In 1779, Captain Cook explored the North Kohala area and noted: “The country, as far as the eye could reach, seemed fruitful and well inhabited … (3 to 4-miles inland, plantations of taro and potatoes and wauke are) neatly set out in rows.”
“The walls that separate them are made of the loose burnt stone, which are got in clearing the ground; and being entirely concealed by sugar-canes planted close on each side, make the most beautiful fences that can be conceived …” (Cook Journal)
“The district of Kohala is the northernmost land area of the island of Hawaii. ‘Upolu Point, its northwesterly projection, fronts boldly out into Alanuihaha Channel toward the southeastern coast of Maui, and is the nearest point of communication between the two islands.”
“To the south, along Hawai‘i’s western coast, lies Kona; to the east the rough coast of Hāmākua District unprotected from the northerly winds and sea.” (Handy & Pukui)
“Kohala was the chiefdom of Kamehameha the Great, and from this feudal seat he gradually extended his power to embrace the whole of the island, eventually, gaining the suzerainty of all the Hawaiian Islands.”
“’Upolu, which is the old name of the valley in Tahiti now called Papeno‘o; likewise the old name of the island of Taha‘a, northwest of Tahiti, and the present name of the chief island of the Samoan group.” (Handy & Pukui)
Oral traditions trace the origin of Hawaiian luakini temple construction to the high priest Pā‘ao, who arrived in the islands in about the thirteenth century. He introduced several changes to Hawaiian religious practices that affected temple construction, priestly ritual, and worship practices.
“Pā‘ao is said to have made his first landfall in the district of Puna, Hawaii, where he landed and built a Heiau (temple) for his god and called it Waha‘ula.”
“From Puna Pā‘ao coasted along the shores of the Hilo and Hāmākua districts, and landed again in the district of Kohala, on a land called Pu‘uepa, near the north-west point of the island, whose name, ‘Lae Upolu,’ was very probably bestowed upon it by Pā‘ao or his immediate descendants in memory of their native land.” (Fornander)
“In this district of Hawaii Pā‘ao finally and permanently settled. Here are shown the place where he lived, the land that he cultivated, and at Pu‘uepa are still the ruins of the Heiau of Mo‘okini, which he built and where he officiated.”
Mo‘okini temple was last active as a war temple for Kamehameha I in the last two decades of the 18th century. It is said to have housed the Kamehameha family war god, Ku-ka-‘ili-moku, and this feathered god transferred to Pu‘ukohola Heiau, in 1791, when Kamehameha built this new war temple to assure his conquest of all the Hawaiian Islands.
According to Stokes, Mo‘okini Heiau was said to have been built from stones brought from Pololu Valley. It was believed that the stones were passed hand-to-hand by men standing in a line spanning the 15-mile distance from the valley.
“About 2,000 feet west of Mo‘okini Heiau and near the ocean is the birthplace of Kamehameha the Great. At the time of his birth, ca. 1753, the site was occupied by one of the thatched housing complexes of Alapa‘i-nui-a-Kauaua, ruling chief of the Island of Hawai’i.”
“The birth itself took place late at night within d one of the large thatched houses reserved for royal women. The named stone Pohaku-hanau-ali‘i may have been his mother’s couch inside the house.”
“Alapa‘i’s housing complex would have included a number of thatched houses as well as the canoe landing ‘harbor’ along the shore. The complex, with ‘harbor’ was called by the place name of Kapakaj, within the larger Hawaiian land division (an ahupua‘a) called Kokoiki.” (NPS)
By the time of contact, numerous coastal villages and extensive dryland agricultural systems were in place in North Kohala. This farming system lasted for several centuries and provided taro and sweet potato (the food staples of the time) to the growing population.
When that ended in the 1800s, it was followed several decades later with the commercial production of sugarcane that lasted for over 100‐years. Sugar production stopped in Kohala in 1975.
On June 25, 1927, an Executive Order set aside nearly 38-acres of the property for an airplane landing field for the US Air Service to be under the management and control of the War Department. In 1933, the Army named it Suiter Field, in honor of 1st Lieutenant Wilbur C Suiter who was killed in action serving in 135th Aero Squadron.
Suiter Field was first licensed in 1928. It was also alternatively referred to as Upolu Point Military Reservation, Upolu Landing Field, Upolu Airplane Landing Field and Upolu Airport.