Traditional Hawaiian villages were comprised of many kinds of houses. In chiefly communities, like here in the Keālia Kapu-Kaunolū region of Lāna‘i, houses were built and organized in structure for the well-being of the chiefs and commoners who served them. In remote areas where commoners lived, and where chiefs rarely visited, the life of the people and styles of houses were less structured.

The chiefly and religious centers included many residence and building features. The ruling chiefs, priests, representatives of the chiefly land holders, along with those who held special positions, and skilled craftsmen, had large compounds with sheds, men’s houses, common sleeping houses, heiau (ceremonial sites), kū‘ahu (shrines), women’s eating houses, storage houses, cooking houses, and many other structures. In the chiefly communities the divisions between men, women and classes were strictly adhered to.

Following the Keālia Kapu-Kaunolū heritage trail, you will have the opportunity to visit several notable sites. Interpretive signage and the
Lanai Guide (gps web-enabled app) share some of the traditions and practices of those people who called this place home.

In 1921, Kenneth Emory, an archaeologist on the staff of the Bishop Museum, undertook the first formal archaeological inventory survey on Lāna‘i.  Kaunolū Village (in both Keālia Kapu and Kaunolū Ahupua‘a) was identified as one of the most significant cultural landscapes on Lāna‘i. For seventy years, Emory’s work remained the primary source of available site descriptions. In 1992, Bishop Museum, in partnership with the majority landowner on Lāna‘i at the time and families of Lāna‘i, undertook further research and field work in an effort to better document the area’s history.

Kaunolū is considered one of the most significant wahi pana (storied and sacred places) on Lāna‘i. It is the setting of some of the earliest traditions from Lāna‘i, linking it with Kahiki (the ancestral homeland of the original Hawaiians) and traditions of the ancient gods. It also served as the religious-chiefly center of ancient Lāna‘i.

In order to protect this noted site, a simple kiawe post buffer has been installed to remind people that parking on traditional features is inappropriate, and actually against the law. During a visit to the site with archaeologists on Sept. 14th, (2014) the buffer was pushed to the side. At times rubbish is still left all around, and on the slope below the hale of Kamehameha I, people sometimes make kūkae and leave their ‘ōpala behind. Please respect Lāna‘i’s rich cultural heritage and storied places. E mālama pono i ka ‘āina aloha… Kepā Maly, photos.

Kaunolū is a sacred landscape and highly valued traditional property on Lāna‘i. ‘Ohana are now engaged in repairing the trails and respectful access to storied places, and replacing interpretive signs to help pass knowledge of place on to present and future generations. The area in these photos was once the royal house site of Kamehameha I when he was encamped on Lāna‘i. In the 1950s, the jeep trail was made down to the shore, and eventually people began to use the Kamehameha site as a parking place for their vehicles. 

the keālia kapu-kaunolū village heritage trail sites