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Maunalua encompasses the area from southeast Oʻahu at Koko Head to Kūpikipikiʻō on the slopes of Diamond Head. It includes the area known today as “Hawaiʻi Kai.”  It is said that fire goddess, Pele, had a fondness for Maunalua.  According to moʻolelo, or legends, Maunalua was the landing spot of some of the first people to migrate to Hawaiʻi from central Polynesia. Another legend about Maunalua concerns a sacred drum that was placed in Hawea, which was a heiau or place of worship for ancient Hawaiians.

This ahupuaʻa, a basic Hawaiian division of land, was notable for its 523-acre loko iʻa (fishpond) called Kuapā.  It is likely that the inhabitants at Maunalua were mainly fishermen, but the area was also known for its sweet potato farming. 

Maunalua literally means “two mountains.”

Handy, E.S. Craighill, Elizabeth Green Handy, and Mary Kawena Pukuʻi.  Native Planters in Old Hawaiʻi.  Honolulu:  Bishop Museum Press, 1991.

Kamakau, Samuel M., translated by Mary Kawena Pukuʻi.  Ka PoʻeKahiko, The People of Old.  Honolulu:  Bishop Museum Press, 1964.

Pukuʻi, Mary Kawena, Samuel H. Elbert, and Esther T. Mookini.  Place names of Hawaii.  Honolulu:  University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1976

Stump, Jane Barr.  Our Hawaiʻi Kai:  A History of Hawaiʻi Kai and Maunalua Book 1, Manuscript.  Hanauma Bay Education Program Library.

Maunalua of Old

Hawaiian place names of the Maunalua Bay region such as Kuliʻouʻou (knee sounding – referring to a knee drum) and Wailupe (kite water – where kites were flown) paint a picture of an area enjoyed by people.  Moʻolelo, Hawaiian stories, talk of areas visited by Pele and Kamapuaʻa, legendary figures of Hawaiian folklore.  Several moʻo (water spirits) lived in the area, guarding over sites and bringing blessings of the abundance of fish.

Early residents of the region engaged in fishing, gathering, and subsistence agriculture.  Fishing shrines (koʻa) dedicated to ʻamaʻama (mullet) and akule (scad) suggest that these were the major catch in the area.  The bay was also known for various types of weke (goatfish) and heʻe (octopus). There were several Hawaiian fishponds, most famously at Wailupe and Niu, in which fish were cultivated for consumption in a sustainable manner.  An inland fishpond, Keahupua O Maunalua, now called Kuapā, was one of the largest fishponds on Oʻahu. The coastal plains were famous for sweet potatoes.  These resources were managed carefully by konohiki (land stewards) appointed by aliʻi (chiefs).  The konohiki could impose various seasonal and other restrictions, exercising his or her responsibility to protect the resources.

...with Development


The 1880s brought an influx of foreigners, particularly Americans and Portuguese.  Maunalua became a prime cattle grazing area and in Kuliʻouʻou, the ranches and dairy farms produced the most milk in the Pacific.

Up until the 1950s Maunalua continued to be important for farming and well known for its abundant fisheries.  Rapid development starting in the 1950s created the suburban character of this region.  Today, most of the valleys and ridges are clothed with residences overlooking Maunalua Bay.

While the piggeries and rows of crops are mostly gone, farmers in Kamilo Nui Valley still produce vegetables and flowers sold across the island.  A drive to these farms harkens back to a time when a thin dirt road was the main artery through the Maunalua region.

E Hoʻi Mai Na Pua ʻO Kuapā

This oli is composed by Anne Rosa whose family is part of generations of kamaʻaina of Maunalua area.  She composed this oli as she attended college far away in New Hampshire and remembered her beloved home and family in Maunalua.
E hoʻi mai na pua ʻo Kuapā

Eia no ke kai ʻo Maunalua

Noho nani ka wahine ʻo Leahi

Noho mālie Kawaihoaʻo Kanaloa

Apo ʻia ke kai e na kuahiwi

Wehiwehi ka moana me nā lei hiwahiwa¹

Hiwahiwa nā pua ʻo keia ʻone

Ka ʻone hanau ʻo kuʻu ʻohana

E hui pu kakou i ka ʻehukai

ʻAʻala ka ʻehukai i nā heʻenalu

Lelepaheʻe na waʻa i ke kai ʻolino

Hauʻoli ke ʻalohi a nā nalu

Haina hoʻi mai nā pua ʻo Kuapā

Eia no ke kai ʻo Maunalua

Hiwahiwa nā pua ʻo keia ʻone

ʻOne hānau ʻo kuʻu ʻohana
Return, children/fish/ (lit.)flowers² of Kuapā³
Here indeed is the ocean of Maunalua
The woman Leahi sits beautiful
Sitting peacefully is Kanaloa's Kawaihoa⁴

The sea is embraced /encircled by the mountains
The ocean is adorned with precious lei(pl.)
Precious are the children/(lit)flowers of these sands
The birth sands of my (dear) family


Let us come together in the midst of the sea spray
The sea spray has a sweet and fragrant smell to the surfers
Canoes glide quickly across the water that sparkles with sunlight
Joyful /happy are the glints of sunshine on/of the waves


The story is told of the return of the children/fish/(lit) flowers of Kuapā
Here indeed is the ocean of Maunalua
Precious are the children /(lit)flowers of these sands
The birth sands of my (dear) family

¹Tutu's name is Kahiwahiwa

²Pua are literally flowers. Also pua is used metaphorically to refer to children. Pua can also mean the baby fish, e.g. pua 'ama'ama (baby mullet).

³ The name of the area where my house sits and of the ancient fishpond also known as Ke-ahu-pua-o-Maunalua.

⁴ Kawaihoa translates to the water of the friends, the name of a spring that existed at Portlock Point: Kanaloa, a revered Hawaiian ancestor associated with a spring brought forth on this mountain.

A letter written by B. V. Kanaikuʻihonoināmoku to the July 31, 1865 edition of Hawaiian language newspaper, Ke Au Okoa, in the Hawaiian language describes different locales around Maunalua. (Pdf of original text in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi attached).

Ke Au Okoa: Vol. 1, No. 15 (31 July 1865)        
(English translation from Hawaiian language newspaper, Ke Au Okoa)

DEAR KE AU ‘OKO‘A;—Greetings:

If you please, Mr. Editor, you and I can meet again regarding this theory. Please insert this lei pīkake of the winter and carry it to all in these days of constant news reporting so that everyone of my home land can have it during the cold rains of winter.

This is very important for all of us to join together in these changing times when the Pleiades meander overhead. The hearts of the conservative and liberal sectors are comforted, and the joining together in the forests of Halemano have been climaxed, the coming together in love has been achieved in Moe‘awa, the lovely fragrance of the hala blossoms have been enjoyed and multiplied.

The ali‘i lived in many places of their choosing in past times for better or for worse in places where they found physical comfort. That is where they found hope and the desires of their hearts. Perhaps you old people know where the ali‘i used to enjoy living where their houses stood, and it was heard and talked about by the ones who have passed on long ago, but I know of an area where there were old houses of the ali‘i in ancient times.

In Kailua, Ko‘olaupoko, O‘ahu, there is a well known place called ‘Alele that one ali‘i by the name of Peleiōhōlani really liked. He lived in the area because of the pleasant winds which blow gently known as the Kaiāulu winds. That is where his good house stood in ancient times, a land without hala trees, but having much fish at Kawainui and Kā‘elepulu. Waters flowed in Peleiōhōlani’s day and there was fat mullet at Kawainui and moleua‘u ‘o‘opu [not sure about this fish] at Kā‘elepulu. Let us put this aside for the moment and turn back to other places where this ali‘i lived.

On the point at Kawaihoa, at the place called Keawahili is where the nice big house stood of Kamehameha. He really liked this place but other ali‘i thought it was not such a good place. It was a desert landscape when the Pleiades was high in the sky. There was nothing about this place that was desired, and in the caves of Maunalua is where Kamehameha lived, and his village still stands. Let us set that aside as well since the glory of those days is passed. Let us look toward new glories.

At Wailupe is a place called Kauoha. However, it is on the eastern side of the cliff and has a different border from Pāpa‘alaea separating Niu, and this is below the adjoining wall where some large houses were built for some ali‘i of Kapueo and Kepo‘onui. These ali‘i really enjoyed this place since it was pleasant and cool in the Mālualua wind. Wailupe had the spiny āholehole fish and the firm sweet potatoes at Kamanu‘ena where the stiff Hōli‘o [or Hōlio] rains fall on the old men and where a large heiau stood. Let’s put that aside; it belongs in the past, and let’s turn and look at other places where the ali‘i used to live and enjoyed living.

On the west side of Wailupe is a place called Kaualua where there was a large pond that the ali‘i enjoyed in days past. They loved that pond because the water was cool in the afternoon and good for swimming. It was cool like water from the mountain, cool enough to numb the body and was used by the people of Kaipoahi. There was a storage place in this pond for rum for the ali‘i. They would leave the rum in there until they wanted it to drink, then they would send for it where it was. No one who thought to plunder could escape from the pond called Punakaualua. The evidence was on the back of the perpetrator; white sand would be seen on his back, and that is how the perpetrator was revealed. Let us leave this along and get back to other matters.

In Wai‘alae there was a place called Kalua‘onou, a place much enjoyed by the ali‘i because of the cool gentle winds that rustled the leaves of the coconut trees. A nice house was constructed there for the ali‘i who have long since passed as a place to relax. It was a place of water for growing coconuts with nice soft jelly-like flesh, and it is where the waves would ebb and flow at Wai‘alae in ancient times. Let us now move on and find the ali‘i in the shade of Kou at Waikīkī.

At Waikīkī Kai was a place called Ulukou, and Ulukou was much desired by the ali‘i in ancient times. It was desired as a surf spot and is where the fragrant līpoa seaweed was found at Kahaloa. Some large houses where built there for the ali‘i as a place for them to relax and rest from their labors and sore muscles. They appreciated this place because of the cool gentle breezes there. The ali‘i engaged in many leisurely activities in those days at that place and these are some of the things they enjoyed doing: boxing, ‘ulu maika, spear sliding, cock fighting, foot racing in horse racing fashion, dancing to the beat of drums, surfing, and all types of leisurely activities that the ali‘i engaged in in days passed. Let us leave that place and go back and take a look at Moanalua.

At Moanalua is a place called Kānalua. The ali‘i really liked that place Kānalua which was the name of that village. There were a few large houses built there for the ali‘i in ancient times, and the stone walls of that village are still found until today. One has a sense of love for the ali‘i of that place where the winds blow so cool and gentle carrying the fragrances of the mountains. There was succulent milkfish to be found in the pond of Kaloaloa and fat juicy mullet found at Māpunapuna. The ali‘i had everything they their hearts desired. Let us now leave this place and get back and take a look at the upslopes of Kūkaniloko.

Kūkaniloko was a place greatly desired by the ali‘i of O‘ahu. It was a place the ali‘i would return to to give birth in ancient times (so say the people of olden times of this land). That is where the umbilical cords of these ali‘i were left. It is a place that is often traveled by tourists touring the island. That is how it has been since ancient times until today. That is enough for looking at this place. Let us now turn and look at the uplands of Halemano.

In the uplands is a place called Halemano and it was greatly liked by the ali‘i because Halemano was a place where cool winds blew. The ali‘i lived in this place and they were attracted to it. There were some houses built there. It is said by the people of old that in unenlightened times, this was a place of man-eaters and that visitors who would travel to the area were all eaten. A stone bowl for sauce was erected for the victim from ancient times and remains until today and is said to have been made as a stone sauce bowl.

These are the famous places from ancient times where ali‘i lived, but there are more place where the ali‘i lived and our friends know where the ali‘i lived. These are the places that I know of. That is enough for now. Your correspondent from the land of Kaha is going home.


Kaualua, Wailupe, O‘ahu, July 24, 1865.


Contributed by John Clark.  Translated by Keao NeSmith.

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