Village of Hoopuloa destroyed by 1926 lava flow


Editor’s note: West Hawaii Today, in conjunction with the Kona Historical Society, is pleased to present readers a weekly feature compiled by the society called “A Guide to Old Kona.” These articles and accompanying photographs have been compiled and provided by Kona Historical Society and were published previously in a book of the same title.

Milolii and Hoopuloa Flow of 1926

Milolii is a small coastal village near the southern boundary of the Kona district. Once known for its excellent sennit (twisted coconut fiber or rope), it is now known as a Hawaiian fishing village whose residents prize their privacy and independence.

Hoopuloa was once a small Hawaiian fishing village located just north of Milolii on the South Kona Coast. Far from any good road, transportation to and from Hoopuloa was easiest by canoe, and later, by steamer. An old donkey trail from the forest lands to the shoreline was used in the late 1800s by C.Q. Yee Hop Co. to haul large koa timbers to the Hoopuloa landing for shipment to Honolulu. This trail was probably a footpath formerly used by Hawaiians to walk to their upland taro patches. Mail and supplies were landed on a regular basis, linking this isolated spot to the rest of the world.

In 1926 the red glare of an eruption from Mauna Loa’s southwest rift zone warned residents a lava flow was heading their way. The American Red Cross came to the rescue by canoe, paddling frantic residents and their possessions to safety at nearby Milolii. As the lava rolled into the sea, dead fish bobbed to the surface for miles around, boiled to death by the lava-heated water. The village of Hoopuloa was completely destroyed.

From Kiholo to Hoopuloa, Pele’s fires have brought a mixed blessing to Kona. New land for future generations to settle and cultivate comes at a high price: total devastation of familiar and fruitful lands. However, early Hawaiians learned how to endure lava flows, tsunamis and earthquakes hundreds of years ago.

Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.