Ko‘olau volcano started as a seamount above the Hawaiian hotspot around 4-million years ago. It broke sea level some time prior to 2.9-million years ago.
About 2-million years ago, much of the northeast flank of Ko‘olau volcano was sheared off and material was swept more than 140-miles north of O‘ahu and Molokai onto the ocean floor (named the Nu‘uanu Avalanche) – one of the largest landslides on Earth.
About 6,000 years ago and before the arrival of the Hawaiians, Kawainui (“the large [flow of] fresh water”) and Ka‘elepulu (“the moist blackness”) were bays connected to the ocean and extended a mile inland of the present coastline. (This saltwater environment is indicated by inland deposits of sand and coral.)
A sand bar began forming across Kawainui Bay around 2,500 years ago creating Kawainui Lagoon filled with coral, fish and shellfish. The Hawaiians probably first settled along the fringes of this lagoon. Gradually, erosion of the hillsides surrounding Kawainui began to fill in the lagoon with sediments.
About 500 years ago, early Hawaiians maintained a freshwater fishpond in Kawainui; the fishpond was surrounded on all sides by a system of ʻauwai (canals) bringing water from Maunawili Stream (winding/twisted mountain) and springs to walled taro lo‘i (irrigated fields.)
Pahukini (many drums) is a heiau located on the slopes of Kapa‘a and at one time overlooked the site of an ancient adze quarry. Below the heiau stretches the expanse of the Kawainui wetlands.
Said to have been built by 14th century Tahitian Chief Olopana, it has also been listed as being named Moʻokini (many lineages) and also Makini (contraction of make kini (many deaths.))
These last two names suggest this heiau was designated as po’okanaka (human head or skull) and functioned as a a luakini where rulling chiefs proayed and human sacrifices were offered.
The stacked rocks measure approximately 120 x 180 feet with an adjoining 32 x 38 foot structure on the north wall. Several interior terraces are found where the grass houses, oracle tower and perhaps wooden carvings stood.
Pahukini heiau commands a sweeping view of low hills, the spreading expanse of the abandoned Kawainui fish pond once used by the ancient Hawaiians, and the present city of Kailua where a major Hawaiian settlement was on the shores of Kailua Bay.
In several respects, the heiau resembles Pu‘u O Mahuka heiau which is above Waimea Bay. Both heiau are rectangular, located on natural promontories affording excellent view of the Pacific, and both show evidence of disturbance for native agriculture within the confines of the heiau themselves. (NPS)
In 1750, Kailua (two seas (probably two currents)) was the Royal Center of power for the district of Koʻolaupoko and a favored place of the O‘ahu chiefs for its abundance of fish and good canoe landings (and probably enjoyed the surf, as well.)
Farmers grew kalo (taro) in the irrigated lo‘i along the streams from Maunawili and along the edges of the fishponds. Crops of dryland kalo, banana, sweet potato and sugarcane marked the fringes of the marsh. Fishermen harvested fish from the fishponds and the sea.
In 1845 the first road was built over the Nuʻuanu Pali (cool height – cliff) to connect Windward Oʻahu with Honolulu. It was jointly financed by the government and sugar planters who wanted easy access to the fertile lands on the windward side of Oʻahu. Kamehameha III and two of his attendants were the first to cross on horseback.
(In 1898 this road was developed into a highway and was later replaced by the Pali Highway. When the current Pali Highway and its tunnels opened (1959,) the original roadway was closed and is now used by hikers.)
Lili‘uokalani wrote “Aloha ‘Oe” (farewell to thee) after an 1878 visit to an estate in Maunawili. She and her brother King David Kalākaua were regular guests and attended parties or simply came there to rest.
Guests would walk between two parallel rows of royal palms, farewells would be exchanged; then, they would ride away on horseback or in their carriages.
Modern quarrying operations have carved away major portions of the hill upon which Pahukini is located, leaving it in a somewhat precarious condition today, for one edge lies just at the top of a precipitous 100-foot quarried cliff. (NPS)