Hike: The Captain Cook Monument, in Kealakekua Bay State Historic Park
Distance: About 4 miles
Hike Duration: 3 – 5 hours (leave plenty of time to swim, snorkel, and relax)
Total Elevation Gain: about 1,300 feet
The Captain Cook Monument is extremely unique in that it is a memorial, a state park, touches the shores of a marine reserve, and also technically belongs to the United Kingdom (even though it is located in the United States in Hawaii).
Captain James Cook was the first ever documented European to visit the Hawaiian Islands. Cook’s ships, The Resolution and The Discovery, arrived in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1779. Cook and his men were received with a very warm and pleasant greeting by the local people. Cook landed in Hawaii in January, which by Hawaiian custom was known as the time of Makahiki, and considered a very peaceful time. It also helped that Makahika celebrated and honored the Hawaiian god Lono, who had light skin and blonde hair, much like Cook.
Cook and his men stayed for several weeks before they set sail again. But just two weeks after leaving, Cook returned because of sustained damage to his ships during a storm. To Cook’s surprise, the time of peace had ended. What exactly happened next is still widely debated by historians, but the end result was Cook’s death.
Some say that Cook’s men tried to steal a large wooden post like structure to fix their ship’s mast. Some say one of Cook’s dory’s was stolen by a villager because the iron nails used in its construction made great fishing hooks. The disagreement and fighting between the two groups eventually got out of hand, and Cook came ashore in an attempt to settle the dispute. He was greeted by a very large group of angry Hawaiians, and things got further out of control. Cook’s troops opened fire trying to defend their captain, but Cook was hit in the head and then fatally stabbed.
The area where Cook died is now marked by the Captain Cook Monument. The small area of land containing the monument was deeded to Great Britain in 1877 by Princess Likelike as a sign of respect for Cook. Even though he was killed during the disagreement, he was also greatly respected by the Hawaiian people.
Getting to the Trail
Head south from Kailua Kona on Hwy 11. Turn on Hwy 160 near the 111 mile marker. Drive about 600 feet down the road and park near telephone pole #4.
The Hike down to the Monument
Head down the old four wheel drive road to the right. Follow it for about 1.5 miles and then turn south towards the water. Follow the trail all the way to Kealakekua Bay.
What to Bring
Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Get any other supplies well before you get near the trail. There are no services or shops anywhere close to the trail at all. The hike does not have very much shade. It’s highly recommended to bring a mask and snorkel if you can fit it in your pack to take advantage of the crystal clear marine reserve that is often frequented by Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, and many types of endemic Hawaiian fish and marine life.