Hawi is the northernmost town on the Big Island, 50 mi/80 km north of Kailua-Kona, located near the Kohala Mountains and Kapa'au, another small community. The area around Hawi is rich in Hawaiian history, and there are two attractions considered must-sees. First, Mookini Heiau State Monument, a National Historic Landmark, is one of Hawaii's most famous and impressive heiau (places of worship).

Traditionally associated with such kings and heroes as Kuamoo, Mo'okini, Pa'ao and Kamehameha I, this temple, where humans were once sacrificed, is said to have been built in one night by more than 15,000 men passing basalt rocks, fire-brigade style, from Polulu Valley, some 14 mi/23 km away, to the temple site. Nearby is the recognized birthplace of Kamehameha the Great (Kamehameha I), who united the Hawaiian Islands under one kingdom in 1810.

Down the road a couple of miles/kilometers at Kapa'au, you'll find an impressive statue of Kamehameha the Great at the old courthouse. Along the main street (Highway 270), check out the Ackerman Galleries and the shops in the vintage Nanbu Hotel Building, including Elements Jewelry.

Just 7 mi/11 km southwest of Hawi on the Kohala coast, at Lapakahi State Historical Park, history is re-enacted at a restored fishing village. Take the self-guided tour and stick around long enough to catch some authentic Hawaiian storytelling sessions. The ocean waters off Lapakahi are a marine preserve, and not far away are several large fields with petroglyph carvings in lava rock.

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