Wahi Pana: Kualaka‘i, O‘ahu
Kahi (The Place) : Kualaka‘i, Honouliuli, ‘Ewa, O‘ahu-a-Lua
In a traditional Native Hawaiian perspective, the region now occupied by Kapolei and Kalaeloa (Barbers’ Point) is part of the ahupua‘a of Honouliuli, the largest land division of O‘ahu’s ‘Ewa district. Honouliuli stretches down from the Wai‘anae mountains to Līhu‘e (yes, O‘ahu has one too), the area now occupied by Schofield Barracks, all the way to the Pu‘uloa estuary, now known as Pearl Harbor. The ocean boundary was O’ahu’s southern shore, from Kahe Point to the area near the new Hoakalei development. While much of the Honouliuli region was transformed because of cattle ranching and sugar cane and continues to change from extensive development, we are still fortunate to have access to our kūpuna’s knowledge on the region through their mo‘olelo (stories) and their writings. And by reading their accounts, we can learn of the names of Honouliuli and those who have passed and lived there.
One particular place I have only recently discovered was traditionally known as Kualaka‘i. This is the shoreline area in front of the Barbers Point military base. Once one makes through the former military roads under the hot sun, one discovers the beauty of Kualaka‘i. Two particular stretches of beaches (White Planes and Nimitz) are now known by English names. But let’s return to the name Kualaka’i, which resounds in the legends of time past.
It was through Kualaka‘i that Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, the youngest sibling of Pele, traveled during her time on O‘ahu. It is here that she catches a glimpse of Kaiona, the goddess who dwells upon Mt. Ka‘ala, O‘ahu’s highest points. And it is also at Kualaka‘i—at a particular place called Hilo One—that she joyfully encounters her relative, the goddess Kapo.
This is just a brief glimpse into the story of Kualaka‘i. Of course, the best way to learn about Kualaka‘i is to go there. When the moment is right, one can still sense the presence of Hi‘iaka, she who makes life spring from the barren earth. While the two beach parks tend to be crowded with families and surfers, the stretch in front of the park tends to be quieter. Just park your car along the read, walk a few yards, and you’re there. Once on the beach, you have clear views of southern O‘ahu all the way to Le‘ahi (Diamond Head). The ocean is generally too rough for swimming but is popular amongst surfers and fishermen. People have started to leave rubbish, so please help to mālama this place and help discard rubbish on your way out.
To get to Kualaka‘i, head to Kapolei on the H-1. Turn onto Ft. Barrette Road, heading ma kai (towards the ocean). At the entrance into Kalaeloa, you will see a sign pointing to both beaches. Make a left onto Roosevelt Avenue, then make a right onto Coral Sea Avenue. Stay on Coral Sea until you arrive at the water. Park along the side of the road.
For general information on Honouliuli ahupua‘a, the reference of choice is Sites of O‘ahu from Bishop Museum Press. To get the full experience of Hi‘iaka’s travels through the region, we highly suggest Ho‘oulumāhiehie‘s Ka Mo‘olelo o Hi‘iakaikapoliopele and the companion translation, The Epic Tale of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele, translated by Puakea Nogelmeier. Both editions are handsomely bound featuring color illustrations by kanaka maoli artist Solomon Enos. Published by Awaiaulu Press. Both volumes are available from Native Books Hawai‘i.