Kaniakapūpū (translated roughly as “sound (or song) of the land shells”) sits on land managed by the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, as the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve and a Restricted Watershed.
Located in the Luakaha area of Nu‘uanu Valley, O‘ahu, Kaniakapūpū is the ruins of the royal summer palace of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) and Queen Kalama. Before that, it was the site of a heiau used for healing (heiau hoʻōla) since ancient times.
The structure at Kaniakapūpū (modeled on an Irish stone cottage) was completed in 1845 and is reportedly built on top or in the vicinity of an ancient heiau. It was a simple cottage, a square with four straight walls.
During the Battle of Nu‘uanu in 1795, the forces of King Kamehameha I engaged the warriors of Kalanikupule at Luakaha, some say this was a turning point of that great struggle.
In 1847, as part of an event observing an anniversary of Restoration Day or Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea (celebrating sovereignty being returned to the Kingdom of Hawaii by the British,) Kaniakapūpū was the site of celebration hosted by the King and with guests in attendance in excess of 10,000 people (reportedly, the largest lūʻau ever recorded.)
It is rumored that Kamehameha III may have drafted the Great Mahele here, the land reforms implemented in 1848 that abolished the ahupua‘a system and allowed for private land ownership.
Today, stone ahu or mounds sit just across Lulumahu Stream, marking what many believe to be grave markers of fallen warriors.
The gravesites, the location of the original heiau known as Kaniakapūpū and the placement of the King’s summer palace all attest to the significance of this very special place.
Kaniakapūpū has been placed on both the National and State of Hawaii’s Register of Historic Places.
On November 13, 2002, the burial mounds were brought to the attention of the Oʻahu Island Burial Council. After full discussion, several motions were adopted which would assist in the preservation of Kaniakapūpū and the burial mounds.
When I was at DLNR, we presented and the Land Board unanimously approved (December 8, 2006) the establishment of a Kokua Partnership Agreement with Aha Hui Mālama O Kaniakapūpū.
Aha Hui Mālama O Kaniakapūpū is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiian cultural traditions through the conservation of native ecosystems.
Through this partnership, Aha Hui Mālama O Kaniakapūpū would take responsibility for the maintenance and ongoing stewardship of Kaniakapūpū, its immediate surrounding area and the burial mounds located across of Lulumahu Stream.
Aha Hui Mālama O Kaniakapūpū was charged with creating controlled access which would be obtained by permit consistent with the Restricted Watershed rules and would be supervised by a member of the Hui who could also act in a curator capacity.
A plaque placed at the site reads,”Kaniakapūpū – Summer Palace of King Kamehameha III and his Queen Kalama Completed in 1845, it was the scene of entertainment of foreign celebrities the feasting of chiefs and commoners.”
“The greatest of these occasions was a luau attended by an estimated ten thousand people celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847.”