ʻO Kahaluʻu Kahi o nā Hālau Lololo Kahaluʻu, a place of intelligence

Apr. 25, 2023

Kahaluʻu Ma Kai opens following restoration

Righting the mistakes of the past, an intimate gathering of lineal descendants from the ahupuaʻa of Kahaluʻu Ma Kai on Hawaiʻi Island greeted the sun for a new day – a new promise. The recent piko ceremony held on Piko Wakea, the spring equinox – a time of transition and focusing on things to put back in balance – helped them to heal, find closure to what once was their home, and to celebrate a new way forward.

“My tūtū is looking down and happy with how it looks. Without the hotels, without the parking lots, the pavement, ripping off all that and restoring it back to the original ʻāina. This is what the place was about; it’s for the community. Because of all the heiau that were here. It’s how to keep this place the way it was and not change it,” said Alton Kauahi, a lineal descendant from that area.

Kauahi’s manaʻo emerges from the shadow of the Kuleana Acquisition Program, which nearly six decades ago displaced Native Hawaiian lineal descendants from Kahaluʻu Ma Kai to make way for hotels.

Kahaluʻu Ma Kai was a place of intelligence. Cultural Resources Manager Māhealani Pai explains, “In this space were elite aliʻi and the priestly lineages that occupied this space. All the ruling chiefs of Hawaiʻi Island, at one time or another, resided here on this landscape. This is where they housed the masters of the many different disciplines of Hawaiian culture.”

In 1969, Keauhou Beach Hotel was built on the property bringing much-needed employment and economy to many on Hawaiʻi Island. However, those changes brought mixed feelings among the community that once called Kahaluʻu Ma Kai home.

The decline of the Japanese economy in the late 80s shuttered the nearby Kona Lagoon, and discussions began with lineal descendants and Trustees Robert Kihune, Douglas Ing, Constance Lau, Nainoa Thompson, and Diane Plotts, to amend Kamehameha’s past decisions on ʻᾹina Pauahi. The meeting in 2005 proved to be a pivotal one and set Kamehameha Schools on a path to restore the five heiau that were once places of worship – Hāpaialiʻi, Kapuanoni, Hale o Papa, Mākoleʻā, and Keʻekū on ʻĀina Pauahi. The reconciliation promised collaboration with community lineal descendants moving forward.

In 2012, Keauhou Beach Hotel closed, and Kamehameha Schools looked to restore and redevelop Kahaluʻu Ma Kai as a place for intellectual exchanges. The hotel was carefully deconstructed to develop a Hawaiian cultural educational learning space while mitigating harm to the surrounding shoreline environment and sacred cultural resources. The hotel removal operation was also conducted sustainably, recycling 21,000 tons of material.

Today, lineal descendants, community and education partners, along with Kamehameha Schools Community and ʻĀina Resiliency Group, celebrated the opening of Kahaluʻu Ma Kai. From the sunrise piko ceremony and community open house to the evening’s ʻaha ʻāina, participants were welcomed home.

“Welcoming back the lineal descendants of this ʻāina to walk the restored grounds and heiau and to share opportunities of cultural learning at Kahaluʻu Ma Kai with community partners is a vision come true,” said Jason Jeremiah KSK ‘00, director of Natural and Cultural Ecosystems. “We listened to the voices of the past, our kūpuna, to create a new path and this place of learning,” he added.

Kahaluʻu Ma Kai will embrace many different learners and offer greater engagement opportunities with Hawaiʻi charter schools, the State Department of Education, other educational partners, and the University of Hawaiʻi system. This place of intelligence will continue to nurture and grow ʻōiwi leaders in the West Hawaiʻi community – celebrating a new way forward.