On the way down to Kealakekua Bay, you will pass through scenic residential and farmland with coffee and mango farms, including a coffee mill.
Kealakekua Bay, also known as Captain Cook Bay, is the site where Captain Cook and the crews of the Resolution and Discovery made the first European contact with Native Hawaiians on January 18th, 1778. Cook named Hawaii the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, the Earl of Sandwich (from which the food term "sandwich" is also derived).
On a return visit after sailing North, the Captain and some of his crew were killed in a disagreement with the Hawaiians on Valentine's Day 1779. As a sign of respect for Cook, the local ali'i (chieftains) had the body stripped of flesh to the bone, further shocking the European crew. Kamehameha and other ali'i reportedly kept Cook's hair and some of his bones (it was thought they held Cook's power); the rest of the bones were returned to the newly-in-command Captain Clerke, who sunk them in the bay.
The Captain James Cook monument is a small white obelisk located on the Bay's Northern edge. Built in 1874, the monument is surrounded by chain supported by cannons from a British ship. The land was deeded to the UK by the Hawaiian government and technically remains British soil. The monument area is accessible by water, or a one hour hike down the mountain. Click here for pictures, directions and details on the hike. Be advised that landing a kayak at the monument requires a special permit which we've heard is difficult to get.
The boat dock at Napoopoo is a popular spot to launch kayaks.
For a tip, friendly locals will help you in and out of the water. There are also people who rent kayaks here. When you pull up to park, someone will usually help direct your car to optimize the limited space in the lot, and then offer to rent a kayak or find help to get your already rented kayak in the water.
Tiny Napoopoo beach (opposite side of the lot from the dock) can also be used to launch and beach kayaks.
Directions: From Hwy 11 (Belt Road), take Napoopoo Rd (Hwy 160) down to Kealakekua Bay. The road dog legs past Middle Ke'i Road; hang right to stay on Napoopoo. You will pass residential homes and farms, and also a coffee mill (see Kealakekua Town page 3). At the bottom of the hill is the landing at Napoopoo where people launch kayaks. Hang left and you will see the signs to Manini Beach Rd.
If you hang left at the bottom of the hill, that is the road that takes you to the City of Refuge if you continue straight. The road is actually a continuation of 160; you can also arrive from this direction as an alternate route.
Here are some great underwater photos taken by Theo Hunt of AK-