A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island
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Site Histories, Resource Descriptions, and Management Recommendations


B. Chronology of Settlement

In a new publication currently in press, Archeologists Ross Cordy, Joseph Tainter, Robert Renger, and Robert Hitchcock, on the basis of historical accounts and archaeological data, have postulated the social, economic, and physical development of the Kaloko-Honokahau area over the years. The following information is taken from their study.

1. A.D. 900s-1700s

The authors believe that small permanent settlements in the leeward portions of Hawai'i Island began by the A.D. 900s to 1000s, and possibly earlier. These would have occurred near favorable water sources, Kaloko bay probably having been one of the most sheltered and inviting large inlets along the Kona Coast. Coastal habitations had expanded by the 1200s, utilizing inland fields as well as sea resources for subsistence. The Kekaha lands north of Kaloko and extending to Kohala are thought to have undergone initial permanent settlement beginning in the 1400s, with subsequent occupation of the coast north and south over the next few centuries.

Sometime during the period of 1580 to 1600, Laeanuikaumanamana, the kahuna-nui of the ruling chief, Liloa, acquired the Kekaha region. It is thought that the construction of fishponds at Kaloko and Honokahau began during this time, with Kaloko Fishpond dating from at least the 1400s to 1500s During the 1600s to 1700s, as the Kona Coast population grew with the establishment of the royal residence of 'Umi-a-Liloa at Kona and the consequent increased demand for food production, Kaloko also increased to probably almost 200 residents. It continually supported a higher population than other Kekaha areas because of its fishpond and extensive inland field system.

It was the presence of these resources that resulted in residence at Kaloko by a high chief for at least part of the late prehistoric period. The authors suggest that Kaloko ahupua'a had been given to Kame'eiamoku, a high chief and one of the counsellors of Kamehameha, as well as one of the heirs of the Kekaha lands, the area having been a periodic residence of that family from his grandfather's time. A specific site within the park has even been identified as a chiefly residence. At some time during this period Kaloko's large heiau was built. Such structures were occasionally constructed away from the major centers of government, serving as luakini, ahupua'a heiau, or as a high chief's personal hieau. It is possible the "Queen's Bath," an anchialine pond, and its associated cairns is also a religious site constructed during this period, perhaps as an ahupua'a shrine, although its precise use has not yet been determined. [5]

2. Historic Period (1800-1900)

Major changes occurred along the Kona Coast in the early historic period. Drastic depopulation resulted from inhabitants leaving the coastal settlements for the port towns of Kailua and Kealakekua, resulting in a decline in agricultural production and in the utilization of marine resources. Diseases; the abolition of the kapu system; and the removal of the central government to O'ahu and Maui all contributed to the dissolution of the early settlements.

By the early 1800s, Kaloko was still an identifiable community, containing about six households near the coast, but with no high-ranking occupants in residence. These coastal habitations centered mainly around the fishpond. A few scattered inland residences remained. Although the abolition of the ancient religious system probably ended formal use of the heiau and other religious shrines in the area, the already declining population and the movement of the high chiefs of Kekaha to Honolulu may have instigated this move much earlier. Subsistence still depended on agriculture and marine exploitation. By the 1830s to 1840s, the coast was being abandoned, with some resettlement occurring in the uplands zone. Only a single household, that of a caretaker, occasionally occupied the area around the fishpond. [6]

Hawaiian ali'i had always highly valued lands containing fishponds as a dependable source of a continuing and plentiful food supply. The Kaloko and 'Ai'makapa fishponds were among the largest along the Kona Coast and added considerable value to the lands on which they were located. They were probably the primary reason that ali'i used this area for recreational and ceremonial purposes. [7] The 1848 Great Mahele resulted in almost all lands with fishponds being selected as private property by members of the ruling family. To Lot Kamehameha (Kamehameha V), a grandson of Kamehameha, went the lands of Kaloko and Kaupulehu, both supporting fishponds. Kaloko Fishpond was considered a very valuable resource, later having its own overseer who sold its products in Kailua. Kamehameha's granddaughter, Kekauonohi, received the ahupua'a of Honokohau-nui, containing the large 'Aimakapa Fishpond. W.P. Leleiohoku, heir of Kuakini, Ka'ahumanu's brother, received the smaller 'Ai'opio Fishtrap in Honokohau-iki. [8]

The land that Lot Kamehameha received in Kaloko ahupua'a included all acreage except cultivated lands (Kuleana grants) awarded to commoners, which numbered twelve adjacent to or near the main road around the island. [9] A Catholic school with forty-five students was listed in Kaloko in 1848. [10] Government records show that in 1857 nineteen people were paying taxes in Kaloko; this number reached twenty-three in 1860. [11] In her discussion of the population changes in Kaloko through the years, Kelly surmises that the entire ahupua'a of Kaloko might have supported up to 400 people at one time. The Mahele wrought numerous changes by initiating a new system of land division and the transition to a cash-based economy. Crops and produce from Kaloko Fishpond were taken to Kailua-Kona and the arid Kekaha region for sale. [12] The coastal trail connecting Kekaha villages was abandoned as traffic moved to the trails connecting the upland communities. The Mamalahoa Trail, or Lower Government Road, farther away from the coast and inland of the prehistoric coastal King's Highway, was constructed between 1835 and 1855. The Mahele and subsequent awarding of private claims probably also forced some of the inhabitants off their lands, either into outlying areas or into one of the larger port cities such as Kailua or Kawaihae. Eventually the aggrandizement and fencing of large portions of land by ranchers also served to discourage smaller native landowners. [13]

Princess Ruth Keelikolani acquired Kaloko by deed in 1874 as the sole heir of Kamehameha V. She leased the ahupua'a of Kaloko to three lessees for five years, but exempted the fishpond. A second five-year lease was granted to two of these men in 1881. [14] After Ruth Ke'elikolani's death in 1883, her sole heir was Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Upon her death in 1884, Kaloko was sold to C. H. Judd, trustee of the estate of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani. (John A. Maguire of the Huehue Ranch obtained Kaloko from that estate in 1906.) [15]

The area around Kaloko Fishpond began losing its identity as a community beginning in the 1880s, when permanent settlement started moving upland where cash crops could be grown, the population focusing on the Kohanaiki Homesteads. Social and economic ties were expanding outside the Kaloko area as the shoreline was virtually abandoned both here and in neighboring ahupua'a. The Kaloko Fishpond caretakers relied completely on cash sales of its produce. [16] J.S. Emerson's ca. 1888 map of North Kona shows only a few houses along the Kaloko-Honokohau coast: that of Kealiihelepo on the east edge of Kaloko Fishpond and those of Kalua and Beniamina between 'Ai'opio and 'Aimakapa fishponds in Honokahau. [17]

map of Kailua Section, North Kona
Illustration 94. Portion of Kailua Section, North Kona, Hawaii, Hawaii Territory Survey, survey and map by J.S. Emmerson, 1952.

Ultimately large ranches began leasing and purchasing the lands formerly owned by Hawaiian chiefs. Ownership of the Kaloko ahupua'a, excluding the kuleana grants, passed into the hands of the later Huehue Ranch operation. Subsistence in Kaloko ahupua'a from here on began to depend on the small-scale household farming in the uplands, which had shifted primarily to cash crops by the 1880s; on sales of fish from Kaloko Fishpond by its caretakers or lessees in the markets of Kailua-Kona; and on cattle raising by the Huehue Ranch. [18]

Plantation agriculture began in Hawai'i in the mid-nineteenth century, after the decline of the whaling trade and of the demand for ship provisioning that had given impetus to the native agricultural system. Plantation agriculture greatly altered the native social and economic systems. Many native Hawaiians would not work as laborers in the cane fields. Others were either forced to migrate to the upland plantations to work under this system so foreign to their traditional way of life or to move to larger towns, such as Kailua or Honolulu, to find other means of subsistence. The continuing prosperity of the plantations created a continuing need for fieldworkers. In addition, then, to new tools, agricultural practices, and forms of landownership, Western-style plantation agriculture introduced foreign contract laborers. [19] Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipino immigrants soon began arriving to work on the plantations.

Coffee raising was a growing industry in Kona in the 1880s. A large number of coffee plantations filled the hills behind Kailua. These trees grew in narrow strips or belts of volcanic land on the leeward slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. Small-scale coffee operations also existed around Kaloko and Honokahau in North Kona. [20]

Few written records exist about the Kaloko coast from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the turn of the twentieth. What little is known exists primarily only in the memories of older Kona District residents. [21] As the archeological record bears out, many of the sites in this once heavily populated area were gradually abandoned in the middle and late nineteenth century due to a combination of factors causing heavy population decline, including culture change, disease, new land laws, and a growing desire to move to urban centers. [22] At that time the remaining inhabitants tended to cluster around the fishponds in the area. [23] Honokahau village ca. 1913 held about a dozen houses along the beach. At Kaloko at this time, only one house is mentioned, near the fishpond — probably that of a caretaker. [24]

The Honokahau settlement continued to be inhabited as a Hawaiian village until about 1920, when people left it due to its isolation — it was accessible by sea only in small boats and by land only on foot or horseback. The site was later occupied by Filipino fishermen, living in shacks on the shore. [25] The Filipinos who obtained leaseholds on the Frank Greenwell property had come to Hawai'i beginning in the 1920s. After the expiration of their work contracts, many stayed on, moving from the plantation camps down to the beach.

3. Historic Period (1960s-Present)

Kaloko continued as a working domestic and commercial fishpond during the early part of this century, the main seawall undergoing constant repairs. Between 1943 and 1961, it was leased to a resident of Kailua, who cemented several sections of wall to minimize maintenance. He also built a jeep trail from Kaloko to Kailua over which to ship fish from the pond to market. After that lease expired, the coastal area was sporadically used by fishermen and campers, who mostly occupied the coconut grove at the south end of the seawall. [26] Kona's resort/development boom started in the late 1960s, aided by construction of the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, which provided easy access to the seaward portions of North Kona and South Kohala. [27]

A 1972 federal court memorandum stated that the Kaloko-Honokohau area remained rural in character, with its inhabitants still relying on the ocean, as well as the land, for their subsistence. The bounty of the ocean and fields kept them independent and off public assistance. [28] Today, under permits first issued by the Greenwells and later by the National Park Service, a few huts of fishermen dominate the Honokohau shoreline around 'A'iopio Fishtrap.

A final development spurring further activity in the area occured when the 1965 River and Harbor Act authorized construction of a small boat harbor, which began in 1968 and was finished by March 1970. (Although located in the ahupua'a of Kealakehe, it is referred to as the Honokohau boat harbor.) Because of the basaltic lava that had to be removed, many tons of explosives were used to form the facility, which included an inshore harbor basin, entrance channel, main access channel, rubble wave absorbers, and a wave trap. Its total accommodation was planned at more than 400 boats. [29] Construction of the boat harbor resulted in destruction of some archaeological sites, but they were of marginal value and were salvaged prior to their loss. This construction added another dimension to activity along the coast, providing impetus for planning further resorts there and housing in the upland areas.

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001