Throughout the years of AD 1400s – 1700s, and through much of the 1800s, the canoe was a principal means of travel in ancient Hawaiʻi. Canoes were used for interisland and inter-village coastal travel.
Most permanent villages initially were near the ocean and at sheltered beaches, which provided access to good fishing grounds, as well as facilitating convenient canoe travel.
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.
The canoes “have the bottom for the most part formed of a single piece or log of wood, hollowed out to the thickness of an inch, or an inch and a half, and brought to a point at each end.”
“The sides consist of three boards, each about an inch thick, and neatly fitted and lashed to the bottom part. The extremities, both at head and stern, are a little raised, and both are made sharp, somewhat like a wedge, but they flatten more abruptly, so that the two side-boards join each other side by side for more than a foot.”
“They are rowed by paddles, such as we had generally met with; and some of them have a light triangular sail, like those of the Friendly Islands, extended to a mast and boom. The ropes used for their boats, and the smaller cords for their fishing-tackle, are strong and well made.” (Captain Cook’s Journal)
Although the canoe was a principal means of travel in ancient Hawai`i, extensive cross-country trail networks enabled gathering of food and water and harvesting of materials for shelter, clothing, medicine, religious observances and other necessities for survival.
Ancient trails, those developed before western contact (1778,) facilitated trading between upland and coastal villages and communications between ahupua‘a and extended families.
These trails were usually narrow, following the topography of the land. Sometimes, over ‘a‘ā lava, they were paved with water-worn stones.
June 21, 1803 marked an important day in the history of Hawaiʻi land transportation and other uses when the Lelia Byrd, an American ship under Captain William Shaler (with commercial officer Richard Cleveland,) arrived at Kealakekua Bay with two mares and a stallion on board.
Eventually, wider, straighter trails were constructed to accommodate horse drawn carts. Unlike the earlier trails, these later trails could not conform to the natural, sometimes steep, terrain.
By the early 1850s, specific criteria were developed for realigning trails and roadways, including the straightening of alignments and development of causeways and bridges. On August 30, 1850, the Privy Council first named Hawaiʻi’s streets; there were 35-streets that received official names that day (29 were in Downtown Honolulu, the others nearby).
To get around people walked, or rode horses or used personal carts/buggies. It wasn’t until 1868, that horse-drawn carts became the first public transit service in the Hawaiian Islands, operated by the Pioneer Omnibus Line.
Nuʻuanu Valley was the first of the valleys to undergo residential development because it was convenient to the town (when most people walked from town up into the valley).
In 1888, the animal-powered tramcar service of Hawaiian Tramways ran track from downtown to Waikīkī. In 1900, the Tramway was taken over by the Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co (HRT).
That year, an electric trolley (tram line) was put into operation in Honolulu, and then in 1902, a tram line was built to connect Waikīkī and downtown Honolulu. The electric trolley replaced the horse/mule-driven tram cars.
“In those days – there were only four automobiles on Oahu in 1901 – you lived downtown because you worked downtown, you couldn’t live in Kaimuki or in Manoa.” (star-bulletin) The tram helped change that.
“The company’s service extends to Waikiki beach, the famous and popular resort of the Hawaiian and tourist, and where the aquarium, the property of the company, is one of the great objects of attraction. Kapiʻolani Park, the Bishop Museum, the Kahauki Military Post, the Royal Mausoleum, Oʻahu College and the Mānoa and Nuʻuanu valleys are reached by the lines of this company.” (Overland Monthly, 1909)
The streetcars were replaced completely by buses (first gasoline and later diesel buses). Bus service was inaugurated by HRT in 1915, initially using locally built bodies and later buses from the Mainland (acquired in 1928).
Trolley buses operated on a number of HRT routes from January 1938 to the spring of 1958. Electric street cars, first used by HRT on August 31, 1901, were withdrawn early in the morning of July 1, 1941. (Schmitt)
In 1888, the legislature gave Dillingham an exclusive franchise “for construction and operation on the Island of O‘ahu a steam railroad … for the carriage of passengers and freight.”
Ultimately OR&L sublet land, partnered on several sugar operations and/or hauled cane from Ewa Plantation Company, Honolulu Sugar Company in ‘Aiea, O‘ahu Sugar in Waipahu, Waianae Sugar Company, Waialua Agriculture Company and Kahuku Plantation Company, as well as pineapples for Dole.
Likewise, OR&L hauled various stages in the pineapple harvesting/production, including the canning components, fresh pineapple to the cannery, ending up hauling the cased products to the docks.
By 1895 the rail line reached Waianae. It then rounded Kaʻena Point to Mokuleʻia, eventually extending to Kahuku. Another line was constructed through central O‘ahu to Wahiawa.
Passenger travel was an add-on opportunity that not only included train rides, they also operated a bus system. However, the hauling for the agricultural ventures was the most lucrative.
They even included a “Kodak Camera Train” (associated with the Hula Show) for Sunday trips to Haleiwa for picture-taking. During the war years, they served the military.
Repeatedly evidenced in the early years of rail across the continent, railroads looked to expand their passenger business by operating hotels and attractions at the ends of the lines.
Once a railroad was being built to a new location, the land speculators would prepare for cashing in on their investment. A hotel would typically be in place by the time the railroad service began.
Just like the rail programs on the continent, the railroad owned and operated the Haleiwa Hotel and offered city folks a North Shore destination with beaches, boating, golf, tennis and hunting.
On August 5, 1899, as part of the O‘ahu Railway & Land Company (OR&L) rail system, the Hale‘iwa Hotel (“house of the ‘iwa”, or frigate bird) was completed.
The weekend getaway from Honolulu to the Hale‘iwa Hotel became hugely popular with the city affluent who enjoyed a retreat in “the country.”
The Waikīkī Aquarium opened on March 19, 1904; it is the third oldest aquarium in the United States. Its adjacent neighbor on Waikīkī Beach is the Natatorium War Memorial.
It was also a practical objective of using the Aquarium as a means of enticing passengers to ride to the end of the new trolley line in Kapiʻolani Park, where the Aquarium was located. (The trolley terminus was across Kalākaua Avenue from the Aquarium, near the current tennis courts.)
Honolulu resident HP Baldwin is credited with having the first automobile back in October 1899 (it was steam-powered). The first gasoline-powered automobile arrived in the Islands in 1900.
Fast-forward a half-century of road building, growth in the number of automobiles and the associated traffic.
Interstate H-1 was first authorized in as a result of the Statehood Act of 1960. Work was completed on the first segment of the new H-1 Interstate, spanning 1-mile – from Koko Head Avenue to 1st Avenue, on June 21, 1965.
A temporary westbound exit to Harding and a temporary eastbound entrance from Kapahulu Avenue allowed motorists to access the new freeway until the Kapiʻolani Interchange was completed in October 1967.