The place name “Kailua” means “two seas,” according to Pukui et al, which may refer to the presence of two currents, although some have suggested that use of this Oʻahu place name refers to the two inland ponds, Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu.
The earliest settlement of the Kailua area may date back to between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago; by the 15th and 16th centuries, the makai portion of Kailua had become a favorite settlement locale of chiefs.
Traditional history describes Kailua as the residence of many prominent O‘ahu ruling chiefs. There is ‘Olopana, “who with his brother Kahiki‘ula came to O‘ahu from Kahiki … He is said to have established several heiau in Kāne‘ohe and Kailua”.
One of the earliest great chiefs to reside in Kailua was the 16th-century ruler Kakuhihewa, who built himself a great house at ‘Ālele in Kailua.
At approximately the same time, another prominent chief, Kuali‘i, born at Kalapawai, Kailua and raised in Kualoa and Kailua, had his navel-cutting ceremony at the heiau of Alāla (present-day Lanikai Point); and, after heroically succeeding in many battles, became the high chief of O‘ahu.
In early historic times, the conquering chief Kahekili, followed by Kamehameha I, resided in Kailua for a time.
There are legendary accounts of the prominent Mount Olomana, which is named after a great mythological giant and/or chief.
Tradition also says Kawainui was inhabited by a mo‘o called Hauwahine, whose name literally means “female ruler.” Her residency at Kawainui follows Haumea’s, the earth-mother goddess whose name literally means “red ruler.”
She ensured that all the people of the ahupua‘a shared in the pond’s wealth but punished those who were greedy.
Oral history notes that the stones overlooking Kawainui on Pu‘u o ‘Ehu are sacred to Hauwahine and her companion.
This interpretation is connected to the ancient Hawaiian notion that the channel/canal beneath Pu‘u o ‘Ehu connects Kawainui and Ka‘elepulu.
Kawainui Marsh was considered male, and Ka‘elepulu Pond, female. They mated at Kawailoa, according to Hawaiian tradition.
Mele and oli about Kailua frequently mention the two fishponds, which were famous for their ‘ama‘ama (mullet) and awa (milkfish). They also praise the taro gardens of the area. A few of these chants and legends are those of Hi‘iaka, Kahinihini‘ula, the Mākālei Tree and Ka‘ulu.
The famous mythological tree, Mākālei, had the power of attracting fish. Moʻo purportedly lived in her grove of awa by the Mākālei tree near where the waters drain from Kawainui Marsh to Hāmākua.
Hauwahine’s companion moʻo, named Kilioe, lived at the opposite end of Hāmākua near where Kawainui Stream enters Ka’elepulu Stream.
Nā Pōhaku o Hauwahine is the given name of a 12-acre piece of state property under the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of State Parks and part of the Kawainui State Park Reserve.
The parcel is located along Kapa‘a Quarry Road in Kailua (O‘ahu) overlooking Kawainui Marsh.
‘Ahahui Malama i ka Lokahi is the curator for this sacred site.
Over the years, the group has been planting the 12-acres with native plants to recreate a dryland forest ecosystem. Brush removal and trail construction has revealed ancient Hawaiian terraces that align the massive rock outcrops.
They are also working in the marsh, to restore a wetland bird habitat. Check out their website for service project information, as well as educational programs: www.ahahui.net
Image shows Doc Burrows at Nā Pōhaku o Hauwahine, overlooking Kawainui Marsh. (Much of the information here is from reporting by Cultural Surveys Hawaiʻi.)