Historic Waikīkī

[Photograph: Old Waikīkī photo]

In ancient Hawaiian times, Waikīkī encompassed more than 2,000 acres (809 ha) of marshland.  The entire area was a vast drainage basin for the Ko‘olau Mountain Range. 

Early Hawaiians settlers converted the marshland into lo‘i kalo (taro patches), loko i‘a (fishponds) and other agricultural uses.  Fed by the waters of the Mānoa and Makiki Valleys, the land of Waikīkī was fertile and productive.

Steeped in history, Waikīkī was also the site of the 1795 landing of Kamehameha the Great’s war canoes during his last military conquest.  Having already conquered Hawai‘i Island, Maui, Lāna‘i, and Moloka‘i, Kamehameha landed a huge fleet of war canoes on O‘ahu’s south shore from Waikīkī to Wai‘alae, totaling an estimated 960 canoes, 20 foreign ships, and 16,000 fighters, many trained in modern musketry.

Kamehameha’s warriors advanced over the plains, battling an estimated 9,000 warriors of O‘ahu’s Chief, Kalanikūpule.  The fighting moved upland, culminating in the Battle of Nu‘uanu when Kamehameha’s troops drove the enemy up toward Nu‘uanu Pali where some of Kalanikūpule’s warriors escaped over the valley’s ridges and some made it down a trail at the end of the pali (cliff).  Others were driven over the edge of the cliffs of Nu‘uanu Pali. 

(Note: Accounts of this battle vary, and it may be that some warriors jumped rather than surrender.)  As many as 10,000 warriors may have died in the battle, making the confrontation the deadliest event ever in the Hawaiian Islands (including the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1795, April for more details of the Battle of Nu‘uanu.)


Waikīkī in Transition

Waikīkī began to change in the late 1800s as duck ponds replaced many areas that were formerly lo‘i kalo (taro patches) and loko i‘a (fishponds).  Land converted into duck ponds included the area that is now the site of the Ala Moana shopping center.  By the 1870s, very little taro was being produced in Waikīkī, which was dominated by rice fields planted primarily by Chinese immigrants. 

In 1877, King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] dedicated Kapi‘olani Park to his wife, Queen Kapi‘olani.  The spacious park, nearly 200 acres (81 ha) in size, is located at the eastern (Diamond Head) end of Waikīkī. 

The first public park in the Hawaiian Islands, Kapi‘olani Park was used at the turn of the century for horse racing, polo games, band concerts and other festive activities. (See Kapi‘olani Park below.)

Looking over Waikīkī is the geographical landmark known to science as a volcanic tuff cone, known in ancient Hawai‘i as Lē‘ahi, and with the modern name Diamond Head.  Rising to 760 feet (231 m), the natural landmark received its current name when 19th century British sailors mistook the volcanic cone’s calcite crystals for diamonds. (See Diamond Head below.)


Waikīkī—A Resort Destination

On March 11, 1901, the Moana Hotel opened.  The 75-room, four-story hotel was known as the “First Lady of Waikīkī,” and at the time it was the tallest building in the Hawaiian Islands. 

The architect of the building was Oliver Green Traphagen.  Fifteen years later, the hotel added 100 more rooms as well as a seaside courtyard. 

[Photograph: Moana Hotel]

In 1902, an electric trolley (tram line) was built to connect Waikīkī and downtown Honolulu.  This replaced the horse-driven tram cars.  The hotel and tram line construction began the process of popularizing Waikīkī as a resort destination, and was also the impetus for building the Ala Wai Canal to drain the wetlands.

The Ala Wai Canal was constructed from 1919 to 1928, with funds provided by the Waikīkī Reclamation Project, to drain the region’s wet marshes and make way for streets, businesses, hotels, and houses.  The former ponds were filled with coral rubble, creating some of the most valuable real estate in the Hawaiian Islands.

Waikīkī gradually became a place of quiet palm-lined beaches where the wealthy built their gingerbread-trimmed cottages.  It was also home to Hawaiian royalty, and was considered a place of healing, peace, and hospitality.  Influential tourists such as Robert Louis Stevenson (18501894), who visited Waikīkī in 1889 and 1893, sang its praises.

In 1926, Aloha Tower opened on the waterfront at Honolulu Harbor, becoming the tallest structure in the Hawaiian Islands.  The 184-foot (56-m) high tower is topped with a 40-foot (12-m) flagstaff and a 7-ton (6.4-mton) clock. The building was designed by architect Arthur Reynolds. 

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (nicknamed thePink Palace) opened in February of 1927, continuing the restructuring of Waikīkī’s coastline and increasing its reputation as an exotic playground for the rich and famous. 

The two million dollar hotel, with its elegant chandeliers, high ceilings, pink stucco walls, and pink turrets, was built and owned by the Matson Navigation Company.

[Photograph: Royal Hawaiian Hotel]


Matson also built a $7.5-million premier cruise ship, the Malolo, which held up to 650 passengers and provided luxurious transportation to the fine new hotel. 

Guests such as Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Ford II, Babe Ruth, and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed the accommodations, which would eventually attract a whole multitude of heirs, heiresses, and Hollywood stars such as Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

The Ala Moana shopping center now sits on an area that was marshland in the early 1900s when much of it was 3 feet (.9 m) underwater and covered with duck farms.  In 1931, the City and County of Honolulu acted to clean up the area, which had also been the site of a refuse dump. 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated Moana Park in 1934, and it was renamed Ala Moana in 1947.  Eventually sand was brought to the beachfront area, and the two-story Ala Moana shopping center was built on the adjacent 50 acres (20 ha) of land.  The Ala Moana shopping center opened in 1959, the same year the Hawaiian Islands were admitted as the 50th state.


The Waikīkī Beachboys

From the 1920s to the 1950s, a group of water sports instructors working on the beaches fronting the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Hotels came to be known as the Waikīkī Beachboys. 

The first Waikīkī Beach Patrol was organized in the 1930s.  Many of the Beachboys had colorful names such as Toots, Chick, Steamboat and Turkey.

One of the most famous of the Beachboys was the legendary surfer and Olympic gold medallist Duke Kahanamoku (see Duke Kahanamoku, Chapter 3).  Duke and other local surfers founded Hui Nalu (Club of the Waves) in 1911, and many of the club members eventually became Waikīkī Beachboys. 

Their clients along Waikīkī’s beachfront were mostly wealthy visitors who wanted to surf or ride an outrigger canoe in the waves.  Clients also included Hawaiian royalty as well as the general public. 

Many visitors to Waikīkī stayed for lengthy periods of time, and the Beachboys developed friendships with them, and also shared with them their aloha spirit as well as insights into Hawaiian culture. 

There were also many gifted musicians among the Beachboys.  Of course, the Waikīkī Beachboys also had many female clients, and rumors of the Beachboys’ amorous adventures abound.


O ka papa he‘e nalu kēia, pahe‘e i ka nalu ha‘i o Makaiwa.

This is the surfboard that will glide on the rolling surf of Makaiwa.

A woman’s boast. Her beautiful body is like the surfboard

on which her mate “glides over the rolling surf.”

                                                                                    (Pukui: 2433-265)


 The Hawaiian Islands increasingly became more accessible as a vacation destination for the average United States citizen.  Consequently, the length of a typical visitor’s stay in the Islands became shorter, and the nature of tourism began to change. 

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States entered World War II and Martial Law was imposed in the Hawaiian Islands.  The carefree lifestyle of the Islands changed drastically, and the golden era of the Waikīkī Beachboys ended.

In 1973, the Waikīkī Beachboys Canoe Club was formed to restore the original image of Waikīkī Beachboys, embodying not only surfing and canoe paddling skills, but also a generous and open-hearted aloha spirit.

[Illustration: Outrigger canoe in Waikīkī]

Modern WaikīkīBeaches, Historic Sites, and other Attractions

Waikīkī is a cosmopolitan melting pot of hotels, parks, gourmet restaurants, fast food outlets, lively dance clubs, countless shopping opportunities, nightlife, and something for just about everyone. 

Just ½-mile (.8 km) wide by 1½ miles (2.4 km) long, Waikīkī has more than 25,000 residents, 70,000 visiting tourists, 500 restaurants, more than 1,000 shops, and more than 190 hotels and vacation condominiums, along with hundreds of entertainment venues, all in an area of only about 681 acres (276 ha). 

Waikīkī is lined with white sandy beaches, calm water, and great surfing areas for beginners.  Surfboards are available for rent, along with other water sports equipment.

The whole length of sand fronting Waikīkī is generally known as Waikīkī Beach, but various individual beaches along this stretch of coastline are named, including Kahanamoku Beach (named after “The Duke”). 

There are many legendary surf spots offshore, including Rock Piles, Kaisers, Canoes, Queen’s, and Castles.  Famous old hotels still grace the beach, including the Moana Hotel (1901) and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (1927).

The following is an overview of Waikīkī’s beaches along information about historic sites in the area.  The overview of Waikīkī moves from west to east, including beaches, historic locations, and other important sites that may all be seen along the relatively short but world famous stretch of coastline.


Ala Wai Canal

[Photograph: Ala Wai Canal]

The Ala Wai Canal is a prominent Waikīkī waterway that runs for 25 blocks, separating Waikīkī from Honolulu.  Constructed from 1919 to 1928, the Ala Wai Canal was built to help drain the water from what used to be the wetlands and marshes of Waikīkī (see Historic Waikīkī section above).  Waikiki means “Spouting water,” a reminder of how wet the area was before the Ala Wai Canal was constructed.

When Waikīkī’s water was captured and diverted, the land became a world-class resort area.  While driving alongside the Ala Wai Canal today one commonly sees walkers and joggers enjoying the waterside path while paddlers ply the waterway in their outrigger canoes.


Kahanamoku Beach and Lagoon

Location: Western end of Waikīkī in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel.

Kahanamoku Beach includes a pier and breakwater, and coral running between the two acts as a break to provide a safe swimming area.  The pier also provides a water taxi service to catamaran and submarine cruises.  A grassy park area fronting Kahanamoku Beach provides ample room for relaxing.

  The beach is named after Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Hawaiian surfer and Olympic champion swimmer who later became a movie star (1922-1933), and then the Sheriff of the City and County of Honolulu for 26 years (1934 to1960). (See Duke Kahanamoku, Chapter 3.) 


Fort DeRussy Beach

Location: Fronting Fort DeRussy Military Reservation, Waikīkī.

Fort DeRussy Beach extends for about 1,800 feet (549 m) along the Waikīkī coastline.  There are two huts that rent water sports equipment.  Bordering the beach are picnic tables, green grass, shady trees and picnic shelters that are all part of the 20 acres (8 ha) of government property known as Fort DeRussy Military Reservation used as a recreational area for United States military personnel and their families.

Founded in 1908, Fort DeRussy Beach was named after Brigadier General Rene E. DeRussy, who served with distinction in the Corps of Engineers in the American-British War of 1812.


U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i

Location: Kālia and Saratoga Roads / Phone: 808-438-2821

[Photograph: World War II tanks in front of Museum]

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i at Fort DeRussy opened on December 7, 1976, the 35th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event that entered the United States into World War II.  The museum’s collection of weapons is housed in a concrete-reinforced building known as Battery Randolph, which was built in 1911 as one of six coastal artillery battery defenses constructed on O‘ahu from 1908 to 1915. 

The concrete roof and walls of the Fort are 12 feet (3.7 m) thick, except for the wall on the ocean side, which is 22 feet (6.7 m) thick.  The structure was almost demolished by the military in 1969, but when the wrecking ball broke they reconsidered, and established the museum.

The Battery once held two 14-inch (36-cm) guns that had a range of about 11 miles (18 km) and fired projectiles weighing 1,560 pounds (708 kg).  The guns were designed to recoil down into the building for reloading after each firing, and then were returned into firing position with the assistance of a 55-ton (50-mton) counterweight.

The U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i now exhibits weaponry from wars fought by the United States as well as weaponry of ancient Hawai‘i.  On display are World War II tanks and other weapons from U.S. wars, as well as traditional Hawaiian weapons such as shark-tooth clubs. 

Photographs, scale models, dioramas, and other educational displays provide information about the military history of the Hawaiian Islands, from the wars of King Kamehameha I that established the Hawaiian Kingdom, to the pivotal role of the Hawaiian Islands in World War II.


Gray’s Beach

Location: Just to the east (Diamond Head) side of the Halekūlani Hotel.

[Photograph: Gray’s Beach, Halekūlani Hotel]

A boardinghouse called Gray’s-by-the-Sea once stood in front of this beach.  The boardinghouse was run by Mrs. LaVancha Gray, the namesake of the beach.  Before 1912, the boardinghouse was the J. Gilman residence. 

Depending on the tides, this beach may be totally submerged due to a seawall in front of the hotel.  The beach is also at the location where an opening in the reef was created for a boat landing.

Gray’s Beach was traditionally used as a place of healing, and bathing in the water was done as a treatment for the sick.  The beach’s reef entrance and channel is traditionally known as Kawehewehe (“The removal”), and was a place where Hawaiians that were ill came to bathe for healing purposes. 

Some patients would wear a lei of limu kala (Sargassum echinocarpum) into the water, and then leave it there in hopes of forgiveness for transgressions. (See Limu Kala, Chapter 8.) 

The Waikīkī area in general was considered a place of healing, and royalty in particular came to Waikīkī to convalesce and recuperate.  The renowned coastal region was also home to many kāhuna lapa‘au (traditional healers).


Statue of Princess Ka‘iulani

Location: Corner of Kānekapōlei and Kūhiō Streets in Waikīkī.

Stepping away from the coast for a moment is well worth it to see the statue of the beloved Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani.  The statue was dedicated on October 16, 1999, the 124th anniversary of her birth.  The 7-foot (2.1-m) bronze sculpture depicts the princess holding her hand out to a peacock. 

Princess Ka‘iulani had many peacocks (also known by the Hawaiian word pīkake), and was referred to by some as the “Princess of the Peacocks.”  The birds roamed the gardens of fragrant, white Arabian jasmine flowers (Jasminum sambac)at Princess Ka‘iulani’s spacious Waikīkīestate known as ‘Āinahau, which was built by her father, Archibald Scott Cleghorn, the Governor of O‘ahu. 

The blossom of the white Arabian jasmine flower was a favorite of Princess Ka‘iulani.  From its association with the young princess, the Arabian jasmine flower later became known by the Hawaiian term pīkake.

Princess Ka‘iulani was proclaimed heir apparent to the Hawaiian Kingdom when Queen Lili‘uokalani [Lydia Kamaka‘eha Pākī-Dominis Lili‘uokalani] ascended to the throne in 1891.  The young princess attended boarding school in England, and was a talented artist, musician, horseback rider, and swimmer.  She was also active in many charitable causes.

On March 6, 1899, at the age of 23, Princess Ka‘iulani died at ‘Āinahau, where her favored flowers grew and where her peacocks roamed.  The princess had become ill after going horseback riding in a rainstorm.  Though her death was attributed to a fever, many believe she died of a broken heart, as the last Hawaiian princess, and heiress to a vanished throne. 

On the night Princess Ka‘iulani died, her peacocks (pīkake) are said to have made extremely loud vocal displays of their grief. (See Chapter 11, Timeline: 1875 for Biographical Sketch of Princess Ka‘iulani; also see Pīkake in Lei Flowers, Chapter 3.)


Royal Moana Beach / Central Waikīkī Beach

Location: In front of the Royal Moana, Outrigger Waikīkī and Royal Hawaiian hotels.

This sandy beach area includes a beach activity center (operated by the Outrigger) that provides opportunities for surfing and canoe rides.  Offshore from this beach are the famous surfing spots known as Canoes and Queen’s.  Those interested in Hawaiian history should take a tour of the Moana Hotel, built in 1901, and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, built in 1927. (See Historic Waikīkī section.)

Opposite the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī Hotel is the Waikīkī Beach Center.  The availability of food, canoe rentals, restrooms, and benches make this a favorite place for locals to congregate. 


Nā Pōhaku Ola Kapaemāhu Ā Kapuni—The Stones of Life

Location: Eastern side of the Waikīkī Beach Center.

[Photograph: The Stones of Life]

These four large boulders known as Nā Pōhaku Ola Kapaemāhu Ā Kapuni are also known as the Stones of Life, and sometimes are referred to as the Wizard Stones of Kapaemāhu.  According to legend, the four large rocks hold the secrets and the healing forces of four powerful Tahitian healers: Kahāloa, Kapuni, Kinohi and Kapaemāhū.

The healers once resided at Ulukou (“Kou-tree grove”) in Waikīkī, where the Moana Hotel is today.  The four Tahitian healers are said to have come from Moa‘ulanuiakea on the island of Raiatea, sometime before the 1500s, around the same time that the reign of the beloved O‘ahu chief Kākuhihewa began. 

The fame of the powerful Tahitian healers grew as they traveled throughout the Hawaiian Islands administering cures.  When it came time for the men to return to their homeland, four huge stones were quarried from the Kaimukī area of Honolulu.  The Tahitian healers are said to have transferred their own powers into the boulders before leaving the Hawaiian Islands. 

The stones were placed on a paepae (stone platform) and an ahu (altar) in 1997.  The largest of the stones weighs about 7.5 tons (6.8 mtons).  Also now on display is a small stone from the healers’ homeland.  This stone was presented to the Hawaiians by Tahitians from Raiatea for the 1997 ceremonies.  They named this stone Ta‘ahu, which means “The Life.”


Statue of Duke Kahanamoku

Location: East (Diamond Head) side of the Waikīkī Beach Center.

[Photograph: Duke Kahanamoku]


He kā‘e‘a‘e‘a pulu ‘olo no ka he‘e nalu.

An expert on the surfboard who does not get wet.

Praise of an outstanding surfer.

                                                (Pukui: 649-73)


 Along the Waikīkī waterfront is the 9-foot (2.7-m) statue of Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), a famous Hawaiian waterman and Olympic swimming champion.

A full-blooded Hawaiian and a descendant of Hawaiian royalty, Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was born August 24, 1890.  In 1905, Duke Kahanamoku surfed Waikīkī and began the rebirth of Hawaiian surfing.  He also introduced surfing to other places around the world, including Australia, Europe, and the United States.

  In 1911, Duke set an American swimming record in the 100-yard sprint.  He later went on to set a world record, and won a total of 6 medals in the 1912, 1920, 1924, and 1932 Olympics.  Duke had a career in Hollywood from 1925 to 1933, appearing in about 30 movies. 

Yet another of Duke’s accomplishments was serving as Sheriff of Honolulu for 26 years, from 1934 to 1960 (13 consecutive terms).  He was also credited with saving many lives through brave ocean rescues, including a daring rescue offshore of Coronal del Mar, California in 1925, where he saved eight people from a capsized launch by rescuing them on his surfboard. 

Duke Kahanamoku was later designated as Hawai‘i’s official “ambassador of aloha.” (See Duke Kahanamoku, Chapter 3.)


Kūhiō Beach Park

            Kūhiō Beach Park is named after Prince Kūhiō [Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Pi‘ikoi] (1871-1922), whose home fronting this beach was torn down in 1936. (See Statue of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole below, and Chapter 11, Timeline: 1871, Mar. 26.)  At the eastern end of Kūhiō Beach Park is Kapahulu Groin, a storm drain extending out into the water.  This is also a favorite spot for body boarders to display their skills. 

A breakwater extending from the Kapahulu Groin parallel to the beach for about 1,300 feet (396 m) provides a relatively safe area to watch bodyboarders and surfers who daringly ride the waves toward the wall, often barely avoiding a collision to the amazement of onlookers.  \

Sidewalk pavilions make Kūhiō Beach Park a popular gathering place for locals playing chess and cribbage.


Statue of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole

Location: Ocean side of Kalākaua Avenue near where it intersects with ‘Ohua Avenue. 

[Photograph: Statue of Prince Kūhiō]

Prince Kūhiō [Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Pi‘ikoi] was born on March 26, 1871 to David Kahelepouli Pi‘ikoi and Princess Esther Kinoiki Kekaulike near Hō‘ai Bay at Kukui‘ula (“Red light”[i]) west of Kōloa, Kaua‘i.  

Prince Kūhiō was the nephew of Queen Kapi‘olani (sister of Princess Esther Kinoiki Kekaulike), who adopted him, and the great grandson of Kaumuali‘i, the paramount ruler of Kaua‘i who ceded the island to King Kamehameha I in 1810 to avoid war.

Prince Kūhiō was born in the Kōloa region of Kaua‘i’s southern coast near Hō‘ai Bay in a grass house at an ancient fishing village called Kukui‘ula (“Red light”[ii]).  He was the youngest of three boys, all considered ali‘i (royalty) due to their royal descent from Kaua‘i’s paramount ruler (king) Kaumuali‘i.  One brother, Edward Keali‘ihonui, died in his teens. 

Jonah Kūhiō and his other brother David Kawānanakoa were adopted into the childless royal family of King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] and Queen Kapi‘olani after the boys’ father, David Kahalepouli Pi‘ikoi, died when Kūhiō was ten.

Kalaniana‘ole, means “The royal chief without measure,”[iii]referring to the prince’s noble heredity, which includes the royal lineage of Kūhiō’s mother, Esther Kinoiki Kekaulike, who was appointed governor of Hawai‘i Island by King Kalākaua.

When Kūhiō was 13 years old, King Kalākaua declared Jonah and his brother David princes by royal decree with the intent that they would carry on the Kalākaua dynasty.  King Kalākaua and Queen Kapi‘olani held an official coronation on February 12, 1883 at ‘Iolani Palace, and the jeweled royal crowns were carried by Prince Kūhiō and his brother David Kawānanakoa.

Due to his cherubic and handsome looks, Prince Kūhiō was sometimes referred to as Prince Cupid, a name given to him in his youth by his French teacher.  Prince Kūhiō attended the Royal School (known as Chiefs’ Children’s School until 1846) and Punahou School on O‘ahu, and then attended St. Matthew’s College in California before enrolling in the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, England.  He then graduated from an English business school.

Prince Kūhiō was a master of the traditional Hawaiian art of lua (ancient Hawaiian form of martial arts).  He also competed on school teams in the sports of football and track.

In 1884, Kūhiō was appointed to the Cabinet of the Hawaiian Kingdom by Kalākau to administer the Department of the Interior.  With the support of King Kalākaua, Prince Kūhiō studied Japanese culture and government for one year in Japan.  The king hoped the Prince would find a royal Japanese bride and form a marital alliance between the Hawaiian Islands and Japan.

Prince Kūhiō was named as presumptive heir to the throne by Queen Lili‘uokalani after she ascended to the throne in 1891, making Kūhiō the last royally-designated heir.  After he returned to the Hawaiian Islands just before the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893, Prince Kūhiō worked to restore Queen Lili‘uokalani [Lydia Kamaka‘eha Pākī-Dominis Lili‘uokalani] to the throne.

In 1895 at the age of 24, Prince Kūhiō participated in a royalist uprising (a counter-revolution) against the Republic of Hawai‘i, and was arrested by the Provisional Government, charged with treason, and imprisoned for one year.

After his release from prison, Prince Kūhiō married Elizabeth Kahanu Ka‘auwai, a full-blooded Hawaiian chiefess who was the daughter of a Maui chief, and they took a trip to Africa.  Disheartened by the events in the Hawaiian Islands, Prince Kūhiō joined the British Army in South Africa in the Boer War.

Prince Kūhiō was next in line to ascend to the throne after Princess Ka‘iulani passed away in 1899, but the restoration of the monarchy became more unlikely with each passing year.

Prince Kūhiō and his wife returned to the Hawaiian Islands in 1901.  He helped organize the Republican Party in 1902 and that same year he was elected as the Territory of Hawai‘i’s second, non-voting delegate to the United States Congress (after Robert W. Wilcox (1855—1903)), serving in the position for a total of 20 years (ten, two-year terms) until he died in 1922.

Prince Kūhiō helped to found the Order of Kamehameha in 1903 and the Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu in 1918.  The Civic Club’s tradition of community involvement continues today.

Due to his political efforts to help Hawaiians and promote self-sufficiency among the native population, Prince Kūhiō was known as Ke Ali‘i Maka‘āinana, which means “Chief of the Commoners,” “Citizen Prince,” or “Prince of the People.”

Throughout his life, Prince Kūhiō worked to preserve the traditions and culture of native Hawaiians.  One of Prince Kūhiō’s legacies was his inspired involvement in the passing of the Hawaiian Homestead Commission Act, which was enacted on July 9, 1921 to provide low-cost homestead and farming land to Hawaiians with at least 50% native Hawaiian ancestry based on blood quantum.

A total of 203,500 acres (82,354 ha) was designated as “available lands” for the program, but the sugar companies had lobbied to exclude all areas that were not used for sugar, which included most of the best agricultural land in the Hawaiian Islands.  No money was available to develop the second-tier parcels and thus most of the lands were not used.

During the first 70 years after the passage of Hawaiian Homestead Commission Act of 1920, just 3,000 families received lands and many people who were on the original list of applications passed away before receiving land.

Of his political efforts, Prince Kūhiō stated, “The legislation proposed seeks to place the Hawaiian back on the soil, so that the valuable and sturdy traits of that race, peculiarly adapted to the islands, shall be preserved to posterity.”[iv]

Prince Kūhiō’s home was called Pualeilani, which means “Flower from the wreath of heaven.”  The home was located across Kalākaua Avenue from Kūhiō Beach Park.

Prince Kūhiō passed away due to heart disease on January 7, 1922 at the age of 50.  He was given the last state funeral held for a Hawaiian ali‘i (royalty), and was laid to rest at the Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu, O‘ahu at Mauna‘ala (“Fragrant mountain”[v]).

Prince Kūhiō Park is located near the Prince Kūhiō’s birthplace on Kaua‘i’s southern shore west of Kōloa.  The park features a pond and terraced stone walls, Hō‘ai Heiau, and a statue of the prince that was unveiled on June 17, 1928 with about 10,000 people in attendance.

Prince Kūhiō’s life is celebrated with an annual state holiday each year on Prince Kūhiō Day, the prince’s birthday, March 26.  Prince Kūhiō Day is traditionally a day of canoe races and other local events, including a ceremony at Prince Kūhiō Park on Kaua‘i.

            Kūhiō Beach Park in Waikīkī is named after Prince Kūhiō [Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Pi‘ikoi] (1871-1922), whose home fronting the beach was torn down in 1936.

            (See Kūhiō Beach Park; and Statue of Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole in O‘ahu section, Chapter 2; Prince Kūhiō Park/Hō‘ai Heiau in Kaua‘i section, Chapter 2; and Chapter 11: Timeline: 1871, March 26 for Biographical Sketch of Prince Kūhiō.)


Damien Museum

Location: 130 ‘Ōhua Avenue, Waikīkī / Phone: 808-923-2690

Open 9-3, Mon.-Fri. / Website: www.smcenter.org/staugustine

[Photograph: Damien Museum (artifacts inside; vestment of Father Damien)]

The Damien Museum is a small museum but an important place to visit for anyone interested in Hawaiian history.  The museum is located behind St. Augustine’s Church on the corner of Kalākaua Ave. and Ohua Ave. on the Waikīkī waterfront.  St. Augustine’s Church is a steep-roofed structure that is hard to miss, and is notable for its many, beautiful works of stained glass.

Housed in a separate building behind the church, the Damien Museum honors Father Damien (Joseph Damien DeVeuster), who was born in Belgium on January 3, 1840.  Father Damien became a member of the Missionary Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, and in 1864 he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest at Honolulu’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace.

In 1873, Father Damien volunteered to go to Moloka‘i’s Kalaupapa Peninsula to minister to the victims of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), which is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a slow-growing bacterium.  Father Damien died of leprosy at Kalaupapa 16 years later, on April 15, 1889.

The Damien Museum features video presentations related to Father Damien, as well as photographs, artifacts and some of the legendary priest’s personal effects.  Referred to as the “Martyr of Moloka‘i,” Father Damien is also immortalized in a statue that faces Beretania St. on O‘ahu, in front of the State Capitol Building.

A selfless servant to those in need, Father Damien was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 4, 1995 in Brussels, Belgium. (For more information on Father Damien, see Moloka‘i section; Statue of Father Damien in Honolulu section; and Chapter 11, Timeline: 1865; 1873; 1889; 1969; 1995.)


Kapi‘olani Beach Park

Location: Extends from the Kapahulu Groin past Waikīkī Aquarium.

The waters offshore of the midsection of Kapi‘olani Beach Park are a favorite area for bodyboarders.  The surf spot offshore is known as Publics. 

A grass lawn and coconut palms along Kapi‘olani Beach Park provide a pleasant place to relax.  The Queen’s Surf pavilion has showers and restrooms, and a concession called The Beach House sells various food items.  Mauka (toward the mountains) and across the Kalākaua Avenue is Kapi‘olani Park (see below).


War Memorial Natatorium

[Photograph: War Memorial Natatorium]

The War Memorial Natatorium is a tide-fed, saltwater pool that serves as a memorial to the 179 men and women of the Hawaiian Islands that died as soldiers in World War I. 

Built in 1927, the memorial includes a 20-foot (6.1-m) high Memorial Archway with a Beaux Arts facade and a 100-meter-long, tide-fed, saltwater pool, the largest saltwater pool in the United States. 

Champion swimmers such as Duke Kahanamoku and Johnny Weissmuller used the War Memorial Natatorium pool for training.  Today the pool is in serious disrepair.  A court order in 1999 allowed the City of Honolulu to proceed with an $11 million restoration project that disallowed work on the pool itself until state rules were met.   

In May of 2004, a section of the pool’s deck collapsed, and the rest of the structure was determined to be at risk of collapsing unless the sea walls and pool deck were shored up and stabilized.  Scheduled restoration work was cancelled by Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann on January 3, 2005, his first day in office. (See War Memorial Natatorium.)

[Photograph: War Memorial Natatorium]


Sans Souci Beach

Location: East of War Memorial Natatorium.

Sans Souci Beach provides a calm swimming area to the east of the War Memorial Natatorium and near the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. 

The name Sans Souci is French for “without care” and was also the name of a small hotel that once stood where the new hotel is now.  Famed author Robert Louis Stevenson penned his praises of the area while he stayed at the San Souci Hotel for five weeks in 1893. 

The reef-protected swimming area at San Souci Beach makes it a favorite among many locals who swim their daily laps there.  The beach is also a popular snorkeling area, and showers are available. 

Just to the east of San Souci Beach is the Outrigger Canoe Club Beach, in front of the Outrigger Canoe Club, which was founded in 1908.  Offshore is the surf spot now known as Castles, but in ancient times the surf spot was known as Kalehuawehe, which means (“Removed lehua lei”). 

The name refers to the legend of Pīkoi, who wore a lehua lei while trying to convince a surfing chiefess (the wife of a ruling chief) to give him her board.  She refused because the board was kapu (sacred), but Pīkoi gave the chiefess his lei.


Ka nalu ha‘i o Kalehuawehe.

The rolling surf of Kalehuawehe.

Ka-lehua-wehe (Take-off-the-lehua) was Waikīkī’s most famous surf. It was so named when a legendary hero took off his lei of lehua blossoms and gave it to the wife of the ruling chief, with

whom he was surfing.

                                                (Pukui: 1493-161)


It is said that Kalehuawehe surf spot was created by a stream that once ran through the center of Waikīkī and then emptied into the ocean near where the Moana Hotel is today. 

The stream, known as ‘Āpuakēhau (which means “Basket of dew”), is said to have carved out the seafloor offshore from Waikīkī, creating the legendary surf spot.  The construction of the Ala Wai Canal in 1919 meant the end of ‘Āpuakēhau Stream.


Kapi‘olani Park

Location: Eastern (Diamond Head) end of Waikīkī.

[Photograph: Kapi‘olani Park]

Kapi‘olani Park was dedicated in 1877 and named by King Kalākaua [David La‘amea Kalākaua] to honor his wife, Queen Kapi‘olani.  The park was once the site of band concerts, polo games, horse races, and (later) car races.  After the Hawaiian Islands were annexed by the United States in 1898, Kapi‘olani Park was used as an encampment by the United States Army.

In modern times, Kapi‘olani Park serves a variety of uses, hosting sporting events and musical concerts, and providing a nice place to rest under a shady banyan tree. 

With a great view of Diamond Head (Lē‘ahi), Kapi‘olani Park spans over nearly 200 acres (80 ha), and includes large grassy lawns as well as sports fields and tennis courts.  Shady areas are provided by tall banyans, palms and ironwood trees.

A stage in the park is known as the Kapi‘olani Bandstand, and is the site of hula performances.  The bandstand is also used for concerts by popular bands, and the Royal Hawaiian Band often plays free Sunday afternoon concerts. 

An outdoor amphitheater in the park is known as the Waikīkī Shell, and hosts rock concerts as well as other musical events, including the Honolulu Symphony.


Honolulu Zoo

Location: 151 Kapahulu Ave / Phone: 808-923-7723

[Photograph: Animals at Honolulu Zoo]

Also in Kapi‘olani Park is the Honolulu Zoo, which covers about 42 acres (17 ha).  The zoo is home to about 300 species, with an African Savanna section that has zebras, giraffes, hippos, white rhinos, monkeys, lions, and cheetahs.  Other major attractions at the zoo include two elephants, many tropical birds, and a petting zoo.

The fence around the Honolulu Zoo is the site of the Zoo Fence Art Mart, an outdoor art market tradition that goes back decades and is still held several times each week.  It is known as a great place to buy some local paintings.

The Kapi‘olani Bandstand, the Waikīkī Shell, and the Honolulu Zoo are all at the western end of Kapi‘olani Park.  Near the shoreline at the eastern (Diamond Head) end of the Kapi‘olani Park is the Waikīkī Aquarium (see below).


Waikīkī Aquarium

Location: 2777 Kalākaua Avenue, Waikīkī / Phone: 808-923-9741

Open 9-5 daily;

[Photograph: People looking at aquarium exhibit in Waikīkī Aquarium]

The Waikīkī Aquarium is at the eastern (Diamond Head) end of Kapi‘olani Park, by the ocean.  Founded in 1904, it is the oldest aquarium west of the Mississippi River, and is also the United States’ third oldest public aquarium.

Exhibiting more than 2,500 organisms, Waikīkī Aquarium includes more than 420 species of aquatic plants and animals, including black-tip reef sharks, giant clams, translucent jellyfish, colorful reef fish, living coral species, moray eels, a Hawaiian green sea turtle, and Hawaiian monk seals, just to name a few of the species. 

The aquarium also provides many interactive, educational opportunities for children, including the “touch-me tide pool.”  A small theater shows short educational films.


[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.  Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

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

[iv]p. 182.  Seiden, Allan.  Hawai‘i: The Royal Legacy.  Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1992.

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