What Is Koa Wood

What is Koa Wood?

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Koa wood is Hawaii’s most popular. It is wood that is unlike any other. For woodworkers and wood dealers, it is considered second to none because of its lovely appearance. Koa wood is also unmatched in price and is prized material to make guitar sets. Do you know that a guitar made from Koa wood is one of the most expensive? Koa lumber has a distinct curl and this is what makes it truly beautiful and exotic.

Koa wood characteristics

Koa’s comes with a high price and this is due to a variety of factors. First of all, it only comes from Hawaii, nowhere else in the world. The only Koa trees that can be harvested are dead or decaying trees found on public lands. Koa that was found on plantation lands is in its early stages of development and cannot be used for building and for furniture.

Cutting live Koa trees on private lands is prohibited and even believed as a sin. Illegal cutting of Koa may also happen sporadically but those found buying or dealing with black market could face serious penalties.

The acacia Koa grows on the larger islands of Hawaii. This magnificent tree can grow up to 100 feet with diameters of 3 to 4 feet. Tall Koa trees found at higher elevations have the most figure, while trees at lower elevations grow in a straight fashion. The prime growing area of Koa is between 3,000 and 6,000 feet.

Koa has a lovely natural color and is generally reddish to dark brown. It also comes with a golden luster and darker streaks. It also contains sapwood, abundant from top to bottom. The grain of this tree is interlocked, which causes the wood’s natural curly figure.

Uses of Koa wood

Koa wood is basically used to make fine furniture. These pieces are highly-prized and perfect for collecting and as heirloom pieces. Koa is also used to make fine guitars, violins and more. You can also find small crafts, turnings, carvings and decorative veneer made from Koa wood. Koa lumber is available in 4/4 and 8/4-inch thicknesses, but are not found in slab form.

Many people love Koa wood

Rick Hearne, the owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, PA, says

“Koa is definitely one of the most splendid woods in the world.”

Rick Hearne, the owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, PA

He added,

“It can go from a light gold color to a rich purple color and pass through orange and scarlet along the way, even chocolate. It gets a chatoyancy to it that no other wood approaches. When you put an oil finish on Koa, it fires up; it is just outrageously beautiful and it’s like a hologram when you walk by it. The picture changes. It looks like it has halogen light bulbs blazing out of it.”

Rick Hearne, the owner of Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford, PA

Chris Allen of Koa Wood Hawaii in Kurtistown, Hawaii also thinks Koa is a wonderful wood. He said,

“Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Koa grows predominantly on the Big Island. “ He added, “By state law, you cannot cut down live Koa trees and there are just not enough of them on Oahu for harvest. At the low elevation, the Koa tends to be real blond and not have a lot of color or character to it. That’s why the Big Island has the best Koa. And Maui has nice Koa, too, but again, not as much.”

Chris Allen of Koa Wood Hawaii in Kurtistown, Hawaii

Cost of Koa wood

The price of Koa may vary as much as any species of hardwood in the world. Plain Koa or Koa that has no changes in color or figure can be purchased from $15 to $20/bf. If Koa is quarter sawn, $20 to $50/bf. Koa lumber that comes with a premium full curl usually ranges between $80 and $120/bf. Koa wood that will be used for manufacturing musical instruments can start from $150/bf. Be sure to find a reputable Koa wood dealer to be able to get a good value for your money.


Koa wood is one of the most beautiful and the most widely used for furniture and musical instruments. It is native to Hawaii and can only be harvested from the islands which is why it is very expensive. If you want to purchase Koa wood, be sure to look for a reputable dealer or supplier to get the best value.

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