Keauhou Holua Slide

Keauhou Holua Slide - Site of a Hawaiian-Styled Toboggan Track
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Big Island has a lot of interesting history just waiting to be explored, and the Keauhou Holua Slide is an excellent example of that! Located on the east side of the island, this unique historical site once offered many Hawaiians a unique and thrilling way to sled down volcano slopes and into the sea. 

- The Local Expert Team

You have heard of sledding down a snowy hill, but what about sledding down a lava-covered one? That is sort of the idea behind the Keauhou Holua Slide, with the equivalent of tobogganing being the big activity native Hawaiians once enjoyed on it. 

You will find the Keauhou Holua Slide on the east side of Hawaii, near, and in parts on the property of Holualoa Inn. The name of this inn and the village itself are sourced from this unique attraction as the word “holualoa” means “long slide” (thus holua slide is akin to saying slide slide), thus this is the village where everyone would come to enjoy sliding activities.

You will find holua slides throughout the Hawaiian islands, but this Keauhou Holua is among the tallest ever constructed at a total original estimated length of over 4,000 feet (today, 1,300 feet is clearly defined). However, height is only one thing this holua slide has going for it. The more notable aspect is that it is the best-preserved slide in all of the islands so it looks remarkably like what it did back when it was once used. 

The Keahou Holua slide was artificially built by moving tens of thousands of rocks and arranging them into the downhill path. These rocks were then covered by fresh dirt and reeds which helped to create a slicker, more sloped surface that was further accentuated by the use of candlenut oil as a lubricant. Once properly prepared, Hawaiians would load up on a wooden sled called a papa holua and careen down the entire length at speeds estimated to be as high as 60 miles per hour! Best of all, for the Keahou Holua slide, this wooden sled ride was designed to send sledders careening into Keauhou Bay. So, instead of finding yourself launched into a snow pile, imagine sledding down the side of a volcano and launching yourself into cool water on the hottest of days.

Naturally, sledding down these man-made slides was not the safest of activities. The extreme speeds paired with the often haphazard nature of the built tracks made this a risky activity, with injuries common and sometimes even fatalities. Some historians cite these fatalities along with the influence of Christian missionaries during the 19th century as leading reasons for why the slides, including the Keahou Holua Slide, were ultimately abandoned.

Today, there are two good ways of seeing the remains of the Keahou Holua Slide. First, you can choose to go through Holualoa Inn, which is still well-maintained parts of the run on their property.  You can alternatively navigate to the Kona Country Club, park in the furthest east (close to Alii Highway) parking spots, and then walk across the street to see another well-maintained portion of the old Hawaiian slide. 

At the time of this writing, there is nothing stopping you from hiking up the Keahou Holua Slide as far as you can. However, please remain respectful as this is an important historic site and much of the slide (nearly 3,000 feet of it) has already been lost to erosion, construction, and other factors. 

Insider Tips:
-There is a small museum within Keauhou Shopping Center that offers a bit more background information on the Keauhou Holua Slide. You’ll even find a wonderful reproduction of an ancient holua sled to help give you an idea of what the sport entailed. You will find that shopping center just a bit further north on Alii Highway from the aforementioned access point. 
-If you enjoy golf, then you shouldn’t just park at the Kona Country Club to check out the Keahou Holua Slide! The Kona Country Club offers an excellent round of golf with fairways between the volcanic slopes of inner Hawaii and the gorgeous waters of Keauhou Bay. Go here for nature and stay for the engaging course.