Kealakekua Bay Archaeological and Historical District
Thousands of Hawaiians once lived in small villages along the shores and hillsides surrounding Kealakekua Bay. Fishing, surfing, swimming and canoe paddling filled the protected waters of the bay with activity. Cultivated upland garden plots, within easy walking distance of the shore, supplied residents with food and materials for clothing. Religious and ceremonial life was centered around Hikiau Heiau, where kahuna and alii fulfilled their ritual duties.
In 1779, this world changed forever with the arrival of Capt. James Cook. Once news of the existence of the Sandwich Islands reached Europe, explorers and traders sailed to Kealakekua Bay in increasing numbers. By 1820, ships carrying cargoes of California cattle, sea otter furs and whale oil dropped anchor off Kaawaloa, the principal village on the northern side of the bay. Hawaiians had no way to cope with the introduction of European diseases and intoxicating alcohol that accompanied these encounters. At times, their culture appeared to be at a disadvantage compared to the newcomers’ wealth and power. The apparent superiority of iron over stone, of guns over wooden spears, of woven cloth over kapa (tapa or bark cloth), of the Christian god over the Hawaiian gods, and of English ships over canoes was overwhelming. The wave of change that washed over Hawaii was generated in these waters.
The state plans to create a historical park at Kealakekua Bay to tell the stories associated with this important and scenic area. Even the rugged rock face of this pali (cliff) conceals a part of Hawaii’s past. The pali is riddled with lava tubes, many of them used by ancient Hawaiians as burial caves for the remains of their alii.
Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.