Lapakahi, Big Island: same as it ever was

Lapahaki Heritage Park

Hawaii is dotted with many archeological sites reflecting the traditions of the seagoing Polynesians that date back 2,000 years or more. Get beyond the tiki torches and umbrella swizzle sticks of resort areas and you can enter this lost world. This is especially true on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is 5-million years younger that other parts of the island chain and flora hasn’t had a chance to cover the sites up.

One of the first areas to be preserved, about 50 years ago, was Lapakahi State Historical Park. The villlage quietly receives the surf on the west coast of Kohala as it has for some 800 years. Kohala is the green nub on the north of the Big Island, with Maui rising across the channel. Pathways wander through the central village site and the surrounding 300 acres that were once agricultural terraces. The onset of cattle ranching in the 1800s (Parker Ranch, the nation’s largest, is up the slopes of the mountains) disrupted water supplies and sent marauding cows through these lands, spelling doom for the village. The lava stone platforms and wall that remain today were once the foundations of hau-branch structures, woven together and supporting roofs of thatched ki leaves and with floors made cushy with mats. See page 41 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer. (BTW: the birthplace of The Great One, King Kamehameha is not far away on this coast.)