This page last updated: 13 October 2000

::: MAPS OF HAWAII - Island of Hawaii :::

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Hawaii color 75

Hawaii has by far the largest land mass of all the islands at 4,021 square miles. Indeed, all of the other islands could fit within Hawaii and have plenty of room to spare - thus its popular name as simply "The Big Island." It is dominated by three major mountains occupying a large portion of the center of the island: Mauna Kea (13,786 feet), Mauna Loa (13,680 feet) and Hualalai (8,271 feet). On the southeastern slopes of Mauna Loa is the Crater of Kilauea, then and now a popular tourist attraction. During much of the 19th Century, a lake of molten lava rested in plain view at the floor of the crater and created an early tourist industry in the region. In the high, arid saddles between these mountains there is no significant population. At the north end of the island are the smaller Kohala Mountains. The southern tip of Hawaii is the southernmost point in the United States. Principal ports were located at Hilo and Kawaihae, with significant landings at Kailua, Kealakekua, Keokea, Punaluu, Laupahoehoe, Honuapo, Keauhou and Mahukona. Along the northeastern Hamakua Coast and North Hilo were numerous "landings" where ships anchored off shore while goods and people were hauled by cranes up and down the cliffs to small boats ferrying back and forth to the ships. These landings included Kukuihaele, Honokaa, Paauhau, Ookala, Hakalau and Onomea.

Travel around the Big Island was difficult through much of the 19th Century. Getting from place to place within particular localities was usually easy but moving from one district to another could be done more easily by sea. Hilo and its immediate surroundings on the eastern coast were the most populous on the island. A carriage road connected Hilo and the Volcano House at Kilauea Crater and continued on to Waiohinu in the Ka'u District. However, going north from Waiohinu across miles of rough lava was difficult and tedious so boats usually were taken by those who wanted to go between Ka'u and Kona. Within Kona itself, canoes were used often to go from South Kona to North Kona because the terrain was steep and rocky.

Kawaihae was the focal point of traffic in the northern part of the island and, indeed, for the entire Big Island. Ships coming down from Honolulu would usually make Kawaihae (144 miles from Honolulu) their first landfall. From Kawaihae, people and goods could travel overland to North Kona across a level but arid coastal plain, to North Kohala crossing over the passable Kohala Mountains, and to Hilo, either staying high along the slopes of Mauna Kea, or taking a lower but rugged trail through the more populated coastal canyons of Hamakua. A railroad was built from Mahukona through the North Kohala sugar district and Mahukona became the major port of the north island but Kawaihae retained an important place. Hilo was the other principal port of Hawaii (192 miles direct from Honolulu; 206 miles via windward Hawaii; 230 miles via Kawaihae) and was the most densly populated region on the island.

For details on Overland Mail Carriage on the Island of Hawaii.
For details on the Town Postmarks on the Island of Hawaii.

The North Island, Kohala, Kawaihae, Waimea and Waipio

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Kawaihae Bay appears on the left of this map. The village of Kawaihae, never very populous, lies in one of the more arid regions in the islands. The main road went uphill to Waimea (12 miles from Kawaihae), nestled in the upland table land between the Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea. Parker Ranch, one of the largest cattle ranching operations in the United States, is headquartered at Waimea and had its home ranch at nearby Mana. From Waimea, a traveler could cross the Kohala Mountains to Hawi and the numerous villages of North Kohala (22 miles to the Kohala Court House). An impassable stretch between Niulii and Waipio made direct travel from North Kohala to Hamakua impossible. On this map, the railroad from Mahukona to Niulii is seen as a black line. It served the large sugar plantations of North Kohala. Mahukona (134 miles from Honolulu), a place so dry the small population was supplied with water by train, became the main port of the north island when the railroad made Mahukona its terminus. Overland travel along the coast was possible between Mahukona and Kawaihae (11 miles) and once Mahukona became a port this route was used more often. One could also travel south from Kawaihae along the coast to Kailua in North Kona (30 miles).

The main route out of Waimea headed into the Hamakua District on the way to Hilo. One main trail went straight to Kukuihaele, above Waipio Valley, and then proceeded southeast toward Hilo. Another route hung high on the eastern side of Mauna Kea but it was a difficult trail. A third route took the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa and reached Hilo in 54 miles via the Humuula sheep station, but owing to lack of water and sparse population, this route was unpopular although it was the most direct route between Waimea and Hilo.

Hamakua and North Hilo, the Northeast Coast

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Hawaii's wet district starts around Upolu Point, the northern tip of the island, and runs through Hamakua and into the Hilo District. This region supported many large sugar plantations. From Niulii in North Kohala, the coast is a series of canyons with rivers pouring out of the Kohala Mountains or off of Mauna Kea. Travel was problematic closer to the coast. However, the towns were situated along the coast so one could stay to the higher trail if the main purpose was to get from Waimea to Hilo or stop at one of the sheep stations in the uplands. If someone wanted to visit the towns, it was necessary to wind in and out of valleys along the trail at the top of the coastal bluffs. For travelers coming into Hamakua from Waimea, the first town reached is Kukuihaele (11 miles from Waimea). In the Hamakua/North Hilo region, distances were measured from Laupahoehoe. Kukuihaele is 26 miles northwest of Laupahoehoe. Going southeast along the coast are the towns of Honokaa (18 miles from Laupahoehoe), Paauhau (16 miles from Laupahoehoe), Paauilo 10.5 miles from Laupahoehoe), Kukaiau (8 miles from Laupahoehoe), Ookala (4 miles from Laupahoehoe) at the border between Hamakua and North Hilo and Laupahoehoe. At Laupahoehoe, distances are measured from Hilo. Continuing south from Laupahoehoe (26.7 miles from Hilo) are Papaaloa (22 miles from Hilo), Hakalau (15 miles from Hilo) and Honomu (14.3 miles from Hilo) before arriving at the north end of Hilo Bay.

Hilo, Hilo Bay and Environs

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Hawaii Hilo Environs color

Hilo Bay and Environs

Hilo and its environs on Hilo Bay was the most populated region on the Big Island. Hilo was a principal port for the island. Many ships coming down from Honolulu either would come straight to Hilo (192 miles from Honolulu direct) or stop first at Kawaihae (230 miles from Honolulu via Kawaihae). North of Hilo was the sugar plantation town of Papaikou (4.7 miles from Hilo) and going south toward Puna were Olaa (9 miles from Hilo) and Keaau (9.2 miles from Hilo), devoted to coffee growing. A good carriage road was built between Hilo and Kilauea Volcano (31 miles from Hilo) to accommodate the tourist trade. In the Puna District, along the southeast coast, is Pohoiki (26 miles from Hilo) and Kalapana (38 miles from Hilo), noted for their ranching.

Ka'u and South Point

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Ka Lae, or South Point, is the southernmost point in the United States. The Ka'u District extends from Kilauea Crater on the east around South Point and up the westward coast until it reaches the South Kona border. Ranching and sugar plantations were the common enterprises, other than tourist trade. From South Point northward toward Mauna Loa is a large rift valley in which many of the Ka'u plantation towns were located. Landings at Keauhou (on the Puna border), Punaluu, Honuapo and Kaalualu served various parts of the strung out district. Keauhou was an early landing for tourists on their way to see the Volcano. Punaluu (250 miles from Honolulu) later took the place of Keauhou and a railroad connected Punaluu to Pahala where carriages completed the trip to the Volcano. Honuapo and Kaalualu were landings for the villages at Naalehu, Hilea, Keaiwa and Waiohinu. Traveling into Ka'u from Kilauea Crater, the carriage road reached Pahala at 23 miles. The landing at Punaluu was a side road 4.6 miles from Pahala. From Pahala, the carriage road continued to Honuapo (32.6 miles from Volcano House), Naalehu (35.6 miles from Volcano House) and Waiohinu (37 miles from Volcano House). From Waiohinu, the road continued northward toward Kona to Kahuku Ranch (43.1 miles from Volcano House) on the South Kona border.

Kona and the Western Coast

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Here is one of Hawaii's most historic regions as well as its most famous and prolific coffee producing area. Kealakekua Bay in South Kona was where Captain Cook was killed and just to the south is the famous City of Refuge. Kailua, the main town of North Kona, was the final residence of Kamehameha I and the seat of government for his kingdom in the later years of his life. South Kona has a narrow and often interrupted coastal plain rising to an upland district on the western slopes of Mauna Loa. The coastal plain widens as it reaches North Kona. Uphill from the coastal plain is table land where coffee plantations thrived. Landings at Milolii and Hoopuloa served the ranching area at Papa and the fishing villages of South Kona. Farther north are landings at Hookena and Kealakekua Bay (157 miles from Honolulu direct; 186 miles via Kawaihae), serving the upland coffee towns of Kealia, Keokea and Kealakekua, the main town of South Kona. On Kealakekua Bay is the village of Napoopoo. Landings at Keauhou (another Keauhou is in Ka'u) and Kailua served the coastal regions and upland Holualoa. North Kona's landscape was dominated by Hualalai. Usual means of transportation for South Kona was by boat or canoe from landing to landing. If one chose the overland trail through broken lava fields, there was little between Kahuku Ranch in Ka'u and Hoopuloa. Distances in Kona are measured from the store at Kealakekua, 42 miles south of Kawaihae. Kahuku Ranch was 36.5 miles south of Kealakekua. Going north along the trail, one would miss Hoopuloa and the landing at Milolii (21.6 miles from Kealakekua), but pass by the ranch at Papa and arrive finally at Hookena (7.7 miles from Kealakekua). From Kealakekua going north is the landing at Keauhou (6 miles from Kealakekua), Holualoa (9.6 miles from Kealakekua) and Kailua (12 miles from Kealakekua). As one continues north toward Kawaihae (30 miles from Kailua), the coastal land becomes particularly arid but stays level.

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