Hawi is situated to the west of the community of Kapaau. Together they comprise the most densely populated region in the district of North Kohala. Historically this part of Kohala is significant as the birthplace of Kamehameha I and the location of the Moʻokini heiau in the Kohala Historical Sites State Monument. The two communities were once busy commercial centers during the operation of the Kohala Sugar plantation.
Hawi is the turnaround point for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon. It is the northernmost point on the bicycle leg, where athletes return to the finish line at Kamakahonu in Kailua-Kona
The original King Kamehameha Statue was cast in 1888, lost at sea, and then recovered and erected at Kapaau. His actual birthplace was a few miles away in the Kohala Historical Sites State Monument, a remote area not easily accessible. June 11 is the state holiday Kamehameha Day, celebrated by a parade through the town.
The Kauhola Point Lighthouse (Kohala Lighthouse) was on the coast about 3 miles northeast of the town.
The Kamehameha I sculpture is an over-sized painted brass casting of King Kamehameha I, the ruler credited with unifying the Hawaiian Islands in the early nineteenth century and establishing the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. Though the surface of the sculpture was originally finished with a brown chemical patina and gold leaf, it has become local tradition to paint the statue with lifelike colors, and it appears as such to this day. Originally commissioned to celebrate the centennial of Captain Cook’s arrival to the Hawaiian Islands and to stand in front of the Aliʻiōlani Hale government building in Honolulu, extenuating circumstances during its delivery to Hawaiʻi delayed its arrival, and resulted in its being placed instead in Kapaʻau, near Kamehameha I’s birthplace.