If you had only a weekend to spend on the Big Island, this is probably where you'd want to be. The Kohala Coast is a mix of the island's best beaches and swankiest hotels, yet is not far from ancient valleys and temples, waterfalls, and funky artist enclaves.
The resorts on the Kohala Coast lay claim to some of the island's finest restaurants, golf courses, and destination spas. But the real attraction here is the island's glorious beaches. On a clear day, you can see Maui, and during the winter months, numerous glistening humpback whales cleave the waters just offshore.
Rounding the northern tip of the island, the arid coast shifts rather suddenly to green villages and hillsides, leading to lush Pololu Valley in North Kohala, as the hot sunshine along the coast gives way to cooler temperatures.
As you drive north, you'll find the quaint sugar-plantation-towns-turned-artsy-villages of Hawi and Kapaau. New galleries are interspersed with charming reminders of old Hawaii—wooden boardwalks, quaint local storefronts, ice cream shops, delicious neighborhood restaurants, friendly locals, and a delightfully slow pace. There's great shopping for everything from antiques and designer beachwear to authentic Hawaiian crafts.