search logo

KS West Hawai‘i senior director Kaeo Duarte shares KS’ vision for an educational complex at the former site of the Keauhou Beach Hotel, now known as Kahalu‘u Ma Kai. Over 100 community educators, school representatives and area residents attended the two KS open house events.

West Hawaiʻi Community embraces KS’ Kahalu‘u Ma Kai vision

Sept. 10, 2014

Contributed by Kau'i Burgess

The West Hawai‘i community showed up in force recently to learn more about Kahalu‘u Ma Kai, a Hawaiian educational complex to be developed by Kamehameha Schools on land beneath the former Keauhou Beach Hotel.

The Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for Kahalu‘u Ma Kai was recently approved by the County of Hawai‘i allowing KS to begin the multi-phased process of removing the former hotel to make way for the Hawaiian place of learning.

The approval triggered a 30-day public comment period that had the potential to influence the hotel removal process. KS hosted open house events to explain the DEA in detail so community members could give informed feedback on the project.

 “An environmental assessment is a county-regulated requirement that helps predict possible environmental effects of proposed initiatives on surrounding areas,” said Laurie Takahashi, KS senior capital program manager.

“Approval of our DEA is one of the first steps to getting input about our proposed process to ensure protection of the environment.”

A productive community conversation
Ten minutes before the first open house started, more than 30 people had already entered the old Drysdale’s restaurant site at Keauhou Shopping Center, the meeting location for the next two days.

By 6 p.m. more than 80 people had streamed into the meeting space. Community education collaborators, school representatives, neighboring resort residents, kūpuna, educators and residents with generational ties to the area greeted one another with great warmth.

A hush came over the crowd as a chant, honoring the famed ‘āina, reverberated through the air before the meeting. KS Cultural Resource Specialist Mahealani Pai called on Akua and ancestors. Aunty Lily Kong, a descendant from the area, gathered attendees in a circle and started the meeting with a pule, ma ka ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i (a prayer in the Hawaiian language).

“Most people were interested in knowing more details about the hotel’s removal,” said Takahashi. “They seemed satisfied with the explanation that the hotel was not going to be imploded or demolished using a wrecking ball.

“Our team described the types of equipment and safe guards that would be employed so debris is restricted from the ocean. That made everyone a lot more comfortable.”

The subject of dismantling a 40-year-old hotel – once an icon of enjoyment, leisure and recreation to some – was not an easy discussion topic. But with its footing anchored in the shoreline’s reef and its pool’s foundation a heiau, the conversation for safely removing the concrete structure was deemed important by all.

Over the course of two 90-minute meetings, KS staff and consultants outlined and summarized the 500-page DEA to more than a hundred attendees. Together, they answered questions relating to the hotel removal and addressed concerns relating to care of the surrounding environment.

 “The overall conversations about the site were great!” Takahashi said.  “One woman said she had chicken skin. I showed her the Kekahuna map (a hand-drawn map of Kahaluʻu ma kai from the late 1800s) that was overlaid with the hotel footprint as well as the new educational development. The visual solidified for her the sensitivity that KS and its consultants are taking to protect the site and create a Hawaiian learning place. She was really happy.”

The public comment period for the project ended on September 8. KS consultants are working with County of Hawai‘i representatives to compile the community input and will present it to KS in the near future. For more information on the Kahalu‘u Ma Kai site project, visit:

The overall conversations about the site were great! One woman said she had chicken skin. I showed her the Kekahuna map that was overlaid with the hotel footprint as well as the new educational development. The visual solidified for her the sensitivity that KS and its consultants are taking to protect the site and create a Hawaiian learning place. She was really happy.
Laurie Takahashi, KS senior capital program manager

Mitchell Fujisaka, a kupuna advisor with generational ties to Kahalu‘u, is on hand at KS’ Kahalu‘u Ma Kai open house to show support and share the history of the area.

A preliminary conceptual site plan of the future educational learning complex in West Hawai‘i.


Kaipuolono Article, Newsroom, Community Education, Department News, Features, LAD News

Print with photos Print text only