In the legend of Pele and Hi’iaka, Hi’iaka, the sister of the volcano goddess Pele, travels around the islands. In one instance, Hi‘iaka’s canoe is beached on the sands of Mokulē‘ia Hi‘iaka leaves her companions to pay her respects to her ancestor, Pohaku-o-Kauai, and to her ancestral divinity Ka‘ena.
She passes Ka‘ena Point on O‘ahu, and enters the hot and arid region of Waialua. As she climbs up into the Wai‘anae Mountains above the lands of Keālia and Kawaihāpai, she offers the following chant:
Kunihi Kaena, holo i ka malie:
Wela i ka La ke alo o ka pali;
Auamo mai i ka La o Kilauea;
Ikiiki i ka La na Ke-awa-ula,
Ola i ka makani Kai-a-ulu Kohola-leleHe
makani ia no lalo
Ka’ena’s profile fleets through the calm,
With flanks ablaze in the sunlight –
A furnace heat like Kilauea;
Ke-awa-ula shelters in heat;
Kohala-lele revives in the breeze,
That breath from the sea, Kai-a-ulu.
Recorded accounts of early foreign explorers gives an indication of what pre-contact Hawai‘i was like. After the death of Captain James Cook on the Island of Hawai‘i, the crew of the Resolution sailed to O‘ahu. Captain Charles Clerke, after anchoring in Waimea Bay, describes the highly populated and lush northwest coast of O‘ahu:
“I stood into a Bay just to the Wtward [Westward] of this point the Eastern Shore of which was by 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 . . . This Bay, its Geographical situation consider’d is by no means a bad Roadsted, being sheltered from the NEbN [Northeast by North] SEterly [Southeasterly] to SWbW [Southwest by West] with a good depth of Water and a fine firm sandy Bottom; it lays on the NW [Northwest] side of this Island of Wouahoo [O‘ahu] … surrounded by a fine pleasant fertile Country.”
In 1813 , Waialua was described by John Whitman, an early missionary visitor, as: … a large district on the N.E. 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.”
Another missionary, Levi Chamberlain, described the vicinity of Kawaihāpai in 1826: “At 11 o’ck we set out and walked along a path leading over an extended plain covered with high grass. “
“After walking about 3 miles we took a path leading over a marshy tract to the mountains which we were designing to cross in order that we might avoid a bad piece of traveling along the western shore. The mountains here run in nearly a N.W. and N.E. direction being somewhat circular.”
“We ascended by a rough & difficult path, shrubs, long grass, wild plants and bushes sprung up grew luxuriantly among the rocks being plentifully moistened by little streams which trickled down the steep sides of the mountains.”
“After ascending several hundred feet, we came to a beautiful little run of water conducted by sprouts furnishing sufficient moisture for a number of taro patches below.”
“I was told that the water never failed and the district into which it passes is called Kawaihapai (Water lifted Up) on account of the water’s being conducted from such an elevation.”
“The prospect from the acclivity is very fine. 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)
As early as the 1840s, cattle were known to have grazed on the lowlands of Waialua. In 1897, B.F. Dillingham purchased the Kawailoa Ranch in Mokulē‘ia. The ranch included over 2,000 head of cattle and over a hundred horses and mules on 10,000-acres of land.
Dillingham also leased additional property in Mokulē‘ia, including the Gaspar Silva Ranch, the James Gay Estate, and other lands in the area that he could secure.
Dillingham’s plan was to later sublease or sell the land at a profit, as the lands had potential for being developed into large-scale sugar plantations. He anticipated the land would become valuable once extensive irrigation systems were in place, and when the O’ ahu Railway and Land Co. (O.R. & L.) railroad was constructed around Ka‘ena Point and along the north shore to Kahuku.
By 1898, the O.R. & L railroad was constructed through the Waialua District, with stations in both Kawaihāpai and Mokulē’ia. Soon thereafter, Dillingham began selling off or subleasing much of his lands in western Waialua.
Also in 1898, the Halstead Brothers had a small sugar cane plantation and mill at Waialua town. Dillingham believed that the Halstead Brothers’ land could be turned into a profitable sugar plantation, especially since there was now a rail line to Honolulu.
The Waialua Agricultural Company was established in 1898 by JB Atherton, ED Tenney, BF Dillingham, WA Bowen, H Waterhouse and MR Robinson, and was incorporated by the company Castle & Cooke.
They bought the Halstead Brothers’ land and mill, and began to buy or lease the adjacent lands. By the early 1900s, sugarcane plantations and large ranches came to dominate the lands of western Waialua.
The Makaleha Stream empties into a large bay called Kai‘ahulu (“the foamy sea”) located makai of the Mokulē‘ia Polo Field. Kapala‘au Stream (“the wooden fence”) is also known to flow into Kai‘ahulu Bay.
Tenney bought some land on the water, here, and built a house. In a letter to Castle & Cooke VP FC Atherton, Tenney wrote, “My beach place at Mokuleia, Waialua, commonly known aa Kaiahulu was the source of much pleasure to Mrs. Tenney, she took particular delight on entertaining her friends there.”
“With her passing, I would like to deed this place to Castle & Cooke, Ltd for its employees, to be used by them primarily as a place where they can spend week-ends and periods during their vacation. This, I feel, would insure the continued use of the property as a means of providing recreation and pleasure to others.”
Today, near the sandy point that forms the eastern boundary of Kai‘ahulu Bay is a recreational area for the business firm of Castle and Cooke. The land was bequeathed to the company by Edward Tenney, an employee for many years, and was set aside for the use of Castle and Cooke personnel. (John Clark)