“At Waikīkī Kai was a place called Ulukou, and Ulukou was much desired by the ali‘i in ancient times. It was desired as a surf spot and is where the fragrant līpoa seaweed was found at Kahaloa.”
“Some large houses were built there for the ali‘i as a place for them to relax and rest from their labors and sore muscles. They appreciated this place because of the cool gentle breezes there.”
“The ali‘i engaged in many leisurely activities in those days at that place and these are some of the things they enjoyed doing: boxing, ‘ulu maika, spear sliding, cock fighting, foot racing in horse racing fashion, dancing to the beat of drums, surfing, and all types of leisurely activities that the ali‘i engaged in in days passed.” (Ke Au Okoa, July 31, 1865; Maunalua)
Ruling Chiefs of Oʻahu resided at Ulukou (‘kou tree grove’) (they also lived at nearby Helumoa – they were on each side of the ʻApuakehau Stream (ʻApuakehau used to flow about where the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach hotel is located, between the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana hotels.))
Māʻilikūkahi was the first great king of O‘ahu and legends tell of his wise, firm, judicious government (he ruled about the time of Columbus.) He was born aliʻi kapu at the birthing stones of Kūkaniloko; Kūkaniloko was one of two places in Hawai‘i specifically designated for the birth of high ranking children (the other site was Holoholokū at Wailua on Kauai.)
Soon after becoming ruling chief, Māʻilikūkahi moved to Ulukou in Waikīkī. He was probably one of the first chiefs to live there. Up until this time Oʻahu chiefs had typically lived at Waialua and ‘Ewa. From that point on, with few exceptions, Waikīkī remained the Royal Center of Oʻahu aliʻi.
Royal Centers were compounds selected by the aliʻi for their residences; aliʻi often moved between several residences throughout the year. The Royal Centers were selected for their abundance of resources and recreation opportunities, with good surfing and canoe-landing sites being favored.
Chiefly residences are known to have changed over time and an ali‘i would expand or modify a residential complex to meet his or her needs and desires.
Prior to the Ala Wai Waikīkī was once a vast marshland whose boundaries encompassed more than 2,000-acres (as compared to its present 500-acres we call Waikīkī, today).
The name Waikīkī, which means “water spurting from many sources,” was well adapted to the character of the swampy land of ancient Waikīkī, where water from the upland valleys would gush forth from underground.
Three main valleys Makiki, Mānoa, and Pālolo are mauka of Waikīkī and through them their respective streams (and springs in Mānoa (Punahou and Kānewai)) watered the marshland below.
As they entered the flat Waikīkī Plain, the names of the streams changed; the Mānoa became the Kālia and the Pālolo became the Pāhoa (they joined near Hamohamo (now an area mauka of the Kapahulu Library.))
While at the upper elevations, the streams have the ahupuaʻa names, at lower elevations, after merging/dividing, they have different names, as they enter the ocean, Pi‘inaio, ‘Āpuakēhau and Kuekaunahi.
As the area was populated, a vast system of irrigated taro fields and fish ponds were constructed. This field system took advantage of streams descending the valleys which also provided ample fresh water for the Hawaiians living in the ahupua‘a.
At the time of Captain Cook’s arrival (1778-1779), the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe were ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu was under the rule of Kahahana; and (4) Kauaʻi and Niʻihau, was ruled by Kamakahelei.
“Kahahana chose as his place of residence the shade of the kou and cocoanut trees of Ulukou, Waikiki, where also gathered together the chiefs of the island to discuss and consider questions of state.” (Thrum)
“At that time, Kahekili was plotting for the downfall of Kahahana and the seizure of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi, and the queen of Kauaʻi was disposed to assist him in these enterprises.” (Kalākaua)
After Kahekili conquered Oʻahu, he later returned to live at Ulukou; shortly after, he fell ill and died at there in the spring of 1794.
Na Pōhaku Ola Kapaemahu A Kapuni – The Healing (Wizard) Stones of Kapaemahu – are evidence of other prior residents of Ulukou. Long ago, Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni and Kinohi came from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi – they resided at Ulukou.
Kapaemahu was the leader of the four and honored for his ability to cast aside carnality, and care for both men and women. Kapuni was said to envelop his patients with his mana. While Kinohi was the clairvoyant diagnostician, Kahaloa (whose name means “long breath”—was said to be able to breathe life into her patients.)
The art of healing they practiced is known in the Islands as laʻau lapa‘au. In this practice, plants and animals from the land and sea, which are known to have healing properties, are combined with great wisdom to treat the ailing.
They gained fame and popularity because they were able to cure the sick by laying their hands upon them. Before they returned to Tahiti, they asked the people to erect four large pōhaku as a permanent reminder of their visit and the cures they had accomplished.
Legend says that these stones were brought into Waikīkī from Waiʻalae Avenue in Kaimuki, nearly two miles away. Waikīkī was a marshland devoid of any large stones. These stones are basaltic, the same type of stone found in Kaimukī.
On the night of Kāne (the night that the moon rises at dawn,) the people began to move the rocks from Kaimukī to Kūhiō Beach. During a month-long ceremony, the healers are said to have transferred their names – Kapaemahu, Kahaloa, Kapuni and Kinohi – and or spiritual power, to the stones.
A place of choice to reside, govern, relax and recreate, for the aliʻi, Ulukou was a nice place to live; today, it is a great place to visit. (The image shows an 1897 map over Google Earth in the area of Ulukou at Waikiki.)