Kauai and Hanaka’ape Bay: A Brief History
Kauai is the most northwestern Hawaiian Island, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is the oldest of the eight major Hawaiian Islands and was formed some six million years ago by volcanic eruptions.
Known as the “Garden Isle” for its abundance of tropical flowers, Kauai is also remarkable for its beaches, waterfalls, canyons and tropical rainforests. All these natural attributes make it a favorite destination for tourists. Approximately 33 miles long, and 25 miles wide, the island totals roughly 554 square miles. The population of 58,000 live mostly along the shores of the island as much of the interior is inaccessible mountainous terrain.
The Hawaiian history is as dramatic as its terrain with the earliest human settlements dated around 300-500 AD. Polynesians from the South Pacific, paddling there in double-hulled voyaging canoes, are credited with being the earliest human settlers of the Hawaiian Islands. As a relatively recent geological feature on the planet, everything that is now living and growing on the island has arrived by air or water.
In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook landed in Kauai’s Waimea Bay for the first time. Cook’s discovery of what he called the “Sandwich Isles,” named after the Earl of Sandwich, introduced Hawaii to the world. Tragically, the then estimated population of 200,000 Hawaiians was unusually vulnerable to diseases brought by these explorers. Diseases such as smallpox, measles, Hansen’s Disease, Whooping Cough, Influenza, Gonorrhea, etc. took their toll by the thousands. Many natives also left to work on whaling ships abroad. By 1920 the population of native Hawaiians numbered 23, 723 and their life expectancy was 35 years (source: OHA).
Hanaka’ape Bay, situated at the mouth of Waikomo Stream, is in the southern ‘Poipu’ area of Kauai near a small park named after Prince Kuhio, the last royal heir to the Hawaiian throne, born in 1871. Waikomo is native for “entering water” and Hanaka‘ape means “headstrong.”
Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, a tireless worker for native Hawaiian rights and Delegate to Congress, was born where Prince Kuhio Park now exists. Today, a small historical and cultural site preserves the remnants of the foundation of his royal home, a “Heaiu”, place of worship, and a native aquaculture fish pond. Nearby condominiums are named after him and a shopping mall is named after his birthplace, Kukui’ula. The Prince was so beloved that his birthday, March 26, is a state holiday and celebrated with island-wide cultural events.
Standing in the park looking out to the ocean, to your left lies Hanaka’ape Bay. In the mid 1800’s, Hanaka’ape Bay became known as the third largest whaling station in the Hawaiian Islands and the only port of entry for foreign goods.
Today, thankfully, the only whales seen in this area are live ones, making their annual winter migration to the warm tropical waters to socialize and give birth. The Poipu area is one of the largest and most popular tourist destinations on the island. According to Hawaii’s Dept. of Business, economic development Kauai, in 2010 Kauai received 964,724 visitors (Source: http://hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/
- Historical Marker Database
- Government Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)
- History of Kauai
- Koloa Heritage Trail
- Prince Kuhio Park
- Kauia Tourist Information
- Gov. of Hawaii: Department of Business, Economic Development &Tourism