Kolekole Beach Park
Hawaii is probably at the top of your list of must-visit vacation spots, and who can blame you. It truly is a paradise on earth; it has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a lovely climate, 5-star hotels, a vibrant culture, and of course, very hospitable residents like me. When you do finally get to come here, chances are that you may opt for a major urban center like Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
Yes, your trip will be memorable but don’t completely count out the Big Island of Hawaii (Oahu and the Big Island are two different islands). You could vie for a visit to the east side of the Big Island where many hidden gems are located. One such gem includes Kolekole Beach Park that’s located 10 or so miles north of my hometown of Hilo for instance. It has lovely grounds and beautiful scenery which make it ideal for picnicking.
Here, you will find people swimming in the Kolekole stream that runs through it (as the ocean conditions around here can be too rough and unpredictable at times), having picnics in its grassy areas, surfing in the ocean next to it, and generally having a time of our lives.
The stream’s major attraction is the many waterfalls which dot its course such as Akaka falls located 4 miles north of town (near place called Honomu). There is even a waterfall within the park right next to the ocean! Anyway, here are the full details of what you can expect to find when you eventually get here.
About Kolekole Beach Park
The name Kolekole means “talk story” or story-telling in Hawaiian. It is a fitting name given that the park is a favorite recreation spot for people who want to spend quality time bonding and talking with their loved ones. It is situated just north of Hilo off Highway 19 on the Hamakua Coast.
Although it’s small in size, it’s full of amenities. There is no shortage of wide grassy areas for relaxation and play, pavilions, washrooms, and picnic tables. If the sun becomes too hot, you can take a dip in the Kolekole stream which runs through the park. You can also indulge in photography next to the small but scenic waterfall by the ocean.
How to Get There
Since the park is located in South Hilo district, you will need to take Highway 19 and travel close to 13 miles north of Hilo to get there. You will find the sign for the park just before the Akaka Fall’s bridge. It is open 24 hours every day and best of all, entry is free.
Summary of Facilities in the Park
There are many pavilions, washrooms and picnic tables you can use as well as plenty of drinking water. There is also the Kolekole stream to swim and fish and a beautiful ocean view. However, there are three things you need to be cautious about. First, do not swim in the stream if you have open wounds because streams may have Giardia and Leptospirosis. Second, if you do swim, do not do so near the mouth of the river as the currents there can be strong. In addition, the bottom is very rocky. Third, leave surfing to the locals as only experienced surfers can handle the dangerous ocean conditions of the Hamakua Coast.
The Local Climate
As with most of Hawaii, the weather here is sunny and because of the sea, breezy too. You might get some rain now and then but the climate is mostly warm.
A Short History of the Park
One surprising thing you will notice when in this part of Hawaii is that most parks are under bridges. Allow me to take you back in time to show you why. Now, the Hamakua coastline has many deep valleys which necessitated the construction of long bridges during the railroad era. In 1946, however, a tsunami damaged most of them leading to the closure of the railway line for 3 years. When they were reopened in 1949, the bridges had now been resurfaced for use by automobiles.
As a result, the drive along the Hamakua Coast is one of the most scenic you will ever make. On the left side of any bridge valleys carved into the mountains and several waterfalls, and on the right, the ocean in the distance. The view is often so captivating that you find yourself staring at either the waterfalls or the ocean and forget about oncoming traffic. Under these bridges, you can sometimes expect to find a public park.
Park entrances are usually towards the mountains and are situated just before or after the bridge. Their signs are located somewhere in between and can be easy to miss. Kolekole is one of these under-the-bridge parks and the first one you’ll encounter after leaving Hilo. The bridge above it was one of those damaged and destabilized by the tsunami of 1946 when waves close to 40 feet high smashed into it from the sea and yet it survived. Luckily, the county bought it from Hawaii Consolidated Railway and repaired it.
About The Park
When you turn off Highway 19, you will encounter a narrow road with a cliff full of trees and blooming Impatiens to the left, and a beautiful valley to the right. You will then descend to the base of the valley where the road branches off into two. The road to the right leads into the park while the one to the left continues on over the Akaka Fall’s Bridge.
Once inside the park, you will find a parking lot to your right. You will also find many pavilions with tables where you can enjoy a meal or just relax. Some even have cooking areas if you prefer your meals fresh. There are also plenty of bathrooms and if you love swimming, an outdoor shower. Beyond the pavilions is a large grassy area that is ideal for a having a picnic, flying kites or catching a tan.
Running through the middle of the park is the Kolekole stream which empties into the ocean via a small bay. It is lined by many trees in whose shade you can relax as you indulge in some fishing. Be warned, however, that most are coconut trees and can drop a coconut on your head when you least expect it. Be careful also of the small rocks at the sides of the stream which can make you slip and fall. You are free to swim in the Kolekole stream provided you do not swallow the water or have any open wounds. As mentioned earlier, Hawaiian streams have Leptospirosis and Giardia.
Just before you reach the bay, you will encounter two things. The first is a spectacular 100-foot tall bridge followed by a 10-foot high waterfall that gushes out of a lava tube in the rock wall before joining Kolekole stream. Further beyond is the tiny ocean bay where locals surf. You should not attempt to approach the mouth of the river at this point owing to the roughness of the ocean, the strength of the currents and the jaggedness of the rocks.
When on a drive up the Hamakua Coast, consider making a stopover at the Kolekole Beach County Park. It truly is an ideal place to rest, swim, fish, relax and most importantly, chat (or talk story) with your loved ones.