The traditional moku (district) of Kāʻanapali consisted of five major stream valleys Honokōwai, Kahana, Honokahua, Honolua and Honokōhau), all of which were extensively terraced for wet taro (loʻi) in early historic and later times.
Honokahua Valley has been described as having wet taro (loʻi) lands, although not in great abundance. Sweet potatoes were reportedly grown between Honokōhau and Kahakuloa Ahupuaʻa, presumably on lower kula lands. South of Kapalua Resort, Kahana Ahupuaʻa, was known as a place of salt gathering for the people of Lāhainā.
There are six bays located on Maui’s west shore whose names begin with the word Hono. These bays and coves are collectively known as Hono a Piʻilani. From South to North, six of the identified bays are Honokōwai (bay drawing fresh water), Honokeana (cave bay), Honokahua (sites bay,) Honolua (two bays), Honokōhau (bay drawing dew) and Hononana (animated bay).
The Kāʻanapali District is noted for an alaloa (a path or trail) that reportedly encircled the entire island. Walker wrote: “The north end of Maui also is traversed by a paved trail. Sections of it can be seen from Honolua to Honokōhau to Kahakuloa. It is paved with beach rocks and has a width of four to six feet.” (PBR)
According to oral tradition, Piʻilani unified the entire island of Maui, bringing together under one rule the formerly-competing eastern (Hāna) and western (Wailuku) multi-district kingdoms of the Island. In the 1500s, Chief Piʻilani (“stairway to heaven”) unified West Maui and ruled in peace and prosperity. His territory included the six West Maui bays, a place he frequented.
Piʻilani’s prosperity was exemplified by a boom in agriculture and construction of heiau, fishponds, trails and irrigation systems. Famed for his energy and intelligence, Piʻilani constructed the West Maui phase of the noted Alaloa, or long trail (also known as the King’s Highway.)
His son, Kihapiʻilani laid the East Maui section and connected the island. This trail was the only ancient pathway to encircle any Hawaiian island (not only along the coast, but also up the Kaupō Gap and through the summit area and crater of Haleakalā.)
Four to six feet wide and 138-miles long, this rock-paved path facilitated both peace and war. It simplified local and regional travel and communication, and allowed the chief’s messengers to quickly get from one part of the island to another. The trail was used for the annual harvest festival of Makahiki and to collect taxes, promote production, enforce order and move armies.
Missionaries Richards, Andrews and Green noted in 1828, “a pavement said to have been built by Kihapiʻilani, a king … afforded us no inconsiderable assistance in traveling as we ascended and descended a great number of steep and difficult paries (pali.)” (Missionary Herald)
When chief Kekaulike died, his younger son Kamehamehanui (uncle to Kamehameha I) was named heir to rule Maui. In 1738, Kauhi‘aimokuakama (Kauhi,) his older brother, began to wage war to win the title of ruling chief.
Battles were fought across West Maui, from Ukumehame to Honokōwai. Kamehamehanui engaged the forces of his uncle from Hawai‘i to fight with him, whose troops numbered over 8,000, and Kauhi brought troops of warriors from O‘ahu.
“What was this war like? It employed the unusual method in warfare of drying up the streams of Kaua‘ula, Kanaha and Mahoma (Kahoma – which is the stream near Lahainaluna.) The wet taro patches and the brooks were dried up so that there was no food for the forces of Ka-uhi or for the country people.” (Kamakau)
“The hardest fighting, even compared with that at Napili and at Honokahua in Kāʻanapali, took place on the day of the attack at Puʻunene.” (Kamakau)
The war ended with the battle Koko O Nā Moku (“Bloodshed of the Islands.”) Over several days, the blood of fallen warriors from both sides flowed from a stream into the shorebreak and caused the ocean to turn red. (Kamehamehanui won.) (Kāʻanapali Historical Trail)
In 1765, Kahekili inherited all of Maui Nui and O‘ahu and was appointed successor to his brother Kamehamehanui’s kingdom (not to be confused with Hawai‘i Island’s Kamehameha I.)
Kapalua Resort is situated along this coast between Honokahua and Honokeana.
Agricultural use of the property for pineapple cultivation began in approximately 1912 when Honolua Ranch (which included the property) was converted from a cattle ranch into a pineapple plantation. By the 1920s, pineapple had been planted across West Maui from Miihinahina ahupua’a to Kahakuloa ahupua’a A cannery was built in Honokahua in 1914 and, in 1923, Honolua Ranch became Baldwin Packers, Ltd.
In 1962, Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc. was formed when Baldwin Packers merged with Maui Pineapple Company. Maui Land & Pineapple Company, Inc., created the wholly-owned subsidiary named Kapalua Land Company, Ltd., which conceived of and developed the master-planned Kapalua Resort featuring the Kapalua Bay Hotel at the shore of Honokahua ahupuaʻa. The hotel opened in 1978, beginning the change of the former ranch and pineapple lands of Honokahua into a world-class destination resort complex.
Starting in 1987, to prepare for proposed ocean-side construction of the Ritz Carlton at Kapalua more than 900 ancestral native Hawaiian burials were excavated from sand dunes at Honokahua, Maui. When the extent of the burials became more widely known, native Hawaiians from around the state staged protests.
Eventually a plan was devised in September 1989 for the proper reburial of the native Hawaiian remains disinterred. Associated with that, the state paid $6-million for a perpetual preservation easement and restoration of the burial site. A 14-acre site is now a historical and cultural landmark.
In addition, as a result of this, Hawaiʻi’s burial treatment law, passed in 1990, gives unmarked burials, most of which are native Hawaiian, the same protection as modern cemeteries. The law:
- Burial Sites Program was set up within DLNR’s Historic Preservation Division
- Burial Councils were set up at Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, O’ahu, Maui-Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Big Island
- Procedures to deal with the inadvertent discovery of human skeletal remains were established
- If human remains are found during a construction project, construction, there stops and if the remains appear to have been buried 50 or more years, procedures were established to preserve them in place or relocate them
- Provided penalties for unauthorized alteration, excavation or destruction of unmarked burial sites
“Honokahua changed the history of Hawaiʻi. They have set precedent that we will never ever go back to this complacency and complete disregard for the iwi of our kupuna. Honokahua has created the laws, Honokahua is the law, this stands as the kahili (feather standard, a sign of royalty) for all burial sites from here on to perpetuity. This is the battleground, this is the piko (navel, umbilical cord) of these new laws.” (Naeole, DLNR)
Now, Kapalua at Honokahua includes The Ritz-Carlton, the Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences at Kapalua Bay, the Kapalua Spa, eight residential subdivisions, two championship golf courses (The Bay and The Plantation,) ten-court tennis facilities, several restaurants, and over 800 condominiums, single-family homes and residential lots. (In 2006, the Kapalua Bay Hotel was taken down.) Fleming Beach Park is at Honokahua Bay.