Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park

Learn how ancient Hawaiians thrived on barren lava by constructing elaborate fishponds

Showcasing the ingenuity of ancient Hawaiian fishpond aquaculture, this 1150-acre park (half is in the water) is located a couple miles south of Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole on Highway 19 in the Kaloko-Honokohau areas.

The park has hiking (gravel) trails that traverse a hot and dry landscape that sits atop lava flows at least 2,000 years old. It’s amazing to imagine living in this barren, inhospitable environment. Ancient Hawaiians survived by trading the ocean’s bounty—including sea salt— with residents who lived up the mountain and grew breadfruit, yams and other crops.

“The park illustrates how Hawaiians effectively lived in a difficult area,” says Jon Jokiel, supervisory park ranger-interpretation. “They were productive.”

The ancient seaside inhabitants practiced an intricate system of catching, farming and harvesting seafood that required the building of ocean traps, ponds, auwai kai (channels) and makaha (sluice gates). Gates would let the fish swim into a pond, where they would feed and eventually get too fat to return to the ocean. Visitors can see remnants of the Aimakapa Fishpond (a sandy wall enclosure) and the Aiopio Fishtrap, which was used for harvesting fish during changing tides.

The landmark Kaloko Fishpond, which is continually being restored in the traditional dry-stack masonry method, is 800 feet long and 40 feet wide in some places. “The wall of this pond is considered the largest of its kind in Polynesia,” details Jokiel. Guests can hike or drive to the Kaloko Fishpond.

The park offers a 4.5-mile loop hiking trail, sturdy shoes and water necessary, and a boardwalk permits viewing of unique, war-like petroglyphs. A park visitor center, Hale Hookipa, is staffed 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.  The interpretation station stocks park brochures—complete with a map—and an informative park audio tour is accessible via smart phone. Scheduled cultural activities are listed at www.nps.gov/kaho.