With the Bay as our backyard, we were fortunate kids growing up on Kāneʻohe Bay. Within the body of water were a number of small islands we would boat to, camp at, fish, party, etc.
Mokoliʻi (little lizard)
While Hiʻiaka the goddess (Pele’s younger sister) was returning to meet with Pele, as she approached Kualoa, she came upon a moʻo (lizard, dragon) who tried to stop her.
Hiʻiaka crushed the evil moʻo and left a piece of his tail as a landmark – Mokoliʻi at Kualoa (his body became the foothills below the steep Kualoa cliffs (‘long back’.))
Today, because of the obvious shape of the island, many generally refer to Mokoliʻi Island as “Chinaman’s Hat.” We’d land and camp on the seaward side. Back then, we’d also climb to the top of the island (about 306-feet high.)
Kapapa (shoal island)
As recently as the 1950s, scholars from Bishop Museum conducted modest digs on Kapapa. In addition to the koʻa, their work revealed a canoe house and also unearthed tools, jewelry and human remains (and reportedly a heiau.)
“Kapapa was always an important stopover for fishermen. It was difficult to navigate in the bay of Kane‘ohe, because of the patch reefs. But Kapapa is outside the reefs, and fishermen would always go there to camp and to dry their catch.” (Kawelo; Hollier)
Kapapa Island is located two miles off the shore of Kaneʻohe Bay. The small island is inhabited by many seabirds. These seabirds fledge anywhere from 150 to 300 chicks a year. (Sabado)
“Seabirds are really sensitive to the intensity and frequency of human activities. Adult birds can fly away, but the chicks are stationary in their burrows. The main thing is that having people around affects the nesting birds and the seabirds’ ability to reproduce.” (Misaki; Sabado)
The islet is protected as a sanctuary with access restricted, as well as prohibited activities on the island to permit holders only.
While Kapapa was once used recreationally for fishing and camping (things we frequently did,) visitors are now limited to just fishing, and only around the perimeter of the island in the daytime; the islet is closed to access between sunset and sunrise.
Ahu O Laka (Alter of Laka)
I have heard of three different traditional stories associated with the naming of Ahu O Laka. The first references the sand and links this site to Laka, goddess of the Hula.
The second refers to Chief Laka, born in Haili, Hilo. He reportedly died in Kualoa (some say on the island) and was subsequently buried in ‘Iao Valley (a place reserved for the highest of chiefs.)
The final story suggests that the place served as an ancient dividing line between fishers from the regions of Kualoa and Kailua.
As a kid, we called it ‘Sand Island’ (it went along with the “Island” references we used in the bay, i.e. Coconut Island and Coral Island.) Over time, the common name transitioned to Sand Bar. At low tide it forms into an island, otherwise it is covered with water.
Moku O Loʻe (Loʻe’s Island)
Three brothers, Kahoe, Kahuauli and Pahu, and their sister, Loʻe, were sent from ʻEwa to live in Kāneʻohe. 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). Loʻe lived on Moku o Loʻe (Loʻe’s island). (Jokiel, HIMB)
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 (it even housed a small zoo for a short time with donkeys, a giraffe, monkeys and a baby elephant.) (HIMB)
He also planted large numbers of coconut palms which gave rise to its popular name, ‘Coconut Island.’
After Chris Holmes passed away in 1944 Coconut Island was used for an Army Rest & Recreation center; later Edwin Pauley bought it and a concept plan was developed to use the island as a millionaire’s playground and exclusive resort, an ultimate “retreat for tired businessmen.”
By the early 1950s Edwin Pauley was approached by the marine biologists at the UH’s fledgling Marine Laboratory to use the island’s boat facilities as a base for their research vessel. (HIMB)
Instead of a millionaire’s playground, the island became a haven for world-class scientists at the Hawaiʻi Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB) (and it was featured in the opening scene of Gilligan’s Island, a 1960s television sitcom.)
The earliest modifications to the natural marine environment of Kane‘ohe Bay were those made by the ancient Hawaiians. The construction of walled fishponds along the shore was perhaps the most obvious innovation.
The development of terraces and a complex irrigation network for the cultivation of taro no doubt had an effect on stream flow, reducing total runoff into the Bay.
Then they started to dredge (records of dredging permits issued by the Army Corps began in 1915.) Almost all of the early permits were for boat landings, piers and wharves, including the 1,200-foot wharf at Kokokahi and the 500-foot wharf at Moku O Loʻe for Hawaiian Tuna Packers (in 1934.)
Although some dredging was involved in the construction of piers and small boat basins, probably the first extensive dredging was done in 1937 when 56,000 cubic yards were dredged “from the coral reef in Kāne‘ohe Bay” by the Mokapu Land Co., Ltd.
The great bulk of all reef material dredged in Kane‘ohe Bay was removed in connection with the construction at Mokapu of the Kaane‘ohe Naval Air Station (now Marine Corps Base Hawai‘I – dredging for the base began on September 27, 1939, and continued throughout World War II.)
Appropriately named because it was formed by stockpiling coral dredge material on a nearby reef, at low tide it was a single island but became two when the tide came in. A small cove was on the lee side of the larger island, this is where we anchored.
‘Coral Island’ is now gone; constant pressure from the tides and waves leveled and lost the island.
Like any other place, use and demeanor here and elsewhere should be courteous and respectful. This does not mean we can’t have a good time while enjoying the Bay, but it does place responsibility on each of us to understand, care about and, ultimately, care for special places in Hawai‘i.
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