Driving north on Highway 270, the black lava landscape gives way to flourishing pastures of the damper climate of the north island. The dry rocky plains turned into green grassy valleys. Here the largest town is Waimea, home of the famed Parker Ranch, home of farmlands, cattle, horses, and Hawaiian cowboys.
Further north is the peaceful haven of Hawi, Kohala's biggest little town and best known as the bicycle turnaround for the Ironman Championship. The town is at Hawaii's northern tip and was once bustling with the sugar industry - but that's gone now. All that remains is a tiny community with stores, homes, churches, and a small wind farm catching the constant Pacific breezes.
Just beyond, in front of the North Kohala Civic Center stands the original King Kamehameha I Statue, erected near his birthplace. He was a warrior, diplomat and leader, who united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom in 1810 after years of conflict. The story of the statue is intriguing: It was forged in Italy and the ship that was ferrying it sank off the Falkland Islands. So a replacement statue was erected in Honolulu. But the original statue was miraculously recovered 30 years later, restored and installed here at the king's birthplace.