Three brothers, Kahoe, Kahuauli and Pahu, and their sister, Loʻe, were sent from ʻEwa to live in Kāneʻohe. Loʻe lived on Moku o Loʻe (Loʻe’s island). Kahuauli was a farmer at Luluku (in the area of Puʻu Kahuauli). Kahoe was a farmer near Haiku and Keaʻahala; and Pahu was a fisherman in Pohakea (in the area of Puʻu Pahu). (Jokiel, HIMB)
When Pahu went to visit Kahoe he always received poi from him. In return, he gave Kahoe small leftover baitfish instead of good large ulua that he caught daily. Kahoe eventually learned of Pahu’s deceit from Loʻe who came over from her island to visit him. (Jokiel, HIMB)
Several months later there was a famine and everyone hid the smoke from their cooking fires to avoid having to share their food with others. Kahoe was able to conceal his smoke in his valley. It traveled one to two kilometers before appearing on the summit of the cliff.
One evening Loʻe caught Pahu looking longingly at Keaʻahala and said, “So, standing with eyes looking at Keahiakahoe (Kahoe’s fire).” To this day the peak carries this name. (Jokiel, HIMB)
Surrounding Kāneʻohe Bay landward are, again, the Koʻolau Mountains. Seen to the right of Mōkapu Peninsula’s Puʻu Papaʻa and in the foreground is Puʻu Pahu, a hill on the mainland overlooking Moku o Loe. Lilipuna Pier, which provides access by boat to Moku o Loʻe, is located here. This headland is known as Pōhākea.
To the right and continuing southwest are the peaks of Puʻu Kōnāhuanui, Puʻu Lanihuli, Puʻu Kahuauli and Puʻu Keahiakahoe. These surround the large valley of Kaneohe.
It came under the ownership of Bishop Estate. In 1933, Chris Holmes, owner of Hawaiian Tuna Packers (later, Coral Tuna) and heir to the Fleischmann yeast fortune, purchased the island for his tuna-packing factory.
Later, Holmes tried to transform Coconut Island into his own private paradise. He enlarged the island, built the ponds, harbors and seawall surrounding the island. He also planted large numbers of coconut palms which gave rise to its popular name, “Coconut Island”.
Holmes bought a 4-masted schooner in Samoa, the Seth Parker, and had it sailed north to Hawai‘i. It leaked so much on the trip that it was declared unseaworthy. He permanently moved the Seth Parker to Coconut Island. This boat was used in the movie “Wake of the Red Witch”, starring John Wayne. (HIMB)
Christian Holmes built outdoor bars at various points around the island. He had a bowling alley built, and reconstructed a shooting gallery on the island that he had bought at an amusement park in San Francisco. (HIMB)
That’s not all. Coconut Island even housed a small zoo for a short time. Animal residents included: donkeys, a giraffe, monkeys and a baby elephant. Upon Holmes’s death, these animals became the basis for the Honolulu Zoo (along with the Honolulu Bird Park at the Kapiʻolani Park site).
The baby elephant was known as “Empress” at the zoo and died of old age in 1986. Zookeepers believe her to be the longest living captive elephant. (HIMB)
After Chris Holmes passed away in 1944 Coconut Island was used for an Army Rest & Recreation center until it was bought by five investors. Eventually Edwin Pauley became principal owner.
During World War II the army used the island as a rest camp for combat officers, building barracks and adding electrical, plumbing and a sewage disposal plant and improving the dock facilities. After the war, Holmes put the island up for sale and Edwin W Pauley, his brother Harold, SB Mosher, Poncet Davis and Allen Chase (wealthy oil men) purchased it for $250,000.
Pauley, the leader of the group, was a Los Angeles oilman, former treasurer of the National Democratic Party and Reparations Commissioner after the end of World War II.
Through a collaboration of Paul R Williams and A Quincy Jones, a concept plan was developed to use the island as a millionaire’s playground and exclusive resort – Coconut Island Club International.
Described by Ed Pauley as the ultimate “retreat for tired businessmen,” the drawing shows the four-story, 26-suite hostel and proposed amenities. Swimming pools, boathouses, tennis courts, bowling alley, and a lookout tower with a view of Kaneohe Bay and Oahu were all part of the master plan.
Forty-five minutes by speedboat from Honolulu, Coconut Island was the south sea location of the 1940s paradise for five wealthy American businessmen.
With year-round temperate weather, luxuriant plantings, natural wading pools and a world-class dock for expensive pleasure boats, the island was the perfect setting for a private resort where “members and their families can enjoy vacations under the most delightful conditions possible anywhere in the world.” (Los Angeles Times, February 16, 1947)
Their vision of the resort island as an exclusive private club, a “combination millionaire’s playground and crossroads hostel for high level international citizens,” owned and frequented by “substantial people – important people, if you will, notables, or call them what you like…” proved to be too restrictive to support the grand building project. Soon after the drawing was completed, the venture was abandoned.
Eventually, Edwin Pauley, bought out the interests of the other four and became the sole owner of the island. Here, his family spent their summers. Many famous people spent time on Coconut Island as a guest of Edwin Pauley. Some of these include: Harry Truman, Lyndon B Johnson, Red Skelton, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
By the early 1950s Edwin Pauley was approached by the marine biologists at the University of Hawaii’s fledgling Marine Laboratory to use the island’s boat facilities as a base for their research vessel. Pauley responded, “We have a lot of other facilities here. Could you use anything else on the Island?” (Kamins, A History of the UH)
He leased the necessary land to the State “rent free.” The original main laboratory building burned down. Pauley donated the funds to replace it (it was completed in 1965.)
Following the death of Edwin Pauley in the early 1980s, the island was put up for sale. A Japanese real estate developer, Katsuhiro Kawaguchi, offered $8.5 million in cash and purchased the island.
Later, the Pauley Foundation and Trustees approved a grant of $7.615 million to build a marine laboratory to be named the Pauley-Pagen Laboratory. The Pauley family provided the UH Foundation with the $2 million necessary to buy the private portion of the island from Mr. Kawaguchi.
Instead of a millionaire’s playground, the island became a haven for world-class scientists at the Hawaiʻi Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB.) While some generally refer to the island as “Coconut Island,” (and it was featured in the opening scene of Gilligan’s Island, a 1960s television sitcom,) let us not forget its original name, Moku O Loʻe.