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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, October 17, 2004

Kualoa offers rich Hawaiian history, views of Mokoli'i Islet

Advertiser Staff

Beach profile: Kualoa Regional Park, between Waikane and Ka'a'awa on O'ahu's Windward coast, has a narrow, white-sand beach. The ocean bottom off the beach is shallow, a mixture of reef and sand pockets. The center of the strand is named Hokule'a Beach in honor of the Hawaiian voyaging canoe that landed here in 1988, concluding a voyage from Tahiti. Mokoli'i Islet, 500 yards offshore, is part of the park and the only offshore islet around O'ahu, besides Coconut Island in Kane'ohe Bay, that is not part of the state seabird sanctuary.

Kualoa Regional Park, one of five parks on the shore of Kane'ohe Bay, is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. MAP

Advertiser library photo • Feb. 17, 1997

Ocean activities: Fishing, snorkeling and swimming.

What's there: Parking, picnic area, restrooms and showers.

Ocean conditions: Safe all year, with occasional strong currents along shore.

History: One of five parks on the shore of Kane'ohe Bay, Kualoa is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Kualoa means "long back," but also may be translated as "long ancestral background." The name may refer to the time when O'ahu's chiefs brought their children here to be trained as rulers and learn the traditions of their heritage. In deference to the sacredness of Kualoa, canoes passing by were required to lower their sails. The plain of Kualoa that makes up the beach park was called 'Apua.

Mokoli'i Islet, one of Windward O'ahu's most famous landmarks, lies off the park. Its creation is explained in a legend about Hi'iaka, a sister of Pele, goddess of the volcano. After Pele traveled across the Islands and finally made her home on the Big Island, she still wandered in her dreams as a spirit. During one of these travels, she found a handsome prince, Lohi'au, on Kaua'i and wanted to meet him. She asked each of her sisters to go to Kaua'i and bring him back, but they refused, foreseeing the dangers of the trip. Finally the youngest of the girls, Hi'iaka, agreed.

On O'ahu, as Hi'iaka followed the trail on the shore of Kane'ohe Bay, she was confronted by a mo'o, a large dragon-like creature. Using her supernatural power, Hi'iaka killed the mo'o, cut off his tail, and threw it into the ocean, where it became an island called Mokoli'i, or "little dragon." The islet has long been nicknamed Chinaman's Hat for its shape, which resembles an old-style Chinese laborer's hat.

The south end of Kualoa Regional Park is bordered by a 125-acre, rock-walled enclosure called Moli'i Fishpond, which was built by pre-contact Hawaiians to maintain a ready supply of seafood. In 1850, Dr. Gerrit P. Judd purchased the ahupua'a (land division) of Kualoa, including Moli'i Fishpond, from King Kamehameha III. Today, Judd's descendants, the Morgan family, still own the property and manage it as Kualoa Ranch and Activity Club.

The narrow white-sand beach that fronts Kualoa Regional Park also borders the seaward side of Moli'i Fishpond and was named Secret Island by Kualoa Ranch and Activity Club. Ranch visitors who select an ocean activity package are ferried across the fishpond to Secret Island, where they can swim, sail, snorkel, scuba dive, or paddle an outrigger canoe.

In the neighborhood: Kualoa Ranch; Tropical Farms, 49-227A Kamehameha Highway, sells fruits, flavored macadamia nuts, coffee, gifts and tropical plants.

Source: "Beaches of O'ahu" and "Hawai'i Place Names: Shores, Beaches and Surf Sites," both by John Clark