every year in a celebration that includes a parade, local crafts and artists, music and dance, and many exhibits. The natural habitat of the area includes a wide rainfall gradient in short distance, from less than 5 inches near the coast, to more than 150 inches near the summit of Kohala mountain, just a distance of 11 miles. This rainfall allowed Kohala to be developed into thriving sugar plantations for many years, until the last of the mills closed in the 1970’s. Today, much of that land is held in stewardship for diversified agriculture.