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[Photo] Kaloko-Honoköhau National Historical Park
NPS Photo
Established in 1978 for the preservation, protection and interpretation of traditional native Hawaiian activities and culture, Kaloko-Honoköhau National Historical Park is an 1160 acre park full of extraordinary cultural and historical significance. Kaloko-Honoköhau is located at the base of Hualälai Volcano, along the Kona coast of the island of Hawai`i. It is the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement which encompasses portions of four different ahupua`a, or traditional sea to mountain land divisions. Resources include fishponds, kahua (house site platforms), ki`i pöhaku (petroglyphs), hölua (stone slide), and heiau (religious site). The hundreds of archeological sites identified in the park to date indicate prehistoric and historic occupation of the area by a large population, both maka'ainana (commoners) and high ali'i (chiefs). A very active religious-political center, its economic life, based in large part on its fishponds, was geared toward supporting the social and political status of the Kona chiefs. The remains illustrate maritime aspects of early Hawaiian culture, encompassing subsistence activities, residential patterns, social interactions, and religious practices, in addition to artistic achievements and recreational pastimes. The concentration of resources in Kaloko-Honokohau provides direct evidence that a larger population existed here than elsewhere along the coast, probably because of the presence of the fishponds, which are the only resources of this type left between Kailua and Ke'ahole Point. The park is valuable to archeologists for the study of the activities of pre and early-contact Hawaiians and changes occuring in subsistence patterns and land ownership over time. For native Hawaiians, this is a sacred place, a place where revered ancestors lived and died.

[Photo] Seawall of Kaloko Fishpond
Photo from National Register collection

The park, and ahupua'a in which it is located, both derive their names from the Hawaiian word kaloko, which means "the pond." The fishponds at Kaloko-Honokohau comprise some of the park's most significant and unique resources. Fishponds are impressive examples of native prehistoric engineering/technological achievements and comprise one of the many effective techniques Hawaiians used in adapting to a sometimes hostile environment. Although most fishponds had their own specific names, as do others in the park, the largest is simply called Kaloko Fishpond, always referred to by this generic term which may indicate its antiquity and importance. Kaloko is a loko kuapa, or walled fishpond, formed by sealing off a small bay. It is thought that the construction of fishponds at Kaloko and Honokahau began during the late 16th century, although the Kaloko Fishpond dates from at least the 1400s to 1500s. Kaloko Fishpond is highly respected by the Hawaiians as the burial place of Kamehameha's remains—the king whose life and achievements still influence modern thoughts, attitudes, and emotions. His remains were interred during a ritual ceremony conducted in the traditional secret manner. It is also revered as the burial place of other high ali'i as well as of deceased respected ancestors.

The resources of Kaloko-Honokohau possess esthetic, cultural, historic, economic, scientific, and emotional values for the Hawaiian people. The discussions centering around establishment of this park emphasized that it was necessary to view and evaluate its fragile resources through a sensitive and sympathetic understanding of the culture that had shaped them. Although many details of the Hawaiian religion, language, crafts, and other cultural aspects were recorded upon the creation of a written language, there is much tradition that was not recordable, but that is intangible, a part of the personal and private Hawaiian cultural makeup that is transmitted best through expressions, action, and the spoken word. It is clear that the significance of the resources in this area must be judged not only in the context of their obvious importance to the study of early Hawaiian culture but also in relation to their emotional value, their relationship to prevailing cultural attitudes that have been shaped by the experiences of the past.

For further information on Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, you can visit their website which includes a collection of oral histories, or read the entire Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites on the West Coast of Hawai`i Island.


Hawaii Shingon Mission | Stedman--Thomas Historic District | Kaloko-Honokohau NHP
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Images for top banner from NPS Historic Photograph Collection (Rainbow over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, by Thomas C. Gray, [HPC-001345]) and the Palau Historic Preservation Office.

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