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What is Koa Wood?

By James Johnson April 17, 2019

What is Koa Wood?


The Acacia Koa popularly known as the Hawaiian Koa is the most stunning and remarkable type of wood on the planet. This wood has been around for centuries and was used by the Hawaiians to create canoes and weapons.

There was a time that is was regarded as very special that people were not allowed to possess it not unless you were from the royal family or one of the Hawaiian monarchs. This tradition went on for years until the norm was later abandoned and ordinary people were allowed to use it.

The tree itself is spectacular, and the wood is even more popular as well as rare and can only be found on the Hawaii highland.


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The Hawaiian Koa is among one of the fastest growing hardwood trees. In the right environmental conditions, it can grow up to a height of 100 feet with its canopy spreading as far as 40 feet wide.

According to studies, the Koa tree has a natural growth cycle of 80years to 150 years and its shape is a bit dramatic. Everything about this tree is outstanding, and its rarity makes it even more special.

The tree is not known to occur naturally in any part of the world except Hawaii Island. With such beautiful features, it can be quite easy to single it out from other trees, but you will first have to get acquainted with its physical characteristics.

Features of the Koa Wood:

What makes Koa wood very special are the remarkable characteristics it possesses. Research indicates that no tree is visually stunning than Koa wood. Despite its uncommonness, there are quite several outstanding features that the Hawaiian Koa has some of which are very intriguing for instance.

1. It comes in a range of colours.

The Koa wood comes in a range of colours that not only makes it very appealing to the masses but also confirms how distinct it is. This means that you are not limited to a single colour like it is with other trees. The most natural colours are golden and reddish brown.

There are also other colours that you may come across such as pink and yellow. These are however very hard to come by though very beautiful and often on high demand.

With such colours, it is no doubt that Koa wood is very distinct and thus outstanding.

koa wood colour
koa wood colour

2. It possesses incredible texture or grain.

This is a feature that has made Koa wood to be one of the most respected and adored type of woods on the planet.

The grains give it a distinct look. There are types of Koa woods whose grains are slightly interlocked while other types possess wavy grains.

The grain structure gives it an incredible bending strength as well as stiffness that most trees lack.

Woodwork masters often prefer working with mature Koa wood. This is because they possess astonishing grain structure as well as remarkable strength that makes it very good for woodworks.

3. Has varied rot resistance.

Just like most hardwoods, Koa wood is vulnerable to termite attack.

It is also known to be non -durable. In unfavorable weather conditions, Hawaiian Koa tends to decay much faster than most trees.

That is why it is often advisable to avoid placing the wood or equipment made from the wood in places where there is too much moisture.

In such environmental conditions, moisture tends to affect the wood’s grain as well as its bonds, and in the long run, it may end up decomposing rendering it useless.

4. Koa wood has no allergies or toxicity.

Most woods are known to have allergies, and so you are not advised to work on them with exposed skin.

Some are known to cause eye and skin irritation making them very hard to work with especially if you don’t have protective clothing.

Well, you will be thrilled to learn that this is not the case with Koa wood.

It is known to possess no allergies and toxic substances. You are only supposed to wear face masks to protect yourself from the wood dust that is usually produced. Otherwise, the wood is known to be one of the best woods to work with. The forest also lacks any odour.

This means that if you are sensitive to any smell, then you will find Koa wood to be perfect to work with.

Those are so far some of the features that make Koa wood very distinct from the rest.

The characteristics that make this hardwood type even more incredible is the different colours it possesses and the peculiar grain structure it has.

This has often made it very unique since no tree is known to possess such patterns that are both visible and well defined. It is also tough to come by a tree whose wood is natural to work with as well as prevalent in terms of its bending abilities.

Price of Koa wood:

The Hawaiian Koa wood does not come cheap like other hardwoods. This is because it is scarce to come by. It is only found on Hawaii Island and its availability on the island is also becoming very rare.

The mature Koa trees have fallen due to old age and the new trees that sprout on its place often get eaten by cattle.

To find it you have to go further to the mountains where it is hard to transport. This makes the woodworkers price it exorbitantly.

With its reducing supply, the wood is expected to fetch very high prices in the market in the coming years. Curly koa boards tend to be very expensive, and people still buy them.

Its shortage made International Union for Conversation of Nature popularly known as IUCN to declare Koa trees species of least concern.

Workability of Koa wood:

In most cases, Koa wood is known to be very easy to work with.

Woodworkers claim that it is one species that they find easy to sand. It has however been noted that sometimes it can be tough to cut the wood without chipping its grains, it is also a bit problematic to glue the wood together.

But then it is excellent when it comes to staining and turning to achieve a more appealing finish. Being a stable hardwood, you will find it amazing to work with.

Uses of Hawaiian Koa wood:

Koa wood comes with quite several uses. This feature has made it very ideal and reputable in the wood market.

Since thousands of years ago, Koa trees have grown to be well known when it comes to providing woodworkers with the best and most appealing woods there is. Here's a selection of the most notable uses of Koa wood:


1. Veneer

In most cases, Koa wood is used to cover a much rough wood to give it a much better finish.

This why it is considered as one of the best woods for providing a veneer. Its incredible grain patterns and overall appearance makes it just the right wood to adorn other course woods.

2. Canoe making

Canoes usually require wood that can easily bend.

That is why most canoe builders tend to use Koa wood to come up with some of the most appealing kayaks.

Its design is just impressive, and the finish it creates is stunning. Its ability to build incredible canoes was discovered years ago.

3. Musical instruments

The most common musical instruments that are usually made from Koa wood are guitars and ukuleles which are also types of guitars.

Koa wood tends to provide the best finish as well as the best guitar box. The resultant guitar is usually beautiful and highly functional.

4. Carvings and Bowls

Koa wood is very good at making carvings and bowls.

Their grains interlock very well giving it a much-bonded structure that can easily be curved into any shape.

It is also very easy to sand, and so you can quickly achieve a smooth surface which is one of the main requirements of magnificent carvings and bowls.



Koa wood is not just any other hardwood that you can easily come by in any part of the world.

It is known to be very rare and utterly distinct from the rest. It comes with several features with its grain patterns being the highlight of them all.

This hardwood has been known to be very special from time memorial. It is used in several applications thanks to its ability to bend and its easiness to sand.

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