Each island was divided into several moku (districts,) of which there are six in the island of Hawaiʻi, and the same number in Oʻahu. There is a district called Kona on the lee side and one called Koʻolau on the windward side of almost every island. (Alexander) The moku of Hawaiʻi Island are: Kona, Kohala, Hāmākua, Hilo, Puna and Kaʻū.
The Polynesians who came to the Hawaiian Islands were quick to consider the sunny, sheltered Kona district of Hawaiʻi, rising gently to fertile, cloud-covered slopes, as an environment suited to their needs.
It was ideal for food crops such as taro, breadfruit, banana, sweet potatoes and sugar cane they brought with them. Its clear, calm waters offered excellent near- and off-shore fishing. This coast became the most densely populated area in the islands and the coveted land of the chiefs.
In the centuries prior to 1778, seven large and densely-populated Royal Centers were located in Kona along the shoreline between Kailua and Hōnaunau. These included Kamakahonu at Kailua Bay, Hōlualoa, Kahaluʻu, Keauhou, Kaʻawaloa, Kealakekua and Hōnaunau.
The compounds were areas selected by the aliʻi for their residences; 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.
Structures associated with the Royal Centers include heiau (religious structures) and sacred areas, house sites for the aliʻi and the entourage of family and kahuna (priests), and activity areas for burial, bathing, games, recreation and crafts and often a puʻuhonua (refuge area.)
The small but deeply indented Hōnaunau Bay, with a sandy cove where canoes could be easily beached, was a favorite residence for the king. (Emory)
The grounds of the Royal Center was centered around the small embayment known as Keoneʻele Cove. Cup holes, which may have held kapu sticks, are noted to the north, east and southern boundaries of this area. It is believed that these kapu sticks demarcated the boundary of the royal area.
In pre-contact times, the royal grounds contained several chiefly residences and ceremonial-related structures. Other highlighted sites used by royalty included the Heleipālala fishponds and Keoneʻele Cove canoe landing.
“When first seen by Europeans, the district was composed of scattered coastal settlements of thatched houses with two nodes large enough to be called villages: Hōnaunau at the north end and Kiʻilae at the south.” (NPS)
“Hōnaunau, we found, was formerly a place of considerable importance, having been the frequent residence of the kings of Hawaii, for several successive generations.” The town contained 147-houses. (Ellis, 1823)
“We arrived in the afternoon at a village by the seaside called Hōnaunau, about two leagues (4-miles) to the southward of Kealakekua Bay. … They took us to a large house which was tabooed for the king, with a number of smaller houses contiguous to it for sleeping in and for his attendants when he comes to the village.”
“We were told that he has a set of houses kept for him in the same way in every village he is likely to stop at round the Island, which; when he once occupies or eats in, cannot afterwards be used by any other.” (Menzies, 1793)
A feature found at Royal Centers were fishponds. Cartographer Henry Kekahuna called the Honaunau ponds Heleipālala. These were a number of fish ponds inland from the shore and containing a mixture of fresh and ocean waters.
They were probably stocked with fish (most likely ʻamaʻama (mullet) and awa (milkfish.)) Given their location within the royal grounds, an area inhabited and used by aliʻi, the Heleipālala ponds were most likely kapu (prohibited) to commoners.
Beyond the boundaries of the royal grounds, around the head of Hōnaunau Bay, lived the chiefly retainers and the commoners. To the south were scattered settlements along the coast and inland under the cliffs of Keanaeʻe. (NPS)
At Hōnaunau was the puʻuhonua, The Place of Refuge, termed the ‘City of Refuge’ by Rev. William Ellis in 1823, with its adjoining chiefly residences and associated with the Royal Center.
Hōnaunau was not the only puʻuhonua in the Islands. Ethno-historical literature, and available physical, cultural, and locational data, note at least 57-sites across the Islands. Puʻuhonua tended to occur in areas of high population and/or in areas frequented by chiefs. (Schoenfelder)
Hale O Keawe, at the northern end of the eastern wing of the Great Wall at Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau, was named after and either built by or for Keawe around 1700. In ancient times the Heiau served as a royal mausoleum, housing the remains of deified high chiefs.
Historical information indicates that in the area immediately east of the Hale o Keawe was once the location for a ti leaf thatched structure called the “Hale O Lono.” In 1919, archaeologist JFG Stokes was told by elderly Hawaiians that this area was a temple used for the four periods of prayer held monthly for eight months of the year.
The area bordering the east side Keoneʻele Cove was traditionally known as Kauwalomālie. Kauwalomālie is said to have contained a large platform, fronted by an 8-foot high retaining wall. The platform was reportedly the location for a chiefly residence and/or ceremonial area. (NPS)
At about the time of ʻUmi (about the same time Christopher Columbus was crossing the Atlantic,) a significant new form of agriculture was developed in Kona; he is credited with starting this in Kona. Today, archaeologists call the unique method of farming in this area the “Kona Field System.”
This intensive agricultural activity changed farming and agricultural production on the western side of Hawai’i Island; the Kona field system was quite large, extending from Kailua to south of Hōnaunau.
In lower elevations all the way to the shore, informal clearings, mounds and terraces were used to plant sweet potatoes; and on the forest fringe above the walled fields there were clearings, mounds and terraces. Sweet potatoes grew among the breadfruit.
In 1871, a coastal trail that originally extended from Nāpōʻopoʻo south to Hoʻokena was repaired, and renamed the 1871 Trail. It is a section of the historic coastal Alaloa (regional trail) and was a primary route of travel between communities, royal centers, religious sites and resources. (Improved, it was a ‘two-horse trail’ because it was widened to accommodate two horses.)
The Alahaka Ramp, located near the southern end of the Keanaeʻe Cliffs, is a massive stone ramp that connects the historic 1871 Trail to Kiʻilae Village. Prior to the construction of the ramp (probably in the mid-1800s,) folks used a ladder or rope to get up the slope.
(In 1918 the trail section north of Hōnaunau was improved for wheeled traffic; however, the section south to Hoʻokena was never modified for motorized vehicles.)
In 1891, the lands at Hōnaunau were deeded to the Bishop Estate Trustees and from 1921-1961 the County of Hawaiʻi leased the Bishop Estate-owned lands for a County Park. It is during this time, they constructed a series of seawalls that fronted the eastern and western sides of Keoneʻele Cove. (NPS)
The image shows Keoneʻele Cove and the area known as Kauwalomālie (NPS, 1912.) I have added other images to a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.