Kauhola Point Lighthouse

Kauhola Point (“Lighthouse”): Beautiful North Kohala Peninsula Managed by Local Non-Profit
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Kauhola Point marks a beautiful undeveloped peninsula close to the northern tip of the Big Island. Preserved for public access, conservation, and cultural heritage by the local community, this coastline offers scenic vistas, hiking, and birdwatching. Its nickname of “Lighthouse” stems from the historic Kauhola Point Light, now demolished and replaced by a nondescript beacon.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The secluded cape known as Kauhola Point forms a narrow, cliffy peninsula close to the northern tip of the Big Island. Once host to a long-standing concrete lighthouse, this headland has been a place of gathering going back much deeper in history. Preserved through community effort and management, it’s well-loved by locals and a destination for adventurous (and respectful) travelers.

Kauhola Point’s peninsula lies in the district of North Kohala not far from Halaula. It’s between Wainoia Gulch and Keawaeli Bay to the west and Halelua Gulch and Hapuu Bay to the east. Not all that far to the northwest is the ultimate, northernmost tip of the Island of Hawaii, Upolu Point.

Kauhola Point comes wrapped up in this part of the Kohala coast’s rich association with the famed leader Kamehameha the Great, born to the southwest of Upolu Point. It’s said that Kamehameha I—who united the Hawaiian Islands into a single kingdom by the early 19th century—instructed his queen consort Kaahumanu in the art of surfing in the waters off Kauhola Point. Fishponds, taro plots, and heiau temple shrines marked the site in those days.

Local children still practice surfing at Kauhola Point, a beloved recreation spot for the North Kohola community. In 2012, community members in partnership with Hawaii’s Legacy Land Conservation Program and numerous organizations and benefactors helped secure the headland against development or private ownership. Facilitating this effort, The Trust for Public Land purchased 27.5 acres here and transferred it to a community non-profit, Maikai Kamakani O Kohala, Inc. 

Access to Kauhola Point can be a bit tricky. It’s reached from Halaula via Pratt Road and then Old Kohala Mill Road, which runs north directly to the point. Old Kohala Mill Road turns into an increasingly rutted dirt track that, in wet weather, is treacherously muddy. If you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, it’s best to park where conditions deteriorate and walk to the headland. 

Kauhola Point is often called “Lighthouse,” which references the white concrete tower built here in 1933 to replace an earlier wooden structure dating from the late 1800s. A lighthouse here was deemed necessary due to the risky reefs offshore. Well away from the cliff edge when it was built, the 1933-vintage Kauhola Point Light became increasingly threatened by coastal erosion. In 2009, it was demolished and replaced by a metal-pole beacon set farther back from the brink.

Wind-tortured ironwoods, views along the Kohala sea-cliffs, and out to the wild Pacific: Kauhola Point is a stirringly scenic spot even without a masonry lighthouse. Locals, in particular, enjoy the cobbly beach and nearshore waters. Birders can do some good old-fashioned “sea watching” here to spot various shearwaters, petrels, great frigatebirds, tropicbirds, boobies, and other Pacific seabirds.

Hiking Old Kohala Mill Road and the shoreline public-access path here provides an intimate introduction to Kauhola Point’s natural beauty. There are plans to expand shoreline hiking in this region via a rail-to-trail path along the route of the bygone North Kohala Railroad.

If you’re exploring the far northwest of the Big Island with its ethereal pastureland and long Kohala Mountain views, spare some time for a visit to Kauhola Point. This isolated, history-drenched peninsula exudes a special magic—and serves as a fine reflection of the local community’s preservation and management energies.

Insider Tip:
Even if you’ve got a 4WD rig, you’re probably better off not driving the Old Kohala Mill Road in wet weather. Rough, sloppy, and slick during and after heavy rainfall, it can easily bog down even fairly experienced drivers.