Leeward Oahu

Leeward O‘ahu

Leeward (western) O‘ahu extends from the ‘Ewa area at O‘ahu’s southwestern tip along the length of the Wai‘anae Coast up to Ka‘ena Point.  The ‘Ewa area includes Kapolei, O‘ahu’s fastest growing town, as well as Barbers Point Naval Air Station, which is now demilitarized and dedicated to civilian uses. 

Northeast of ‘Ewa is Waipahu, which was a prominent sugar plantation town until the mill closed in 1995.  As one of the Hawaiian Island’s last plantation towns, Waipahu (“Bursting water”[i]) is a fitting place for Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village, a cultural theme park that features re-creations of typical plantation villages during the Hawaiian Islands’ sugarcane area. 

Separate villages represent eight different ethnic groups that immigrated to the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1900s, including Chinese, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Filipino, Okinawan, and Korean, as well as a Hawaiian hale (house).

[Hawai‘i’s Plantation Village, 808-667-0110, 94-695 Waipahu Street, Waipahu, open 9-4:30 Mon.-Fri.; 10-4:30 Sat.]

 

Wai‘anae Coast

The Wai‘anae Coast is located on O‘ahu’s extreme western side, which is also the dry, leeward side of the island.  Many of O‘ahu’s residents moved to this arid region after fleeing their home villages when King Kamehameha invaded O‘ahu in 1795 (see Chapter 11, Timeline: 1795).  Previously, the Wai‘anae Coast had been only sparsely populated.

Today the biggest town along the Wai‘anae Coast is Nānākuli, which houses one of the largest native Hawaiian populations in the Hawaiian Islands.  The next largest town is Wai‘anae, with a beach park and protected harbor.

Mākaha, located on O‘ahu’s western shore, is the site of an ancient heiau (sacred place of worship) called Kānē‘ākī Heiau.  Originally dedicated to Lono, the god of agriculture and fertility, Kānē‘ākī Heiau later became a luakini heiau, where human sacrifices were performed.  It is said that King Kamehameha I used the heiau as a place of worship after he conquered O‘ahu in 1795.

Kānē‘ākī Heiau was restored by the Bishop Museum in 1970 using traditional materials, such as native pili grass (Heteropogon contortus, twisted beardgrass) and logs of ‘ohi‘a lehua (Metrosideros species), to create a drum house, prayer towers and sacred images. 

Mākaha Beach is a renowned surfing spot from ancient days.  In modern times, Mākaha Beach hosts the annual Buffalo’s Longboard Contest, which is run by the legendary Buffalo Kaulana.  Further north is Mākua Beach, known for its friendly dolphins. 

From Mākua Beach north is a long stretch of sandy beach called Keawa‘ula, which means “The red harbor,”[ii]and is “...said to be named for numerous cuttlefish [mūhe‘e] that color the water.”[iii]  Keawa‘ula is more commonly known as Yokohama Beach, a name that originated during the plantation era when large numbers of Japanese immigrant laborers fished in the area.  They came on the O‘ahu Railroad train, “...and so many of these fishermen came that the bay was called Yokohama Bay.”[iv]

Farrington Highway (Hwy. 93) follows the length of the Wai‘anae Coast to Ka‘ena Point State Park, passing many white-sand beaches along the way.

[Wai‘anae Coast, Farrington Highway (Hwy. 93).]

 



[i]Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini.  Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[ii]Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini.  Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iii]Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini.  Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iv]Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini.  Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.