Hoʻokena i ka laʻi …
Hoʻolu ʻia no Hoʻokena
Ho`oheno ana i ka mana`o
Na kupa o ka `aina
Hoʻolu i ka maka o ka malihini
Hoʻokena in the calm …
Truly pleasant is Hoʻokena
Cherished in the thoughts of the
Residents of the land
Pleasant in the sight of the visitor
(Lot Kauwe – a Hawaiian cowboy yodeling song. The cattle would be led in the water and swim to ships standing off-shore at Cooper Landing in Hoʻokena.)
“Hoʻokena is its name. … On the immediate foreshore, under a low cliff, there stood some score of houses, trellised and verandaed in green and white; the whole surrounded and shaded by a grove of coco palms and fruit trees, springing (as by a miracle) from the bare lava.”
“In front, the population of the neighborhood were gathered for the weekly incident, the passage of the steamer, sixty to eighty strong and attended by a disproportionate allowance of horses, mules, and donkeys ….” (Robert Louis Stevenson; Travels in Hawaiʻi) Let’s step back.
In the traditional Hawaiian time, Kona people were supported with dry-land agricultural fields known today as the Kona Field System. A prominent element of the system is the network of kuaiwi, low and long piles of stone that create a net-like pattern over the landscape. There are four main zones to the Kona Field System were: kula, kaluʻulu, ʻāpaʻa and ʻamaʻu.
The kula is from the coast to approximately the 500 -foot elevation; this land was used to cultivate ʻuala (sweet potato,) gourd and wauke. In later times, cabbage, wauke melons, onions, oranges, tobacco, beans, coffee, corn, cotton, pineapple, Irish potatoes, and pumpkin were added to the cultivated foodstuffs. Habitation was concentrated in villages along the shoreline in this zone.
The kaluʻulu, or seaward slope, is between 500 and 1,000-feet above sea level; ʻulu (breadfruit) and mountain apple were grown in addition to ʻuala, gourds and wauke in this zone. Habitation was in lighter densities than the shoreline.
The ʻāpaʻa, or upland slope, approximately 1,000 to 2,500-feet above sea level, found cultivation of kalo (taro,) ʻuala, kī (ti) and sugarcane. Cabbage, melons, onions, oranges, tobacco, beans, coffee, corn, cotton, pineapple, Irish potatoes and pumpkin were grown in later times. Small habitation areas were scattered.
The ʻamaʻu, or upland forest, from 2,500 to 4,000-foot elevation was planted with bananas and plantains. Forest resources, such as wood for canoes and feathers from birds, were also an essential part of the resource extraction for this zone. Temporary shelters were present to support visits to and through this area. Movement up and down the system was facilitated by well-worn trails. (Wolforth)
Along the coast was an alaloa. Alaloa were long trails that formed primary routes of travel between communities, royal centers, religious sites and resources. Initially single-file footpaths, the trail followed the contours of coast. Over the years they were widened, straightened and curbstones were added.
In the vicinity of Hoʻokena, the ‘1871 Trail’ (the year noted the time of widening of the trail) was the main transportation artery for coastal travel from Hoʻokena to Nāpoʻopoʻo. It was often referred to as a “2-horse trail,”) wide enough for two horses to pass. In 1918, the trail section north of Hōnaunau was improved for wheeled traffic; however, the section south to Hoʻokena was never modified for motorized vehicles. (NPS)
Transportation changed (a lot) when the steam ships came and serviced the Islands. The first steamer to visit the Hawaiian Islands was the Hudson’s Bay Company’s ‘Beaver;’ it was en route to Fort Vancouver, entering the Honolulu Harbor on February 4, 1836. (It sailed here; her paddle wheels were added when it reached the Columbia River.)
The earliest vessel actually to steam into Island waters was the HBM Cormorant that arrived at Honolulu from Callao on May 22, 1846. “This is the first steamer ever arrived here, and the natives were in a state of great excitement,” reported CS Lyman. “She came up very slowly, with little motion of the wheels and little smoke visible.” (Schmitt)
First, government ships then private interests provided inter and intra-island transportation. Competitors Wilder Steamship Co (1872) and Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co (1883) ran different routes, rather than engage in head to head competition.
On Hawaiʻi Island, Mahukona, Kawaihae and Hilo were the Island’s major ports; Inter-Island served Kona ports. From Kailua, the steamer went south stopping at the Kona ports of Nāpoʻopoʻo, Hoʻokena, Hoʻopuloa, rounding South Point, touching at the Kaʻū port of Honuʻapo and finally arriving at Punaluʻu, Kaʻū, the terminus of the route.
A royal visitor noted her trip to Hoʻokena in the early-1880s, “… our steamer proceeded to Hoʻokena … there were special causes for my resolution that this district should not be passed by. It was at that time distinctively Hawaiian.”
“The pure native race had maintained its position there better than in most localities. There had been no introduction of the Chinese amongst the people, nor had any other race of foreigners come to live near their homes. The Hawaiian families had married with Hawaiians, settling side by side with those of their own blood.”
“Thus it was that only on Hawaii, and in no other part of the group of islands, could there be found a district so thickly populated, where the population was so strictly of my own people, as this to which I was now a visitor.” (Liliʻuokalani)
A landing was built at Hoʻokena to accommodate the ships. “The Hoʻokena landing consists of a rock pier off shore … the sea washing between it and the mainland.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, March 7, 1902) Recommended improvements were made, “Purser Conkling of the steamer Mauna Loa reports that work on the warehouse and landing at Hoʻokena will soon be commenced by the contractors.” (Hawaiian Star, April 24, 1903)
The landing was named Kupa Landing in honor of Henry Cooper (Kupa,) road supervisor of the District of South Kona from 1871 to 1880. Hoʻokena Village grew into a major sea port for Kona.
By the 1890s, Chinese immigrants moved in. Licenses issued included those for cake peddling, selling food and merchandise, running a retail store, butchering pork and operating two restaurants and a hotel. (Kona Historical Society)
On a trip Governor Carter made to the ‘Konas’ (North and South,) “a petition on behalf of the people of Hoʻokena asking the Governor to provide lands for them …. The petition also requested the government to establish a pineapple cannery for the farmers in the district who were growing that fruit.”
“The Governor replied at length, saying that he could not buy lands for them because of the lack of revenue. He believed that the conditions for the growing of pineapples were more favorable in Kona than anywhere else, but said that the government could not establish a cannery, although with private capital it would be a success.”
“’I don’t believe the government should go into any other business,’ said Mr. Carter; ‘it has troubles enough of its own now, in taking care of the schools, the public works, the police and the courts.’” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 22, 1904)
By 1929, the wharf was receiving freight only twice a month, so the stores and post office had closed. (KHS) The village’s economic importance began to diminish; the introduction of automobiles and trucks made steamship landings at Hoʻokena less common and many residents moved away from the remote village to be closer to the highway. (KUPA)
By the mid-1930s, high surf had demolished Kupa Landing; cattle continued to be shipped out of Hoʻokena up until the early 1940s. (Nā Peʻa) The steamships left and so did most of the people. Relocating closer to the highway, people all but left the once important shore of Hoʻokena. Few people remained and few live in Hoʻokena today. (UH DURP)
In 2007, Friends of Hoʻokena Beach Park an outgrowth of Kamaʻāina United to Protect the ʻĀina (KUPA), signed an agreement with the County to transfer management oversight of the park at Hoʻokena to FOHBP. They have hired community members to maintain the park and provide park security via the “Aloha Patrol.”
The Hoʻokena Beach Park sits at the northern end of Kauhakō Bay, surrounded by 13 single-family dwellings and about 70 residents. The FOHBP Camp Hoʻokena, which offers 22 sites on the beach to rent for tent camping.