Hawai‘i – Lapakahi

  • HAR 13-33
  • 146 acres, Established 1979

Located on the northwestern coast of Hawai‘i, Lapakahi is about 12 miles north of Kawaihae. Take Hwy 270 north from Kawaihae to Lapakahi State Historical Park. The park entrance is on the left side of the highway, and marked with a sign. Parking is available at the end of the road.

Arrow pointing to Lapahaki on north side of Hawaii island

The MLCD is divided into two subzones. Subzone A includes Koai‘e Cove, and Subzone B includes the waters 500 feet outside of Subzone A and extending southward along the shoreline adjacent to the park, from the highwater mark to a distance of 500 feet offshore.

Lapakahi State Historical Park features excavated and partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient fishing village of Koai‘e, dating back to the 1300s.

Within Koai‘e Cove are two small beaches consisting of coral rubble (there is no sand beach). The cove provides the easiest access to the water. The nearshore bottom is mostly boulders and lava fingers with some coral. The cove’s northern portion has some good coral growth close to shore, but coral and fish are most abundant in the southern portion. Considerable marine life is also found around the outcropping of rocks to the right of the cove’s center.

Map of Lapakahi MLCD

The reef in general becomes more dense as you swim farther out. Depths within the cove range gradually from about 5 to 30 feet. Straight out from the cove, near the outer boundary of the MLCD, there is an abundance of coral and fishes at depths of about 60 to 80 feet.

South of the cove the bottom again consists mostly of boulders and lava fingers, but coral growth in some areas is particularly dense. The bottom gives way to sandy areas farther out, and depths within this part of the district range up to about 80 feet.

There is a remarkable diversity of fish species within the MLCD, as nearly all nearshore species typical of the North Kohala coast are represented. During the winter, humpback whales are frequently spotted just offshore.

Safety considerations

Strong longshore currents exist outside of Koai‘e Cove, so swimmers and snorkelers should stay within the cove.

High surf occurs during winter months.


Restrooms; freshwater available in limited quantities during park hours (contact the Division of State Parks).


Permitted activities

  • Within Subzone B only, to fish for, take, or possess any ‘ōpelu by lift or ‘ōpelu net, or any finfish or crustacean by hook-and-line or thrownet.
  • To possess in the water any knife and any shark billy, bang stick, powerhead, or carbon dioxide injector.
  • With a permit, to engage in activities otherwise prohibited by law for scientific, propagation, or other purposes.

Prohibited activities

  • To fish for, take, or injure any marine life (including eggs), or possess in the water any device that may be used for the taking of marine life.
  • To take or alter any sand, coral, or other geological feature or specimen, or possess in the water any device that may be used for that purpose.
  • To engage or attempt to engage in fish feeding.