Although the canoe was a principal means of travel in ancient Hawaiʻi, extensive cross-country trail networks enabled gathering, harvesting other necessities for survival.
Famed for his energy and intelligence, King Piʻilani and his son Kiha constructed the legendary Alaloa or long trail known as the King’s Highway.
It was built about the time Christopher Columbus was crossing the Atlantic, before there were roads in Hawaiʻi. Back then, they were trails and Piʻilani was ruler of Maui.
According to oral tradition, Piʻilani unified the entire island of Maui, bringing together under one rule the formerly-competing eastern (Hāna) and western (Wailuku) multi-district kingdoms of the Island. Piʻilani ruled in peace and prosperity.
Four to six feet wide and 138-miles long, this rock-paved path facilitated both peace and war. It simplified local and regional travel and communication, and allowed the chief’s messengers to quickly get from one part of the island to another. The trail was used for the annual harvest festival of Makahiki and to collect taxes, promote production, enforce order and move armies.
The southeastern section of the island of Maui, comprising the districts of Hāna, Kīpahulu, Kaupo and Kahikinui, was at one time a Royal Center and central point of kingly and priestly power – Piʻilani ruled from here (he built Hale O Piʻilani – near Hāna.) This section of the island was also prominent in the later reign of Kekaulike.
Royal Centers were where the aliʻi resided; aliʻi often moved between several residences throughout the year. The Royal Centers were selected for their abundance of resources and recreation opportunities, with good surfing and canoe-landing sites being favored.
Long before the first Europeans arrived on Maui, Kīpahulu was prized by the Hawaiian aliʻi for its fertile land and abundant ocean. The first written description of the region was made by La Pérouse in 1786 while sailing along the southeast coast of Maui in search of a place to drop anchor:
“I coasted along its shore at a distance of a league (three miles) …. The aspect of the island of Mowee was delightful. We beheld water falling in cascades from the mountains, and running in streams to the sea, after having watered the habitations of the natives, which are so numerous that a space of three or four leagues (9 – 12 miles, about the distance from Hāna to Kaupō) may be taken for a single village.” (La Pérouse, 1786; Bushnell)
“But all the huts are on the seacoast, and the mountains are so near, that the habitable part of the island appeared to be less than half a league in depth. The trees which crowned the mountains, and the verdure of the banana plants that surrounded the habitations, produced inexpressible charms to our senses…”
“… but the sea beat upon the coast with the utmost violence, and kept us in the situation of Tantalus, desiring and devouring with our eyes what it was impossible for us to attain … After passing Kaupō no more waterfalls are seen, and villages are fewer.” (La Pérouse, 1786; Bushnell)
With the development of the whaling industry on the island in 1880s the southeastern Maui population started to decline as people moved to main whaling ports, such as Lāhainā. In the early-1900s, one of the regular ports of call for the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company was here at Kīpahulu. Steamships provided passenger service around Maui and between the islands.
Kīpahulu Landing also provided a way for growers and ranchers to ship their goods to markets. (Today the land where Kīpahulu Landing existed is private but protected with a conservation easement, overseen by the Maui Coastal Land Trust (now part of the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.))
The Hāna Sugar Plantation, formed in 1864, gradually increased production by expanding cane plantings toward Kīpahulu Valley. (Cusick)
However, shortly after World War II, Paul I Fagan, an entrepreneur from San Francisco, bought the Hāna Sugar Co, formed a ranch and started tourism on this part of Maui.
It had been only 20-years since Hāna was linked to the outside world by a rough dirt road, and it would be almost two decades more before it was paved.
In 1946, Fagan built a small six-room inn, called Kaʻuiki Inn (it was later expanding and is now the Travaasa Hotel Hana.) Fagan’s guests consisted of his friends as well as sportswriters, one of which gave Hana the current name of “Heavenly Hana.” (Maui College)
Near here was ʻOheʻo; here was a succession of several waterfalls tumbling from one pool into another and so on up the gulch. (One interpretation of the name Oheo is “moving origin” – suggesting all pools as one (Yardley.))
In order to entertain guests and promote tourism in East Maui, employees at Fagan’s Inn crafted a legend that these pools had been reserved exclusively for Hawaiian Royalty and, therefore, were considered a sacred site. (Cusick)
Billed as Hawaiʻi’s “Seven Sacred Pools” to attract tourists, ʻOheʻo Gulch actually has a series of 24 bowls that carry water down the slopes of 10,023-foot Mount Haleakalā to the sea. (NY Times)
Then in the 1960s, Kīpahulu residents Charles Lindbergh and Sam Pryor, and philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, concerned that public use of this area may be lost, worked to protect it. Through their efforts, Kīpahulu Valley and ʻOheʻo Gulch became the Kīpahulu District of Haleakala National Park on January 10, 1969. (NPS)
This part of the Park is located about 15-minutes past Hāna town, near mile marker 42 on the Hāna Highway (Road to Hana) after it turns into Highway 31. Attractions include the ʻOheʻo Pools, a car-accessible campground and several maintained trails, such as the four-mile Pipiwai Loop Trail to Waimoku waterfall.
The image shows some of the ʻOheʻo pools. In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.