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Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Kona Coast, Hawaii
 
View along a curving shoreline towards a sand pathway and large lave rock wall with palm trees in the foregound and backgroundPu'uoina Heaiu at Honokohau
Photograph by W Nowicki, Wikipedia

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is located three miles north of Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawai'i. The Park preserves and interprets the site of the ancient Hawaiian Honokohau Settlement and its fishponds (Loko i`a) and fishtrap.

The area within the 1,160 acre Park was, at one time, a thriving ancient Hawaiian settlement that supported a large population of both maka'ainana (commoner) and ali'i (chief). A very active religious-political center, the settlement had an economy based in large part on its fishponds and that was geared toward supporting the social and political status of the Kona ali'i. The maka'ainana in the settlement harvested fish from the sea and from fishponds they constructed along the shore. They grew coconuts, sweet potatoes, and gourds and raised chickens and pigs. Inhabitants of the area created a delicate balance between the sea, the land, and their extended families so that everyone thrived and lived in harmony. Those living closest to the shore harvested fish and other food from the sea, while ohana (extended family) living within the ahupua'a (sea to mountain land division) grew staple resources such as taro, breadfruit, paper mulberry, wood, and fiber for clothing. To ensure everyone's survival, the ohana would trade these items with one another.

The Honokohau ("Bay drawing dew") Settlement is in the southern part of the Park. The site has kahua (ancient house site platforms), papamu (rock game boards), petroglyphs, stone enclosures, ahus (stone mounds that serve as altars, shrines, or security mounds) a hōlua slide, and Pu'uoina Heaiu, a place of worship. The heiau was used not only as a place of worship, but was also the site of the ruling ali'i's residence.

The earliest date for the construction of fishponds in Hawaii is estimated to be sometime around 1200 AD. Hawaiians were the only ancient Polynesian people to move beyond the simple catching of fish in traps to more intensive fish production and cultivation. Fishponds were the property of ali'i and were symbols of the chiefly right to conspicuous consumption and ownership of coastal marine resources. Fishponds generally consisted of two major types: shore and inland. Kaloko Fishpond and Aimakapa Fishpond are examples of shore ponds, built at natural curvatures of the ocean's shoreline. They each contain a seawall or embankment that, with the shoreline, creates a pond enclosure. Hawaiian fishponds were primarily feeding areas in which algae was cultivated. Fish, predominantly mullet, would enter a pond through a mäkähä (sluice gate), feed on the algae, and eventually grow too large to swim back through the small gaps of the mäkähä. The large fish would gather near the mäkähä allowing the Hawaiians to easily catch and harvest them by hand or with nets.

View from banks across a body of water (fishpond) towards a sluice gate and rock wallThe Kaloko Fishpond showing the rock seawall and a mäkähä
Photograph by Rose Say,Flickr

The two primary fishponds at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park – Aimakapa and Kaloko – and the 'Ai'opio Fishtrap illustrate the ways in which native Hawaiians worked with their environment to manage and utilize the abundant resources of the sea.

Ancient Hawaiians created the Kaloko Fishpond, a loko kuapa (fishpond with sluice gates and a rock wall) by constructing a mortarless lava rock seawall that isolated the bay from the sea. To control the flow of water between the pond and the sea, they used mäkähä and designed an angled seawall to diffuse the energy created by ocean waves. Water was able to circulate between the ocean and the pond due to the porous nature of the lava rocks in the fishpond's kuapa (seawall). The Kaloko Fishpond kuapa was originally 30-40 feet wide and 6-12 feet high, stretching for 750 feet. Storms in the 1950s destroyed the wall, but the National Park Service is working to rebuild the structure using archeological evidence, oral histories, kupunas (elders), and the guidance of master masons skilled in traditional stonewall construction.

The Aimakapa Fishpond, a loko pu'uone (fishpond isolated by a mound of sand) consisted of an area of water enclosed behind sand dunes that ran parallel to the sea. Loko pu'uone had a supply of fresh water that entered the fishpond through natural springs or streams. A channel that the ancient Hawaiians dug between the loko pu'uone and the ocean allowed water to circulate between the two areas. This created the brackish water favored by many different types of fish. Studies suggest that ancient Hawaiians used the Aimakapa Fishpond for over 600 years. The Aimakapa Fishpond is also a wetland area and is a critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian waterbirds and other native animal and plant species including the koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck), 'alae ke'oke'o (Hawaiian coot), ae'o (Hawaiian stilt), and au'ku'u (Black-crowned night heron).

Aerial view of a shoreline curved in a J shape with a rock wall partitioning off a natural bay to create a fishtrapAerial View of the 'Ai'opio Fishtrap
Courtesy of the National Park Service,
Submerged Resources
Center

The 'Ai'opio Fishtrap, located in the Kaloko-Honokohau fishpond area, is a 1.7 acre pond with a low stone wall enclosing a section of a small bay. Fishtraps, known as loko 'ume'iki, differed from fishponds in that the fish were trapped and caught, but not raised. The construction of a fishtrap was similar to a fishpond, but it did not contain mäkähä. Instead, its rock walls had openings that formed "lanes" (sluices) which took advantage of the currents and tides and allowed fish to enter the trap by swimming through the openings or over the walls submerged at high tide. Once the tide receded, the fish were trapped and were easily caught with nets.

 There are also multiple ancient Hawaiian trails that cross the Park including the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, which circled the island and connected various coastal communities.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park brings traditional Hawaiian culture alive. Walk along a self-guided foot trail to view Kaloko Fishpond, Aimakapa Fishpond, and the 'Ai'opio Fishtrap. Sit on Honokohau Beach while viewing the ancient heiau that stands at the end of the beach. Hike along the trails taking in the many native plants, stone walls, and house platforms, just as the Ancient Hawaiians did many years ago.

Plan your visit

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System which also includes Honokohau Settlement, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the west (Kona) coast of the Island of Hawai'i, approximately 3 miles south of the Keahole International Airport and 3 miles north of the town of Kailua-Kona, on the ocean side of Highway 19. The visitor center, Hale Ho'okipa, is located half a mile north of the entrance to Honokohau Harbor. The Kaloko road gate is located across the highway from the Kaloko New Industrial Park (across from the big yellow "Kona Trade Center" building). The park is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily. For more information, visit the National Park Service Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park website or call 808-326-9057.

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