Kukuiho‘olua (which means “oven-baked candlenut”) islet is located in Lā‘ie Bay, just offshore from Laniloa (meaning “tall majesty”) Point. The calcareous islet is about 2 acres in size and reaches a height of about 20 ft. It is part of the Hawai‘i Offshore Islet Seabird Sanctuary System.
Vegetation on the islet is made up of a single native species, akulikuli, which seems to be doing well on its own; it is was common on slopes where the ocean did not wash over too severely. Previously, ohelo kai and button mangrove were observed these plants likely come and go on this high energy islet. (HEAR)
In addition to Kukuiho‘olua, there are four other small islands in the vicinity of the point. To the north, the northernmost island is Kihewamoku, with Mokuaia Island (locally known as “Goat Island”) and Pulemoku Island lying between Kihewamoku and Kukuiho’olua. To the southeast of Kukuiho’olua and directly east of Laniloa Point is another islet named Mokualai Island. (Jordan)
The offshore islets on O‘ahu’s eastern side are comprised of several small calcareous islands, tuff cones, and lava cones. These predator free isles, part of the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary, provide refuge for numerous seabirds and native coastal plants. The islets offer a unique opportunity for restoration due to their isolation, small size, and harsh oceanic conditions. (HEAR)
The O‘ahu Offshore Islets are a series of geological features off the windward coast of O‘ahu. These islets are a lone refuge for many native seabirds, plants, and insects. Because of their ecological importance, the islets are part of the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary system. (HEAR)
The islands and islets are refuge for many native seabirds, plants, and insects, as well as for Hawaiian Monk seals and other protected and endangered ocean species.
The O‘ahu Offshore Island Seabird Sanctuaries include Mokuauia, Popoia, Kapapa, the Mokulua Islands, Kihewamoku, Pulemoku, Kukuihoolua, Mokualai, Kekepa, Moku Manu, Mokulea, Manana, and Kaohikaipu.
The islands are under the jurisdiction of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, which manages the State Seabird Sanctuary System for the protection and management of native Hawaiian coastal ecosystems.
What folks now call Lā’ie Point was originally called Laniloa Point, and the beach south of the point was called Laniloa Beach. Locally, it has been called Clissold’s Beach for decades because one of the first beach estates along here was built by Edward LaVaun Clissold in about 1951.
Clissold had been a Mormon missionary to Hawai‘i and was fluent in the language; he was also the stake president, temple president, mission president, and manager of Zion’s Securities, the predecessor of Hawai‘i Reserves, thereby earning him the title of “second most powerful man in the Church.” (BYUH)
In Hawaiian mythology, Laniloa Point and the nearby islands formed when a great warrior, named Kana, set out to kill a mo‘o or giant lizard (Laniloa), which had killed many people in the area.
Kana easily defeated the mo‘o and chopped it into five pieces and tossed them into the sea. Kukuiho’olua Island as considered the head because it had large sea caves on the north and south sides that resembled eye sockets. (Rice, Jordan)
In the great epic told about Hi‘iaka’s journey from Hawai‘i Island to Kauai, she initially traveled along the windward side of O‘ahu. When she stopped in Lā‘ie, Hi‘iaka extolled the beauty of the place in a traditional chant.
This chapter of her journey is recalled by Ho‘oulumāhiehie in the Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Na‘i Aupuni:
They did continue along, and Hi‘iaka eventually saw Laniloa, that long point of land extending out from Lā‘ie, at which time she offered this kau.
Laniloa soars, peacefully calm
A roaring sea below
I am cleansed by the salt spray.
They arrived at the places called Lā‘iemalo‘o and Lā‘iewai. When they had passed the ridged boundaries of these lands, they went on through the next district Mālaekahana, and on to Kahuku. (Ho‘oulumāhiehie 2006:156)
At the time of initial western contact, that is, during the period following Kamehameha I’s conquest of O‘ahu, the warrior chief from Hawai‘i Island placed Lā‘ie (Lā‘iewai and Lā‘iemalo‘o) in the hands of his half-brother Kalaimamahū.
This Kalaimamahū was “the grandfather of [future king] Lunalilo, who later formally received the land in the Māhele of 1848, under the rule of Kamehameha III.” (McElroy)
Before the tsunami of April 1, 1946, there was no ‘arch’ at Kukuiho‘olua; instead, there were two large, but shallow, sea caves on either side of Kukuiho‘olua. The “April Fools Earthquake and Tsunami” punched through the caves.
Over subsequent decades, continued erosion of the caves led to collapse and a joining of the caves to form a sea arch, with a boulder in the middle of the arch. (Jordan)
During February 24-26, 2016 storm, large storm waves, resulting from the unique El Niño conditions washed out the large boulder that had lain within the arch since its initial formation, significantly increasing the open area beneath the arch.
The large boulder, consisting of the same cemented dune material as the Kukuiho‘olua Island sea arch and lying beneath it had been moved from beneath the arch and had fallen into the sea. (Jordan)
DLNR rules close or restrict access to the Offshore Islets for the protection of the biological, geological, or cultural resources of the area or the safety and welfare of persons or property. Online rules indicate public access to Kukuiho‘olua is closed.