An online magazine dedicated to the Hawaiian history of Honokahua Maui, the ancient land division that became Kapalua Resort
A favorite bay of King Pi‘ilani July, 2007
“The Bay at the Ritz” and “The Bay at Fleming Beach Park” are modern monikers for the largest bay of northwest
Maui, Honokahua Bay. In ancient times this bay, north of Makāluapuna Point was the port for all northwest Maui.
Exploring the Name Honokahua
Mary Kawena Pukui translates Honokahua
place name as “foundation bay.” Hono is a
suffix word that refers to the low land be-
tween two ridges. In the upland, a valley is
usually called ke awāwa, and a valley with
a running stream is called ke kahawai, but at
the mouth of the valley, where the lowland
forms a crescent at the shore and ridges end
in points that jut into the sea, the term is
hono. Therefore, some bays are rightly named
hono and some are not.
Kahua is a word meaning “foundation” or
an open place for camping or sports. It was
often used as a term for an encampment of warriors. The broad flat slopes above Honokahua Bay might have been
used for some of these activities. We know that in the battles of 1738, Alapa‘i camped his Hawai‘i Island troops at
Honokahua, and some of the fighting occurred here. Many fallen warriors are buried at the Honkahua Preservation
Site above the bay. In all of Ka‘ānapali district, these foundation lands of Honokahua were probably the most
suitable for Makahiki games.
In northwest Maui, the district the ancients called Ka’ānapali there are six hono bays, which are legendary:
from South to North, Honokōwai (bay drawing fresh water), Honokeana (cave bay), Honokahua, Honolua (two
bays), Honokōhau (bay drawing dew), and Hononānā (aggressive bay). Collectively, these picturesque and
productive bays are called Na Hono A Pi‘ilani, The Bays of Pi‘ilani. King Pi‘ilani, who ruled Maui in the early 16th
century, loved these bays and frequently came here with his court to relax, fish, and surf. It was a common practice of
Hawaiian Kings to take a large retinue of family, advisors, and punahele (favored companions) to a special place, stay
as long as the local provisions lasted and then move on to another spot.
The Lasting Legacy of King Pi'ilani
Beloved King Pi‘ilani is famous for constructing the Alaloa, a footpath that encircled West Maui. This paved
walkway, wide enough to accommodate eight warriors walking abreast, was lined with small boulders. Parts of the
original Alaloa are visible in Honolua valley and above Route 30 as it crosses the Pali to Ma‘alaea. In our Ka‘ānapali
district and in Lahaina district, Lower Honoapi‘ilani Road and parts of Route 30 (Honoapi‘ilani Highway) near the
beach approximately trace the route of the ancient Alaloa. King Pi‘ilani’s name and his love for these bays of
Ka‘ānapali are commemorated in the names of these modern roads. After King Pi‘ilani’s death, his son Kihapi‘ilani
ruled Maui and extended the Alaloa to encircle East Maui as well.
In The Love Remains, Honokahua Bay was the hub of the fishing village and site of the Makahiki celebration. What
came to light after the book was published is that Sarah Kani‘aulono Davis, the last Hawaiian to rule Honokahua,
was descended from King Pi‘ilani through Kihapi‘ilani. Sarah’s mother, Nakai Lima‘alu‘alu of Hawai‘i was from this
famous ali‘i blood line. Click on Nakai's name to see her family tree. This pedigree is based on mele from the
Keko'olani family archives, compiled and preserved by Dean Pua Keko'olani, who descends from Sarah Kani'aulono
Davis, and also from a line of royal Ku'auhau, Hawaiian genealogists. How fitting that Sarah was given rule of one
of King Pi'ilani's Bays, and how precious that a present day descendant of Pi'ilani shares this truth with us.
Honokahua Bay Today
Three landmarks face Honokahua Bay, Honokahua Preservation Site, a sacred Hawaiian burial site, The Ritz-
Carlton, Kapalua, and D.T. Fleming Beach Park. The entire beach is public, as are all beaches in Hawai‘i, and because
ocean currents here can be dangerous, Life Guards are on duty every day. For a detailed description of this beach and
Honokahua inshore waters provided by Hawai‘i Life Guard Association, click here:
"Honokahua Bay: a favorite bay of King Pi'ilani" Copyright Katherine Kama'ema'e Smith 2007, all rights reserved.