The Hawaiian Islands were formed as the Pacific Plate moved westward over a geologic hot spot. Oʻahu is dominated by two large shield volcanoes, Waiʻanae and Koʻolau. Koʻolau 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 Koʻolau volcano was sheared off and material was swept more than 140-miles north of O‘ahu and Molokai onto the ocean floor (named the Nuʻuanu Avalanche) – one of the largest landslides on Earth. Ko‘olau’s eroded remnants make up the Koʻolau Mountain Range.
Mountains are one of ‘āina’s most enduring bodies, not as easily leveled as hills or forests; Kōnāhuanui (among others on the Koʻolau capture rain clouds coming in on the trade winds, and silvery shimmering steams of water tumbling down their pali have come to symbolize the sky father Wākea bringing new life to the earth mother Papa. (Kawaharada)
Ku luna ‘o Kōnāhuanui i ka luku wale e, “Mountainous Kōnāhuanui reveals the onslaught” is the tallest on Koʻolau; Kōnāhuanui is actually two peaks (3,150 feet and 3,105 feet.) It forms the northwest corner of the Mānoa Ahupua‘a boundary.
Kōnāhuanui plays a part in the ‘Punahou’ story told by Emma M. Nakuina, a tradition of the creation of Punahou Spring by a moʻo god named Kakea.
The main characters in ‘Punahou’ are twin rain spirits: a boy named Kauawa‘ahila (a rain of Nuʻuanu and Mānoa) and his sister Kauaki‘owao (a rain and fog carried on a cool mountain breeze.)
The twins were abused and neglected by an evil stepmother named Hawea while their father Kaha‘akea was away on Hawai‘i Island. The siblings fled from their home near Mount Kaʻala, the highest peak on O’ahu (4,020 ft) to Kōnāhuanui above Manoa.
The affinity of the twins for mountain peaks suggests their rain cloud forms and also their moʻo ancestry; their flight from Kaʻala to Kōnāhuanui depicts the movement of rain clouds associated with cold fronts which sweep over the islands from west to east during the rainy season of Ho‘oilo (October to April).
Pursued by their mean-spirited stepmother, the twins fled from Kōnāhuanui to the head of Mānoa Valley. Like a cold north wind behind a passing front, Hawea followed her stepchildren to the head of the valley, so the twins went down the valley to Kukao‘o Hill; then to the rocky hill behind Punahou School.
The movement of the twins down the valley represents the path of the rains called Kauawa‘ahila and Kauaki‘owao sweeping from the wet uplands toward the dry plains. Each stop is drier than the last, with less food.
At Kukao‘o hill, the twins planted and ate sweet potatoes, a dry-land crop, not as prized as the wetland taro of the upper valley. At the rocky hill near the mouth of the valley, they lived on leaves, flowers, and fruits and on ‘grasshoppers and sometimes wild fowl.’ The rocky hill marks a rain boundary: it may be pouring rain in the upper valley, while it is sunny and dry below the hill. (Kawaharada)
Translated “his large seeds (testicles,)” the name Kōnāhuanui is said to come from a story summarized by T Kelsey: “when a man, probably a giant, chased a woman who escaped into a cave, he tore off his testes and threw them at her”. (Kawaharada)
Kōnāhuanui is the highest peak in the Koʻolau Mountains and is the northwest corner of the Mānoa Ahupua‘a boundary. It was the home of the gods Kāne and Kanaloa.
It was where their parents came on their way to and from the east from above and from the right (mai kahiki a mai ka hiwamai), meaning it was the starting and resting point of the gods since the formation of the islands. (Cultural Surveys)
It is home to a moʻo goddess, a large mythic lizard that lives in freshwater pools and streams. Rain clouds gather around its peak, and its Kona side, often ribboned with waterfalls, is the wettest area of Honolulu: here is the source of the waters of Manoa and Nuʻuanu valleys.
On the Ko‘olaupoko side, below Konahuanui, is a stream called Kahuaiki (the small seed,) one of three streams said to be wives of the god Kāne (the other two are Hi‘ilaniwai and Māmalahoa).
The three join together as one, Kamo‘oali‘i (the royal mo‘o), which brings life-giving water to the fields and plains of Kāne’ohe before entering the bay near Waikalua fishpond. Huanui, big seed, and huaiki, small seed, both speak to the fertility of the land.
To the northwest of Konahuanui is Lanihuli (swirling heavens,) a name suggesting rain clouds moving in the wind around the peak; northwest of Lanihuli is Kahuauli, the dark seed. Uli may refer to the dark rain clouds, their shadows on the land below, and the dark green vegetation along the summit and below it. (Kawaharada)
“There is only one famous hiding cave, ana huna on Oʻahu. It is Pohukaina… This is a burial cave for chiefs, and much wealth was hidden away there with the chiefs of old … Within this cave are pools of water, streams, creeks, and decorations by the hand of man (hana kinohinohiʻia), and in some places there is level land.” (Kamakau)
Pohukaina involves an underground burial cave system that connects with various places around O‘ahu and is most notable as the royal burial cave at Kualoa. The opening in the Honolulu area is in the vicinity of the Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) residence (the grounds of ʻIolani Palace,) where also many of the notable chiefs resided. (Kamakau; Kumu Pono)
The opening on the windward side on Kalaeoka‘o‘io faces toward Ka‘a‘awa is believed to be in the pali of Kanehoalani, between Kualoa and Ka‘a‘awa, and the second opening is at the spring Ka‘ahu‘ula-punawai.
On the Kona side of the island the cave had three other openings, one at Hailikulamanu – near the lower side of the cave of Koleana in Moanalua—another in Kalihi, and another in Pu‘iwa. There was an opening at Waipahu, in Ewa, and another at Kahuku in Ko‘olauloa.
The mountain peak of Kōnāhuanui was the highest point of the ridgepole of this burial cave “house,” which sloped down toward Kahuku. Many stories tell of people going into it with kukui-nut torches in Kona and coming out at Kahuku. (Kamakau; Kumu Pono)