A Royal Legacy

Waikiki Magazine - - ILOVE WAIKIKI - By Al­li­son Schae­fers

Some vis­i­tors may re­al­ize that Hawai‘i is the only U.S. state with a palace; how­ever, most prob­a­bly don’t as­so­ciate Waikiki with a royal his­tory. The two-mile dis­trict was the land­ing site of the fierce war­rior King Kame­hameha I, who united the Hawai­ian Is­lands af­ter a per­sua­sive bat­tle at Nu‘uanu Pali. For cen­turies, it was also the pre­ferred play­ground of royals like Princess Ber­nice Pauahi Bishop, Queen Lili‘uokalani, and Queen Kapi‘olani, who was the name­sake for Hawai‘i’s first pub­lic park.

The agri­cul­tural pas­tures, the fish and taro ponds, the wet­lands and the streams, that gave Waikiki its name, “spout­ing wa­ters” are long gone. Still, on a glo­ri­ous day in Waikiki nei, it’s not hard to see why roy­alty flocked to th­ese shores the same way that throngs of tourists do to­day.

Waikiki’s royal ties go back to the an­cient Kings of O‘ahu, in­clud­ing Ma‘ilikukahi, who ruled in the mid1400s to 1500s, but it was Kakuhi­hewa, who ruled six gen­er­a­tions af­ter him, that is most as­so­ci­ated with Helu­moa in the cen­tral part of Waikiki, where the Royal Hawai­ian Cen­ter now stands. Kakuhi­hewa’s en­counter with a part-rooster demigod is said to have in­spired the name Helu­moa, which means chicken scratch.

The re­gion’s rich royal her­itage and sea ac­cess may have been one of the rea­sons that Kame­hameha I set up camp at Helu­moa as his army be­gan their con­quest of O‘ahu in 1795. They also es­tab­lished Waikiki as the first cap­i­tal of the King­dom of Hawai‘i. Nearly one hun­dred years later, a 10,000-tree co­conut grove stood at the same spot, where Princess Ber­nice Pauahi Bishop had a sum­mer home. It was here in the sim­ple grass cot­tage that Bishop con­va­lesced from breast can­cer and penned the cod­i­cil to her will that es­tab­lished schools for in­dige­nous Hawai­ian chil­dren and upon her death in 1884 made Kame­hameha Schools one of the wealth­i­est real es­tate own­ers in the state. The Royal Hawai­ian Cen­ter, the trust’s largest real es­tate as­set, now stands on the spot.

Just across the street, an iconic banyan tree in the In­ter­na­tional Mar­ket­place marks the spot where King Wil­liam Kana‘ina Lu­nalilio had a sum­mer res­i­dence and en­joyed the quiet life and fish­ing in the area known as Kalu­okau. Nearby, the beloved Princess Vic­to­ria Ka‘iu­lani Kalan­inuiahi­la­palapa Kawekiu i Lu­nalilo Cleghorn’s es­tate, Ai­na­hau, was lo­cated near what is now known as the Sher­a­ton Princess Kaiu­lani Ho­tel.

King‘s Al­ley, the tourist-ori­ented com­plex be­hind the Hy­att Re­gency Waikiki Beach Re­sort and Spa, was once the home of King David Kalakaua, who was dubbed the Merrie Monarch and was the first Hawai­ian king to visit the U.S. main­land. He es­tab­lished Kapi‘olani Park, which was orig­i­nally a race track and recre­ational area, be­fore it was given to the peo­ple of Hawai‘i for a park ded­i­cated to his wife Queen Kapi‘olani. The Waikiki Beach Mar­riott now stands close to ‘Ohua Street where Hawai‘i’s last reign­ing monarch, Queen Lili‘uokalani, built a home called Paoakalani on lands she called Hamo­hamo. While mod­ern-day Waikiki with its mega ho­tels, paved roads and throngs of vis­i­tors looks very dif­fer- ent from the lands that the an­cient royals trea­sured, traces of their time there re­main. Street names such as Kalakaua Av­enue, Lili‘uokalani Av­enue, Kapi‘olani Boule­vard, Ka‘iu­lani Av­enue, Kuamo‘o Street, Kalan­imoku Street, and No­ho­nani Street bear royal names or are af­fil­i­ated with their hold­ings. About five years ago, the Royal Hawai­ian Cen­ter took its royal homage fur­ther by tear­ing down its con­crete fortresses and reestab­lish­ing a na­tive Hawai­ian gar­den and cul­tural cen­ter in trib­ute to its pa­tron Princess Pauahi. Now, it’s in the process of ex­pand­ing its his­toric en­hance­ments.

“We want to reawaken the sto­ries and the pres­ence of our an­ces­tors via story telling, mu­sic, chant and hula,” said Manu Boyd, the cul­tural ex­pert for Kame­he­meha Schools and The Fes­ti­val Com­pa­nies. “While it’s ob­vi­ously en­joyed by our mal­i­hini (tourists) and kama‘aina (lo­cals), the idea be­hind it is to pay honor to the land it­self. Boyd points out that the “mana” or sa­cred spirtual force an­cient Poly­ne­sian cul­ture at­tached to peo­ple, places and things con­tin­ues to reign over all that is Waikiki. He’s right. It doesn’t take a sov­er­eign’s de­cree to re­al­ize that the essence of Waikiki—the clear aqua­ma­rine wa­ters, the lush green fo­liage and the sparkling olivine-rich crater— tran­scends that which can be built or bought. Yes, th­ese are the crown jewels of Hawai‘i.


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