In Hawaiian tradition, there was a man named Puakō, “a very handsome man whose form was perfect.” At the place where he lived, he would carry “sea water and filling pools for salt making.’ (Fornander) Some suggest the name Puakō is associated with salt-making.
Others suggest Puakō (sugarcane blossom) is associated with sugar, “Mr. WL Vreedenburg (sic) one Sunday came to Hawi in a state of considerable excitement, with four or five sticks of fine looking cane strapped to his saddle …”
“… which, as he put it, he discovered at Puakō the day before while on a shooting trip. This cane was grown without irrigation, and he enthusiastically announced, there were large areas of as good land as that on which these particular sticks were grown…” (Hind; Maly)
“Puakō is a village on the shore, very like Kawaihae, but larger. It has a small harbor in which native vessels anchor. Coconut groves give it a verdant aspect. No food grows in the place. The people make salt and catch fish. These they exchange for vegetables grown elsewhere.” (Lorenzo Lyons, 1835; Maly)
“Not infrequently at Kawaihae and Puakō there is no food to be had. The people live without food for days, except a little fish which prevents starvation. Nor is this to be had everyday, the ocean being so rough they cannot fish, or a government working day interferes, when the sailing of a canoe is tabu – unless the owner chooses to pay a fine.”
“The water too at these places is such that I cannot drink it. I would as soon drink a dose of Epsom salts… On the way to Puakō, all is barren and still more desolate. After an hour’s walk from my house, not a human dwelling is to be seen till you reach the shore, which requires a walk of about five hours.” (Lorenzo Lyons, 1839-1846; Maly)
In 1880, Bower noted, “At Puakō there is some grief for the eye, in the shape of a grove of cocoa-palms, which are growing quite close to the water’s edge. These had been planted right amongst the lava, and where they got their sustenance from I could not imagine. They are not of any great height, running from twenty to sixty feet.”
“There are about a dozen native huts in the place. These buildings are from twenty to forty feet long and about fifteen feet high to the ridge of the roof. They only contain a single room each, and are covered with several layers of matting.” (Bower; Maly)
“At Puakō and South Kohala is the most unique affair on the Island. There, a little pocket of alluvial soil covering an area of 300 acres, lying between lava flows and fronting the ocean, has been secured from the great landed proprietor, Sam Parker, and converted into the Puakō plantation.”
“Wells have been bored and an abundant supply of good water secured for irrigation. The cane is of the Lahaina variety and grows as rank as the bamboo kind.”
“A mill with a capacity of 2000 tons is to be erected soon. A good road to Kawaihae, a distance of four miles, is greatly needed. The enterprise is under the management of Mr (Wilmont) Vredenberg.” (Honolulu Republican, July 29, 1900)
“Puakō Plantation, which was started near Kawaihae about fourteen months ago, is making a good showing under the management of Mr Vredenberg.”
“Samples of cane brought from there this week show excellent growth, the sticks running eighteen feet long and having six to eight Inch joints. The samples are of cane planted a year ago. The two pumps are doing excellent work and the quality of the water is fairly good.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, August 5, 1901)
A wharf was constructed, just south of the present day boat launch, to facilitate the shipment of materials for mill construction. In his journal, John Hind wrote, “a fine up to date little mill with all the appurtenances which go with a modern plantation was installed (ca. 1905,) on an ideal site, a hundred or so yards from the landing”. (Hind; Rechtman)
This area contained crushing machinery, mixers, vats, and all the other mechanical necessities for the mill, along with dormitories and a camp for over three hundred workers, a company store, two schoolhouses, an office building, various storehouse and warehouse facilities, and a shed for honey processing machinery.
A rail line connected the mill operations with field operations. Other improvements to the plantation included the construction of an approximately eight-mile long section of flume that carried water from Waimea Stream to the plantation.
“We found a good rain was of very great benefit, and finally as a forlorn hope, after keeping tab, on the Waimea stream for over eighteen months, put in an eight mile flume, but strange as it may seem, the water failed just before the flume was finished.”
“Mr. Carter the Manager of the Parker Ranch (1903) attributed the failure to the unprecedented dry weather in the mountains, but as the stream, never after that, continued to flow with any degree of regularity, it would appear the shrinkage of forest area in the mountains was having its effect.”
(This 1903 “severe reduction in rainfall” also brought about discussions which led to the development of the Kohala Ditch. In 1904, John Hind “launched his ditch campaign”.)
(The Honokāne section of Kohala Ditch was opened on June 11, 1906; waters of Honokāne began flowing to the Kohala, Niuliʻi, Hālawa, Hawi and Union mills; the Awini section was finished in 1907. The ditch carried the water for 23-miles northwest toward Hawi (mostly as tunnel.))
“Puakō, as a sugar proposition, I was satisfied, was hopeless, so finally was closed down, and parts gradually sold off at what they would bring (closed by ca. 1914.)” (Hind; Maly)
Hind continued to foster other economic development in Puakō even after the failure of the sugar plantation, “extending his ranching interests (a kiawe feed lot and cattle shipping operation), honey making, and making charcoal on his lease lands”. (Rechtman)
By 1930, additional grants were being awarded the few native families living on the beach, and by 1950, the beach lands had been subdivided into more than 165 Beach House Lots which at the time were generally “vacation” houses. (Maly) (Lots of information here is from Maly and Rechtman.)