The old custom of placing laʻi (ti) or ʻohiʻa ʻai (mountain apple) leaves under a stone at stream crossings on the way was a requirement to make one safe from falling stones, handed down over generations; a custom of this place, though not necessarily a custom of other places. (Thrum, 1907)
Kaluanui is one of 23-ahupua‘a (traditional land division) that make up the district of Koʻolauloa on the island of O‘ahu It extends from the sea to the summit (approximate 2,700-foot elevation) and contains approximately 1,650 acres of land.
“The district of Koʻolauloa is of considerable extent along the sea coast, but the arable land is generally embraced in a narrow strip between the mountains and the sea, varying in width from one half to two or three miles.”
“Several of the vallies are very fertile, and many tracts of considerable extent are watered by springs which burst out from the banks at a sufficient elevation to be conducted over large fields, and in a sufficient quantity to fill many fish ponds and taro patches.” (Hall, 1839; Maly)
“The valley, which is about two miles deep, terminates abruptly at the foot of a precipitous chain of the mountains which runs the whole length of this side of Oahu, except a narrow gorge, which affords a channel for a fine brook that descends with considerable regularity to a level with the sea.”
“(E)ntering this narrow pass, which is not more than fifty or sixty feet wide, the traveler winds his way along, crossing and recrossing the stream upon the stones to obtain the smoothest path, till he seems to be, and in fact is, entering into the very mountain.”
“The walls on each side are of solid rock, from two hundred to three hundred, and in some places four hundred feet high, directly over his hear, leaving but a narrow strip of sky visible. After following up the stream for the distance, perhaps, of one fourth of a mile, the attention is directed by the guide to a curiosity called by the natives a waa (canoe.)” (Hall, 1839; Maly)
Kaluanui is perhaps best known for this deep valley and steep cliffs which form the waterfall of Kaliuwaʻa. Kaliuwaʻa falls drop some 1,500 feet from the pali of Koʻolauloa, and its course resembles the inner hull of a canoe—thus the name “Kaliu-wa‘a,” (“The-canoe-hold or inner hull.”)
“(H)ere is the noted valley of the celebrated Kamapuaʻa’s exploits, and residents … seldom fail to remind visitors of the fact and point with pride to Kaliuwaʻa gorge, where the demi-god escaped from his pursuers.” (Thrum, 1911)
“For this a guide will have to be obtained. Almost any of the natives around will be willing to undertake the task. The valley is really a cleft in the mountains, with almost precipitous sides. The vegetation is very dense, showing varieties of almost every tree and plant found on Oʻahu.” (Whitney, 1890; Maly)
Semicircular cuts in the cliff, extending from the base to the top, look like the half of a well. In no other part of the islands is a similar formation found. (Whitney, 1890; Maly)
Kamapuaʻa was accused of eating ʻOlopana’s chickens. ʻOlopana, chief of O`ahu, decided that he must apprehend the hog-thief, so he called to all of Oʻahu to wage war against Kamapuaʻa.
Kamapuaʻa heard of ʻOlopana’s plans and took his people to Kaliuwaʻa, where they climbed up his body to the safety of the cliff top. In doing so, Kamapuaʻa’s back gouged out indentations on the cliff-side that can still be seen today.
Once his people were safe, Kamapuaʻa dammed the water of Kaliuwaʻa. ʻOlopana and his men arrived, and a battle ensued. Kamapuaʻa was nearly killed, but he released the dammed water, killing ʻOlopana and all but one of his men; Makaliʻi knew that Kamapuaʻa could not be killed and escaped to Kaua`i. (McElroy)
Because of this association to Kamapuaʻa, the valley is considered sacred. Forms of the modern name first appear in historical documents in the 1890s, where the valley is called Sacred Ravine.
Over the next ten years, this name evolved into Sacred Valley, and it wasn’t until the 1950s that the name Sacred Falls appeared in the literature. (McElroy)
By the 1950s, visitor publications were also introducing readers to, and informing them how to get to Kaliuwaʻa. One such, in 1958 noted:
“Sacred Falls may be visited by taking a road through the cane-field marked by the Hawaiian Warrior of the Visitors Bureau. The falls are located in a spectacular gorge at the head of Kaliuwaʻa valley. The lower falls drop over an 87-foot cliff at the head of the gorge which is only 50 feet wide. Above the falls, the palis of the Koʻolau range tower 2,500 feet.” (Thrum; Maly)
In the early 1970s, Kaluanui was held by private interests. As a result of community input, the State of Hawaiʻi acquired about 1,375-acres of Kaluanui land (1976.) The land was then set aside to the DLNR and made into a State Park (May 28, 1977.)
Then, on Mother’s Day (May 9, 1999,) tragedy struck.
Portions of the sheer rock face fell. The landslide material dropped a total of about 480-feet: the first 330-feet it cascaded down a precipitously steep waterfall chute, and the last 150-feet it was airborne and fell straight down to the impact zone. (USGS)
Eight people were killed and 50-others were injured. Following that, the Sacred Falls State Park at Kaluanui was permanently closed.
(Entry into a closed park is a petty misdemeanor offense and subject to criminal penalties of not less than $100 for a first offense; $200 for a second offense; and $500 for a third or subsequent offense; in addition to administrative penalties of $2,500 for a first offense; $5,000 for a second offense, and $10,000 for a third violation.)
Here’s a video on consequences associated with illegally entering the valley: