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KALAUAO, ʻewa, oʻahu

 Holo I ka wela ka hahana i ke kula i Kalauao
The heat and warmth travels across the plains of Kalauao
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Kalauao is an ahupuaʻa in the moku of ʻEwa, on the island of Oʻahu; a place more commonly known as modern-day Pearl Ridge. Because of Kalauao’s geographical terrain, most of its loʻi kalo were constructed and utilized toward the bottom of the valley near Puʻuloa. This ʻāina housed 50 Kuleana land parcels where makaʻainana could steward their plots, as well as two loko kuapā (type of fishpond) whose names are Pāʻaiau and ʻOpu. Although agriculture and aquaculture remained in the lowlands due to the steep cliffs of the Koʻolau, this upper region produced pōhaku strong enough to carve into koʻi, or adze. It is also important to mention that Kalauao and ʻEwa as a whole served as an aliʻi (royal) stronghold. Due to its abundance of natural resources, this ʻāina was prized and sought by many. Kalauao is yet another rich ahupuaʻa that we recognize for the way that it provides sustenance for its kānaka from mauka to makai. 


By the early 1920ʻs, much like the rest of Oʻahu, Kalauao's cultural resources were thus being utilized for mono-cropping. Watercress farming quickly emerged due to the presence of fresh water. In 1928, Hawaiʻi required that watercress for sale needed to be grown in pure spring water, uncontaminated by animal run-off. Luckily, the water in Kalauao was free from contamination and was/is clear and safe enough to drink. 

During this time, as watercress began to take off inland, at the shores of Puʻuloa, military docks were being constructed for the Navy. It is difficult to pinpoint at which time loko iʻa in Puʻuloa were being disassembled, however, it is known that by this time these large scale fishponds were no longer in use.

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place name

Ka-lau-ao: 1) the multitude of clouds 2) by means of a chant written for Kūaliʻi, because of the words "ala", meaning to rise, and "ao" meaning daylight, some deduct that this meaning alludes to the rising of the day.

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There is no doubt that the strength in an ahupuaʻa or moku lies in its resources. In this case for ʻEwa, it is fresh water springs. The leeward coast of Oʻahu is largely misunderstood as a hot and barren land with little to no rain throughout the year. However, although ʻEwa does not showcase its water in waterfalls and streams it does not mean that this land lacks water. Evidently, all of ʻEwa's water is groundwater. ʻEwa sits on the largest aquifer on the island, known as the Pearl Harbor aquifer which holds 392 million gallons of water. Due to the seemingly flat and gentle slope of the leeward side of the Koʻolau mountains, rain water is allowed to seep into the aquifer, unlike our windward counterpart who often see flash floods and brown water advisories after a heavy rain.







In conjunction with our gentle slopes, ʻEwa has a very strong semi-permeable rock called caprock that lines the shores of Puʻuloa. This rock does not allow the fresh water from the aquifer to flow back into the ocean and instead creates pressure within the aquifer. As the water builds up and looks for an opening to escape, the results are pūnāwai, freshwater springs. Pūnāwai are the reason why agriculture and aquaculture was and continues to be successful in ʻEwa. The water from these pūnāwai fed a mosaic of loʻi and inland loko iʻa which eventually emptied out into the ocean and fed the estuaries of the offshore loko iʻa. 

Loko Kuapā


Loko kuapā are fishponds with kuapā (seawalls) built of stones and coral. Hawaiians built these fishponds on a reef flat near a freshwater stream or spring. The shoreline was the inner wall of the pond. The outer walls had openings called ʻauwai kai with mākāhā (sluice grates) that allowed sea water to flow in and out of the pond. Fish swam into the pond through the mākāhā. When the fish grew bigger, the mākāhā trapped them in the pond. Some loko kuapā had a nursery pond inside. Pua (baby fish) were kept in the nursery to protect them from larger fish. Hawaiians built loko kuapā for the aliʻi. This kind of pond exists only in Hawaiʻi. 




What lives in a Loko Kuapā?

  •  Pāpaʻi (crabs)

  • ʻōpae (shrimp)

  • awa (milkfish)

  • ʻAmaʻama (mullet)

  • Āholehole (flagtail)

  • Weke and Kumu (goatfish)

  • Manini (convict tang)

  • Palani (eye-striped surgeon fish)

  • Nahawele (mussel)

  • Pūhi (eel)

  • Kala (unicorn fish)

  • Kāhala (amberjack)

  • Uhu (parrot fish)

  • Hīnālea (wrasse)

  • Kākū (barracuda)

  • Akule (big-eyed scad)

  • Nehu (anchovy)

  • Pāpio and ulua (jacks)

  • Pualu (yellowfin surgeonfish)

  • Moi (threadfin)





Kalanimauia is the daughter of Kūkaniloko. You may have heard of her mother before as it is also the name of the famous birthing stones of Oʻahu. Kalanimauia followed in her mother’s footsteps as she became mōʻī (ruler) of Oʻahu and led a reign of prosperity. She was born at Kūkaniloko and resided in the ahupuaʻa of Kalauao, located in the moku of ʻEwa. She leaves her legacies in many forms spiritual and physical, in manifestations such as the loko iʻa (fishponds) of Pāʻaiau and ʻOpu.

Here is the moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) of the beloved Kalanimanuia. As follows, kāne (K) are represented first, followed by wahine (W). It is important to note that upon her passing, Kalanimanuia left all of ʻEwa to her son Kaihi-kapu-a-manuia whom eventually left it to his son Kakuhihewa. For ʻEwa was a rich and important land and was fruitful and peaceful during this time as is reflected by the famous saying Oʻahu-a-Kakuhihewa. 

(Kāne)Piliwale + (Wahine)Paakanilea
(Kāne)Luaia + (Wahine)Kukaniloko
(Kāne)Lupekapukeahomakalii + (Wahine)Kalanimanuia
(Kāne)Kaihikapu-a-manuia + (Wahine)Kaunui-a-Kanehoalani (Kāne)Kakuhihewa.

The Battle of Kūkiʻiahu

​In an attempt to face Kamehameha I in battle, chief of Maui, Kaʻeokulani, and ruler of Oʻahu, Kalanikupule, broke out into a civil war and lost sight of the larger task at hand. This was known as the battle of Kūkiʻiahu. With the help of Captain Brown, Kalanikupule had the upper hand with the use of foreign weapons such as guns and cannons. This battle took place from November to December of 1794. Killed in action, Kaʻeokulani and his men were taken to Pāʻaiau. This was the victory that would lead Kalanikupule into battle with Kamehameha I at Nuʻuanu one year later.



The famous freshwater spring, or pūnāwai, in Kalauao is known by the name Kahuewai. This spring was kapu (taboo) for the use of aliʻi only. However, it was not until later that this pūnāwai was to be used by all. Kākuhihewa and her ʻohana were among the aliʻi that swam in this spring. During the battle of Kūkiʻiahu, Kaʻeokulani utilized Kahuewai to bathe prior to his death. This was a well known spring to those across the pae ʻāina as many would come from far to enjoy the wai of this puna.

ʻōlelo Noʻeau

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Ke ola no ia o kiaʻi loko 
​That is the livelihood of the keeper of the pond 
​ʻŌN #1771

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Like many rich wahi throughout Hawaiʻi, Kalauao is no different in the fact that kānaka are still present and working hard to restore and cultivates its cultural and natural resources. "It is all about feeding our community, that's the main goal," shares Aunty Kehaulani Lum. She is the Cultural Advisor and site coordinator for Loko Paʻaiau. At the kai of Kalauao, remnants of the famous fishpond still remain. Aunty Kehau, who hold familial ties to this ʻāina welcomes community to this special place. Volunteers can visit to learn about the history of Kalauao and its famous chiefs and engage in aloha ʻāina activities, planting native plants to mitigate erosion and weeding invasive species. 

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