The History In The Hills: Coffee Farms, Battle Grounds and Landmarks Seen From The Fair Wind II
To get to know the coastline of Kona, one must first look to the volcanoes that shaped this beautiful Island. Over the years of transformation that the Big Island has undergone, natural land boundaries were formed creating what the Hawaiian people called “ahupua’a”. Generally speaking, most ahupua’a were long and narrow expanses of land that stretched from the sea to the mountains. The people from each ahupua’a bartered for what they needed, which helped cultivate the land and sustain their balanced way of life. Those that lived by the sea traded fish with those who farmed banana or sweet potato further up in elevation. Many of the ahupua’a were navigated by well-defined trails running mauka (toward the mountain), and parallel to the ocean. Keauhou was the largest ahupua’a in the Kona district.
The land where your journey begins with Fair Wind Cruises is named Keauhou. This territory once belonged to the grandchildren of King Kamehameha I and is now owned by Kamehameha Schools. King Kamehameha III was born near the head of the bay in Keauhou, beneath the Ahu’ula Cliff. It is said that he was still born and revived by a kahuna (priest), who was able to do a reviving massage by Kuhalalua Spring. In 1914, the Daughters of Hawaii conducted a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of Kamehameha III’s birth. There is a bronze plaque that signifies the site of his revival at the bay.
Many people who once lived in the ahupua’a of Keauhou were skilled bird catchers. A tacky tipped tree that grows in higher elevation, called Papalakepau, was carefully maintained by the bird catchers to keep the birds in the tree until they could carefully take a few feathers and then safely release the bird. These feathers were used to adorn royalty, to designate royalty’s arrival in different districts and in religious ceremony. Yellow feathers were the most prized as they were far more rare to come by.
Stretching up above Keauhou Bay is a great stone holua, called Kaneaka, which reached nearly a mile in length. A holua was a ramp that was used for sledding by the Ali’I (kings) and warriors of Keauhou. Riders would race each other on sleds made from trees latched together with coconut fiber to a shoreline finish in He’eia Bay, just north of Keauhou Bay.
The battle of Kuamo’o occurred in the ahupua’a of Keauhou and Honalo and was fought in support of the kapu (old religion) against the new regime in government control. On your journey south to Kealakekua Bay, you can see the upslope terraces that hold the remains of some 300 warriors who now rest in Lekeleke burial grounds.
It is estimated that around 3,400 people lived along the shore between Keauhou Bay and Kealakekua Bay.
Kawanui, or ‘big leaping place’, is located about halfway between Keauhou Bay and Kealakekua Bay. These sheer cliffs offered an excellent platform to jump into the ocean in the sport of lele-kawa, in which the main goal was to leap feet first without making a splash.
Nawawa is just south of PuuOhau. This area was named for the roar booming from the ocean during high surf. This place may have been home to Hawaii’s first lighthouse. When King Kamehameha and his party were shipwrecked by a strong southeast wind called ulumano off the coast of Nawawa, the whole village was burned to light them ashore. This is also where Dr. Georges Philippe Trousseau’s extensive sheep ranch lowered their wool into boats to be exported, known as Wool’s Landing. They needed to have an extensive awareness of the tide and weather patterns as the wool needed to travel by wagon down about 5,000ft of elevation to the boats below without getting wet, or else it would be ruined.
Many have differing stories about who’s face is seen in the rocks, but there is no mistaking the two lava tubes seen for their eyes. Regardless, the rocks are said to be haunted. PuuOhau was named for the soft porous stone that was used to polish calabashes and sometimes canoes. These cliffs are often used by fishermen as a landmark, as it indicates the boundary between North and South Kona.
This was an excellent canoe landing area with great fresh water sources. As Hawaiians moved inland with increasing population, they broadened their agriculture development and lasting infrastructures. After sheep and goats were introduced to the area, they initially roamed free until the uncontained creatures started damaging the village homes and agriculture. The people then built walls with stacked lava rock to contain them. One of the more famous walls stretches 15 miles from Lanihau to Onouli.
While Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought coffee to the Big Island in 1828, it wasn’t recognized and branded as Hawaiian Kona Coffee until the English merchant Henry Nicholas Greenwell later in the 19th Century. To this day, coffee remains one of Kona District’s most sustainable exports. There are currently approximately 800 Kona Coffee Farms, some averaging less than 5 acres.
Keawakaheka Point “The Blow Hole”
Located just before you get to Kealakekua Bay, this is an excellent vantage point to be able to see the different layers of plant growth. As your eyes travel up the mountainside, you will see that the vegetation grows more dense and lush due to the increased rainfall.
Kealakekua means “Pathway Of The God”. It is said to be the home to the fertility god Lono-i-ka-makahiki. Makahiki was an ancient festival lasting for about four months during the winter that hosted sports and festivities and had a taboo on war.
To learn more about local Kona history, book one of our tours.