A footbridge connects Hilo's Waiakea Peninsula to a stunningly serene miniature island in the middle of the city's bay known as Coconut Island. It's perhaps the best land-based vantage point to see Hilo's iconic waterfront of colorful shops and palm-lined boulevard, a great spot to picnic and sunbathe, and a good place to swim at its handful of tiny, sandy beaches. The island features a small, finely mowed grassy field surrounded by a retaining wall of lava rocks with lapping waves below, perfect for a game of frisbee or a breezy seaside stroll, while its shaded picnic table areas are a great place to enjoy a bounty of exotic tropical fruit picked up from the Hilo Farmers' Market at the other end of the bayfront.
There are dozens of coconuts palms sprawled across the tiny outcropping of land with groves of ironwood trees with their branches of drooping needles, and planted hedges of vibrant, aromatic Hawaiian flowers. Its small park has restroom facilities, a public outdoor beach shower, and sheltered areas for when the all-too-often gray rain clouds roll in from the open ocean.
The waters of Hilo Bay are usually calm and placid thanks to the more than four-mile-long crescent-shaped breakwater that arcs out into the bay, which can be seen up-close and in detail from Coconut Island. Picnickers, joggers, dog walkers, swimmers and sightseers are lulled by the sound of baby waves lapping against the mounds of rounded lava boulders that stick above the surface of the water in patches surrounding the island . The air smells like a mixture of saltwater and the classic East Hawai'i scent blend of tropical flowers and fresh rain.
In ancient times, Coconut Island was known by a different name. Back then it was called "Moku Ola", meaning "island of life" or "healing island" in Hawaiian; "moku" meaning island, and "ola" meaning life. It was named so because of the ancient healing temple built there, where old legends tell that anyone feeling ill would be healed by swimming around the island three times. Also in ancient times Moku Ola was known as a "place of refuge" or "pu'uhonua"; a sacred place where warriors could go to seek protection and immunity from persecution.
It's smart to plan a visit to Coconut Island/Moku Ola in conjunction with experiencing other Hilo destinations like the nearby Liliuokalani Gardens and its stunning Japanese-style landscape, Banyan Drive with its fancy hotels and gigantic, sprawling banyan trees, or the historic Suisan Fish Market - arguably the best place to taste Hawai'i's famous raw fish dish known as "poke". All are just a short walk away.
The island can be accessed via the footbridge and adjacent parking lot located off of Lihiwai Street, which itself is off of Banyan Drive. A wooden sign for Moku Ola leads to the parking lot and can be seen from Lihiwai Street and the footpath that runs along Liluokalani Gardens. The two ends of the footbridge are accessible by both a staircase and handicap-friendly ramp, and the short path around the perimeter of the island is flat, smooth concrete.
Mahalo nui loa to Stefan Verbano, Content Blog Writer for Kona Wedding Officiant® - Hawaii 101 - Things to Do On Hawaii Big Island - www.konaweddingofficiant.com/blog
Aloha - Deanna - Kona Wedding Officiant, Licensed Minister and Marriage Officiant.
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