Finding History at Waikapuna

John and I have made a point of 'getting to know' our Island during the 20 years we have lived here. It is a wonderful place to explore and was a joyful playground for our two sons when they were young. One of the places that has continued to draw us back time and again is the coastal shoreline from Kaalualu Bay to Kii. For those not familiar with the Big Island, I am speaking of the district of Kau, along the coast, near what is commonly known as South Point.  We travel there several times a year, to camp, to fish, to hike, and to explore. Our last visit to the area was this past week.

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Now, I must quantify that four wheeling in this area is not a riotous romp across the countryside.  It is a slow and cautious journey across a'a'  and pahoehoe lava fields. Usually we get distracted by something we see and hop from the Pathfinder to go explore on foot. But as I said, it was unusually windy on this particular day.  As a result, we explored in our Pathfinder much farther than we had ever gone before.

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Armed with both modern and really old maps of the area we pinpointed several locations by name, something we had been hoping to do for years. But the peak of our adventures was to reach the end of the tidal areas and come face to face with the southern end of the Kau Cliff line. What makes this area so special is that long ago it was home to a small fishing village, known as Waikapuna.

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This area is actually privately owned, but we know the owners and land managers and ALWAYS ask before we go for permission. Asking first is not only the right thing to do, it is the local thing to do. We had a wonderful time exploring the remains of old walls and buildings and of course the beautiful bay and ocean.

Waikapuna is testament to the changing nature of the Big Island. Waikapuna had been a thriving fishing village with fresh water springs located on old lava tubes. A series of earthquakes in the area changed the water table and ended the fresh water supply. Thus ended the once thriving fishing village. This all happened in the late 1800’s. It is still a beautiful spot, though it’s remote And difficult location makes it a place few can enjoy. Hopefully you may enjoy it vicariously though our photos.

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The winds swept the coast with more force than we were accustomed to (and the area is know for it's wind), as a result we did less hiking and more four wheel driving (NOT for the faint of heart or rental car) over sharp lava fields. Trust me, the last thing you want to happen in a remote area is to be blown over onto sharp lava.  

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A Look Back At "The Lovelist Fleet of Islands That Lie Anchored in Any Ocean"

The Title quote for this post is credited to Mark Twain, a great admirer of our lovely string of Islands. So enamored with our Islands, he actually went "missing" for a period of time. Going Native we call it; but you can not dismiss the powerful effect the mere mention of the words, The Hawaiian Islands, has upon people.

When you mention visiting Hawaii many  visualize Hawaii in the 1940's. It was a fun and glamorous time to visit Hawaii. It took 9 hours by plane back then, or four days on one of Matson's cruise liners: the SS Matsonia, The SS Lurline, or the SS Maraposa. Recently I had the good fortune to acquire a photo album that depicts a visit to the Islands of Hawaii in 1947. What a joy to see the islands of that time through the eyes of someone obviously enamored with all they were experiencing.

The Album begins with a wonderful inscription describing their arrival in Honolulu aboard the SS Matsonia:

"Will never forget our arrival! Small boats came out bringing lei; musicians singing and playing Hawaiian songs, and Hula dancers; [and] native boys diving for coins. When we docked, the Royal Hawaiian Band was playing, and everyone was there with more leis!"

How exciting it must have been to pull into the harbor next to the Aloha Tower and watch the small colorful boats arrive carrying locals greeting you with sweet Hawaiian songs and beautifully colored leis made from all kinds of exotic flowers. As if that were not enough, as soon as you disembarked from the ship you were greeted by the Royal Hawaiian Band, gloriously bedecked in White, red and gold. More exotic flower leis were given to so that each passenger had lei up to their ears! How fun! How adventurous it must have felt.

Well, gone are the days of diving for coins, and greeting passengers with armloads of lei. Luckily, however, all the airports still have lei stands and you will still see locals greeting their friends and family with lei, so not all is lost. But I confess, I do daydream about those lucky individuals who visited the islands during Hawaii's Boat Days.