The village of Kawaihae is small with a gas station and a few shops and restaurants. The major attractions to Kawaihae Harbor are surfing, fishing, and the ancient temple that King Kamehameha built in the late 1700s. Pua Mau Place, a wonderful botanic garden, is about 4.5 kilometers (almost three miles) north of the Kawaihae Harbor village.
Kawaihae Harbor has a tropical rainforest climate with a lot of rain throughout the year. Temperatures at Kawaihae Harbor range from an average high of 28°C (83°F) in August and September to an average low of 17°C (63°F) in January and February.
King Kamehameha's favorite wife was a great surfer. She role the waves at Kawaihae Harbor while they lived there. Until the early 1970s, local surfers knew the spot, but few others visited. In the early 1980s when longboards reappeared on the scene, Kawaihae Harbor became a popular magnet for surfers. Since 1992, surfers have gathered in Kawaihae Harbor for the Tiger Pua Ka'ilima Longboard Surf Classic. The non-profit Pau Ka'ilima Cultural Surf Park Inc. was created to protect and develop the 1.4 acres at the Kawaihae Breakwater. The park will offer unrestricted access to the ocean for both locals and visitors. Funded by individual donations and foundation support, the park will be developed in phases.
Pua Mau Place is a botanical garden on the west slope of the arid Kohala Mountains on Hawaii island. Just northwest of Kawaihae Harbor, Pau Mau Place offers a growing collection of plants that continuously flower, a hibiscus maze, large exposed red lava rocks that are natural to the setting, original sculptures throughout the grounds, and the Magic Circle. The Magic Circle is an arrangement of stones inspired by the stone circles of the Celts in the British Isles. At certain times, visitors can watch whales from the deck at the Visitor's Center. Pau Mau Place is open every day from 9am to 4pm, and there is an admission fee.
The Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and park is home to King Kamehameha's great temple. Pu'ukohola Heiau is the temple, but there are two other temples within the park. Below the great temple is Mailekini Heiau, a temple that was converted into a fort to protect the island from Europeans. Hale O Kapuni is submerged ruins that are believed to have been a temple devoted to the shark gods. The remains of John Young's homestead, which are being excavated, are also in the park.
In addition to these fascinating historic sites, there are many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Hikers can walk the 804-meter (2.6 thousand foot) loop trail or the 281-kilometer (175-mile) Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail that stretches along the western, southern, and eastern shores of Hawaii island. Mau'umae Beach is about 1.2 kilometers (one-half mile) long, and Hapuna Beach is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) long.
Visitors enjoy watching dolphins, whales, and sharks that enter Pelekane Bay in the early morning. In the early morning or late afternoon, the park is abundant with birds. At the nearby Spencer County Beach Park, outdoor lovers can enjoy snorkeling or scuba diving, swimming, picnicking, and camping. The museum at this Kawaihae Harbor National Historic Site has exhibits on archaeology, traditional weapons, and paintings.