Much like the neighboring town of Hawi, Kapaau is a town in North Kohala that is experiencing an artistic resurgence. Eccentric artisans and shabby chic galleries now populate sugar-era storefronts, and the pocket-sized town has an intriguing allure that is impossible to pass without stopping.
More so than any other sight, however, Kapaau is known for the King Kamehameha statue that stands just off the highway. Constructed in 1880 in Florence, Italy, the statue was lost during a terrible shipwreck off the coast of the Falkland Islands. For 32 years it sat at the depths of the Atlantic sea floor before it was amazingly found and eventually delivered to its rightful home in Hawaii. The statue was placed in Kapaau since it's considered the birthplace of the king, who was born in a field on Upolu Point only a few miles from town.
Behind the statue, a small museum has a bulletin board with a timeline of Hawaii's history, although you get the feeling that time ticks slower here than in the rest of the state. Continue six miles to Pololu Valley for a sweeping view of the ocean, or descend the rocky, switchback trail down towards the historic, rock-strewn shoreline. For an enjoyable picnic along the coast, pick up lunch from a Kapaau restaurant and head to Keokea Beach Park, a comfortable stretch of grass and picnic tables that fronts the crashing surf.
The town of Kapaau is one hour from Kona and 30 minutes from Waikoloa. Swimming can be rough along the coast, and most afternoons are characterized by wind and the potential for passing showers. Since tourism is such a mainstay of Kapaau's economy, most businesses are open for visitors seven days per week.