by Leslie Lang
photo by Macario
Located in tiny, rural Kapaau at the northernmost tip of the Big Island, the Kohala Book Shop is certainly off the beaten path ... and well worth the scenic drive. As the largest used-book store in the Islands, the shop boasts more than 25,000 titles, including rare first editions of maps, volumes by Mark Twain, Captain Cook’s personal journals and 19th-century documents on the annexation of Hawaii by the United States. It is also home to one of the most extensive commercial collections of Hawaiian and Pacific books, prints, maps and ephemera in the United States.
Having trouble believing that such a major collection could be housed in a town whose total population is barely more than 1,100 souls? Consider Kohala Book Shop’s genesis: The store got its start by purchasing the complete inventory of the Tusitala Bookstore on Oahu, which was formerly Hawaii’s pre-eminent used-book store.
Besides its Pacific and Oceania offerings, Kohala Book Shop stocks books for children on history, biography, nature and just about everything else. Even the building is interesting: Formerly the Nanbu Hotel, the structure has been restored and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Call (808) 889-6400.