During ancient times, various land divisions were used to divide and identify areas of control. Islands were divided into moku (districts;) moku were divided into ahupuaʻa. The Island of Oʻahu had six moku: Kona, Koʻolaupoko, Koʻolauloa, Waiʻanae, ʻEwa and Waialua.
The moku of Waialua is a large area of approximately 78-square miles and includes fourteen ahupuaʻa and stretches from Kaʻena Point to Kāpaeloa (just before Waimea.) With its extensive cultivated fields of kalo (taro,) it was considered the ‘poi bowl’ of the island. (Alameida)
Hiʻiaka, the sister of the goddess Pele, during her journey through the Koʻolau, coming from Kahuku, climbs a rocky bluff, listens to pounding surf and admires the beauty of Waialua … and chants (KSBE, Cultural Surveys:)
ʻO Waialua, kai leo nui:
Ua lono ka uka o Līhuʻe;
Ke wā la Wahiawā, e,
Kuli wale, kuli wale i ka leo;
He leo no ke kai, e.
O Waialua, laʻi eha, e!
Eha ka malino lalo o Wai-alua.
Waialua, place where the sea is loud
Heard in the uplands of Lihue,
The voice that reaches to Wahiawa
A voice that is deafening to the ears,
The voice of the ocean.
Waialua, filled with tranquility
That pass serenely over Waialua below.
The meaning of Waialua has several derivations; in one version Waialua is named after the aliʻi Waia. He was the son of Hāloa and Hinamauouluʻai and grandson of Wākea. Waia was not a very good chief and they were ashamed of his government (the word ‘lua’ means two.) Thus Waialua meant doubly disgrace as the name Waia has come to mean “disgraceful behavior.”
Other sources refer to ‘lua’ as referring to two rivers that flow into Kaiaka Bay (Anahulu and Helemano-Poamoho-Kaukonahua.) Gilbert Mathison a visitor in 1822 wrote in his journal that Waialua was named after the two rivers. (Kaukonahua is the longest river in the islands – it runs 33-miles from its source.) (Alameida)
When Captain Cook first spotted the Islands in January 1778, “The ship was first sighted from Waialua and Waiʻanae sailing for the north. It anchored at night at Waimea, Kauaʻi, that place being nearest at hand.” (Kamakau)
Later, after Cook’s death at Kealakekua, on Hawaiʻi Island, the remaining crew of the ship Resolution, with Clerke in command, sailed toward Oʻahu during the afternoon of Wednesday, February 24, 1779. On Saturday, the northeastern end of the island of Oʻahu came into view.
Sailing around Kahuku, the ship entered Waimea Bay (adjoining Waialua,) Clerke remarked, “I stood into a Bay to the (Westward) of this point the Eastern Shore of which was far the most beautifull Country we have yet seen among these Isles, here was a fine expanse of Low Land bounteously cloath’d with Verdure, on which were situate many large Villages and extensive plantations; at the Water side it terminated in a fine sloping, sand Beach.”
James King, later commander of the ship Discovery after August 1779, also wrote that this northernt end of Oʻahu “was by far the most beautiful country of any in the Group. … the Valleys look’d exceedingly pleasant … charmed with the narrow border full of villages, & the Moderate hills that rose behind them. ….” (Alameida)
In 1813, Waialua was described by John Whitman, an early visitor noted a similar description, “…a large district on the NE extremity of the island, embracing a large quantity of taro land, many excellent fishing grounds and several large fish ponds one of which deserves particular notice for its size and the labour bestowed in building the wall which encloses it.” (Cultural Surveys)
He described the fishpond (ʻUkoʻa) as “about one mile in length and extends from the southern part of a small bay to a point of land jutting out about one mile into the sea.” This certainly indicated that its size supported a large population. Whitman continued, “Walking over the wall we passed several gates of strong wicker work through which the water had free passage. Here we observed thousands of fish some of which were apparently three feet long.”
Later (1826,) Levi Chamberlain noted, “The whole district of Waialua is spread out before the eye with its cluster of settlements, straggling houses, scattering trees, cultivated plats & growing in broad perspectives the wide extending ocean tossing its restless waves and throwing in its white foaming billows fringing the shores all along the whole extent of the district.” (Cultural Surveys)
“The scenery on the other hand is no less beautiful and grand, the mountains are seen rising with various elevations, some piercing the clouds which envelope their summits, some covered with wood, others green with shrubs and grass, among the ridges are seen deep ravines, prominent fronts, inaccessible cliffs, weather beaten moss covered steeps.” (Chamberlain, 1826)
In addition, Waialua was a favorite place for leisure by the aliʻi of Oʻahu. Kaʻahumanu visited Waialua with Hiram Bingham during the time that the conversion to Christianity was the primary mission of the American missionaries. Kamehameha III visited a number of times and Liliʻuokalani had a summer home in Haleʻiwa (the present Liliʻuokalani Church was named for her.)
In 1832, missionary Ephraim Walter Clark reported to the Reverend Rufus Anderson, secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), that, “Waialua on the eastern part of the island is a populous region. A mission can be located at a central point in this vicinity, (and) by preaching at different places that are within 5 or 6 miles of each other & of easy access, (we) would probably have 3,000 or 4,000 bearers (followers.)”
The central plateau of the island falls primarily within the Waianae district, with the northern area of Oʻahu in Waialua district and the southern area in Ewa district.
A significant portion of the central plateau is under Army jurisdiction: Schofield Barracks (headquarters and training areas), Wheeler Army Airfield, Helemano Military Reservation, Kipapa and Waikakalaua Ammunition Storage sites and Kunia Field Station.
In ancient times, the central plateau, particularly the area called Līhuʻe on the southwestern part of the plateau, was a center of island political power. Even after the royal center had shifted to Waikīkī during the time of chief Maʻilikūkahi, this central area continued to play a role in chiefly activities, especially at Kūkaniloko (“to anchor the cry from within.”)
The Kūkaniloko Birthstones site (situated in Waialua) is one of the most significant cultural sites on O‘ahu. It 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 Kauaʻi.
Beginning with the birth of Kapawa, Kūkaniloko became recognized as the royal birthsite on Oʻahu. A child born in the presence of the chiefs was called “he aliʻi” (a chief), “he akua” (a god), “he wela” (a blaze of heat.) The births of at least 4 renown chiefs of O‘ahu are recorded at Kūkaniloko – La‘a (ca. 1420,) Māʻilikūkahi (ca. 1520,) Kalanimanuia (ca. 1600) and Kākuhihewa (ca. 1640).
This place was so highly viewed that, even in later times, Kamehameha I, in 1797, previous to the birth of his son and successor, Liholiho (Kamehameha II,) made arrangements to have his birth take place at Kūkaniloko; but the illness of Queen Keōpūolani prevented that (Liholiho was born in Hilo.)
The image shows the moku of Waialua, indicating the different ahupuaʻa within the moku.