by Betty Fullard-Leo
Aerial View of Kalahuipua'a
All along the Kona-Kohala Coast, ancient anchialine
ponds reflect those long-ago days when thatched hales
(houses) and shady shelter caves furnished homes for
fishermen and their families. Some of these ponds have
been preserved at resorts such as Four Seasons Hualalai
and the Outrigger Waikoloa, but none have been so well
restored and documented as Kalahuipua'a, a series of
four main ponds and three smaller ones on the grounds
of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows.
Kaniela (Danny) Akaka
Here, Kaniela (Danny) Akaka, the hotel's Hawaiian historian,
oversees the fishponds and guides visitors, bringing
alive Hawaiian history by sharing his vast store of
knowledge with anyone who expresses an interest.
In 1973, the resort's important sites were identified
by Bishop Museum's Doctor Patrick Vinton Kirch during
a study on marine exploitation in prehistoric Hawai'i.
The resort subsequently provided public access, so anyone
who wants to enjoy the incredible peace and beauty of
Kalahuipua'a can stroll beside the ocean under the palm
trees through the fishpond complex, or wander inland
to the King's, or Ala Loa, Trail.
The trail was constructed of curbstones by 19th century
convicts and connected areas of trade and ranching from
Kailua-Kona to Hu'ehu'e and Honoipu in North Kohala.
An even older trail, the Ala Kahakai, or trail by the
sea, is part of an extensive shoreline trail that once
connected villages along the coast.
Bottom samples from the ponds have been dated back
to 250 B.C. but no one truly knows when the ancient
aqua culture system was constructed. In this area of
the Big Island, aqua culture ponds were of two types.
Some were built of stones walling out the ocean from
a naturally occurring protected bay. Others, like those
along the Kona-Kohala Coast were inland ponds where
water collected in pools at the shoreline, and because
of the porous rock, rose and fell with the tide. Named
after the Greek word anchialos, which means "near
the sea," such ponds are thought to be unique to
Hawai'i. At Kalahuipua'a, as in many other locales,
fish such as mullet and awa that were bred and fattened
in the ponds, were reserved for the ali'i, the royal
classes. Commoners who stole fish for their own consumption
could be punished by death.
The loko, ponds, at Mauna Lani Resort spread across
15 acres. The largest, Kalahuipua'a, covers five acres
to a depth of about 18 feet, and is one of the best
examples of a functioning fishpond in modern Hawai'i.
Of six other ponds, Kahinawao, Waipuhi, Waipuhi Iki,
Hope'ala, Milokukahi, and Manoku, only one other is
connected to the ocean with a sluice gate, or makaha,
as is Kalahuipua'a. Akaka explains, "The makaha
is a wooden grate in either side of the fishpond wall
that allows for water circulation and lets small fish
swim in from the ocean. Once in the ponds they grow
too large to swim back out. The flow of water through
the makaha also controlled the algae growth and oxygenation."
Fingerlings were kept in the smaller ponds until they
were big enough to survive in the large loko. In the
ponds they returned to the same area at the same time
daily to be fed taro, breadfruit and sweet potato. When
a chief wanted fish, the caretaker simply netted the
fattest and best as they gathered for feeding.
Akaka explains how fish were transported by trained
runners to chiefly tables, sometimes many miles distant.
"Fish were wrapped-probably in wet limu seaweed-as
they were taken from the ponds and arrived wherever
King Kamehameha or the ali'i were encamped. It is said
they often arrived still wiggling, they were so fresh,"
says Akaka, "but I think the runners must have
stopped along the shoreline trail to dip them in the
Walking through the Kalahuipua'a complex is like strolling
into a living museum. Certain sites, such as shelter
caves and an area where tools were fashioned from bone,
wood and shell using pahoehoe lava into useful implements,
have been marked with minimal explanatory signage. At
one place along the trail, an unusual helmeted warrior
petroglyph can be seen. At another place called Kulia,
petroglyphs were carved on the roof of a shelter cave,
but few people find this cave unless they are on one
of Akaka's guided walks, which he usually conducts free
of charge on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Thursdays
at 3:30 p.m. Viewers are asked to be reverent and careful
because of the need to preserve the historical significance
of these special sites.
In the late 1700s, Kamehameha I maintained a canoe landing
at Keawanui Bay, adjacent to the ponds. A replica of
the canoe hale (house) holds an outrigger canoe, and
in this area, periodically submerged at the ocean's
edge, an ancient konane board used for a game similar
to checkers, is still visible carved into the lava.
In addition, bowl-shaped depressions in the lava are
thought to have been used for the collecting of salt.
Kamehameha's heirs owned the area around the ponds,
up through Samuel Parker, grandson of John Palmer Parker
(the founder of the Parker Ranch empire), purchased
1,359 acres for $1,550 in the late 1800s. In 1936 Francis
Hyde I'i Brown, descendant of Papa I'i, oneof Kamehameha's
generals, acquired the land from the family of Eva Parker
Woods for $6,000.
Brown was a bon vivant, beloved by the Hawaiian people,
and known as a great golfer and all around good fellow.
He traveled extensively, owned 14 cars, and served as
a Territorial Representative and then as a senator,
but his true passion was Kalahuipua'a, where he came
to relax with his sweetheart, Winona Love, a beautiful
Brown's nephew Kenneth Brown wrote, "He bought
Kalahuipua'a around 1930 and began, I am convinced,
to unconsciously build himself a traditional ali'i's
compound composed of special buildings for special purposes.
"There was a tiny bedroom set out in the middle
of one of the fishponds where he slept with his lady
friend Auntie Winona Love...(There was) a small house
for cooking and eating. Near that, he built a large
screened, tin roof structure where 15 to 20 guests could
sleep in one room."
Easily missed at the back of the property is an enchanting
spring-fed swimming pool that Francis Brown had built,
and where he and Miss Love went for cool dips in the
crystal waters on hot sultry afternoons. If you're lucky
enough to find it, you can still trace with your finger
the shells that spell out Francis Brown's name, or slip
into the cold water where tiny o'pae 'ula (red shrimp)
cling to the rocks at the pool's edges.
Eva Parker Woods Cottage.
One of the buildings constructed in the 1920s, a former
caretaker's house surrounded by a lanai, has been refurbished
and is now the Eva Parker Woods Cottage Museum, a one-room
structure that holds reminders of the past. Samples
of tapa (bark cloth), a ti leaf cape and sandals, fishing
gear, including bone hooks, spears and ie'ie vine fish
traps, and an akua, an ancient stone fish god, are a
few of the treasures that Kaniela Akaka obligingly explains
to interested viewers. It's a treat to visit the cottage
on Saturday evenings during the full moon, when Akaka
hosts a "talk story" session for hotel guests
and others who are interested.
Francis Brown became friends with Noboru Gotoh, the
wealthy chairman of the Tokyu Corporation, at the 1964
Olympics in Tokyo. Kenneth Brown wrote, "Soon afterward,
Mr. Gotoh visited Kalahuipua'a and together they began
to dream about an international resort where affluent
people could come together to relax and play golf in
an atmosphere of total harmony. And that was the origin
of Mauna Lani Resort."
Francis Brown died when he was 83 in Pebble Beach in
1976, before construction began on Mauna Lani Bay Hotel
and Bungalows. The hotel was dedicated in 1983. It's
a toss-up whether Francis Brown would have been most
proud that the resort received the Historic Preservation
Award from the prestigious Historic Hawai'i Foundation
in 1984, or if he might have been more pleased about
playing in the Senior Skins Tournament, which has been
held on one of the resort's two golf courses for the
last eleven years. In any case, the area around Kalahuipua'a
is still a peaceful preserve fit for the pleasurable
relaxation of royalty.
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