King Kamehameha Day
Yesterday afternoon we drove up the west side of the Hawaiian island from Keahou Bay to North Kohala on the north coast, the birthplace of King Kamehameha I. The locals put on a floral parade, decorate a tall statue of Kamehameha with hundreds of feet of floral leis, and set up a free outdoor festival for King Kamehameha Day every June 11. Unfortunately we were too late for the parade and drove in frustrating traffic instead.
Once we made it to the festival site, we watched hula dancers and ate from local food stands. Inside a community center, we talked with local artisans demonstrating their prowess in Hawaiian floral, quilt, saddle, weaving, and other arts.
Music and dancing continued throughout the afternoon, including this fine guitar player:
The crowds were a bit much to handle, so we left after about an hour. We drove part way back down the coast to stop at Pu'ukohola National Historic Site. Kamehameha and his legion of men built an impressive temple from hand-cut lava rocks on this site. The National Park-operated site includes a small visitor center, restrooms, 1/4 mile hike, and touch-table of native flora and fauna for kids.
Kamehameha's rule was violent and through his actions the Hawaiian islands were first united. He is credited with the 'Law of the Splintered Paddle', a law protecting elderly, women, and children from non-combatant violence. During his reign, Kamehameha sought the advice of British and American leaders, beginning the transition of the islands from native rule to US statehood. Witnessing the celebration of his birth and rule was a fascinating cultural experience.
If you go (unlikely, but I wish I had some advice to read before heading out for the celebration):
- Either drive to North Kohala and park before 8:15 am or wait until late morning after the parade. We hit right during the most crowded time and wasted an hour in traffic.
- Bring cash and expect a short wait for each food vendor. The food was of good quality, even the poi balls.
- Wear sun protection. There is some shade but not a lot.
- Pair with another activity or two - Hawi town had cute art galleries, Kawaihae has a beautiful pier with boats and nice fish shop, and walking to view the Pu'ukohola site only takes 20 minutes.