Ho-no-lu-lu is a name made by the union of the two words “Hono” and “lulu.” Some say it means “Sheltered Hollow.” The old Hawaiians say that “Hono” means “abundance” and “lulu” means “calm,” or “peace,” or “abundance of peace.” The navigator who gave the definition “Fair Haven” was out of the way, inasmuch as the name does not belong to a harbor, but to a district having “abundant calm,” or “a pleasant slope of restful land.”
“Honolulu” was probably a name given to a very rich district of farm land near what is now known as the junction of Liliha and School Streets, because its chief was Honolulu, one of the high chiefs of the time of Kakuhihewa, according to the legends. Kamakau, the Hawaiian historian, describes this farm district thus: “Honolulu was a small district, a pleasant land looking toward the west,—a fat land, with flowing streams and springs of water, abundant water for taro patches. Mists resting inland breathed softly on the flowers of the hala-tree.”
Kakuhihewa was a king of Oahu in the long, long ago, and was so noted that for centuries the island Oahu has been named after him “The Oahu of Kakuhihewa.” He divided the island among his favorite chiefs and officers, who gave their names to the places received by them from the king. Thus what is now known as Honolulu was until the time of Kamehameha I., about the year 1800, almost always mentioned as Kou, after the chief Kou, who was an ilamuku (marshal), under King Kakuhihewa. Kou appears to have been a small district, or, rather, a chief’s group of houses and grounds, loosely defined as lying between Hotel Street and the sea and between Nuuanu Avenue and Alakea Street.
Ke-kai-o-Mamala was the name of the surf which came in the outer entrance of the harbor of Kou. It was named after Mamala, a chiefess who loved to play konane (Hawaiian checkers), drink awa, and ride the surf. Her first husband was the shark-man Ouha, who later became a shark-god, living as a great shark outside the reefs of Waikiki and Koko Head. Her second husband was the chief Hono-kau-pu, to whom the king gave the land east of Kou, which afterward bore the name of its chief. In this section of Kou now called Honolulu were several very interesting places.
Kewalo was the place where the Kauwa, a very low class of servants, were drowned by holding their heads under water. The custom was known as “Ke-kai-heehee,” “kai” meaning “sea” and “hee” “sliding along,” hence the sliding of the servants under the waves of the sea. Kewalo was also the nesting-ground of the owl who was the cause of a battle between the owls and the king Kakuhihewa, where the owls from Kauai to Hawaii gathered together and defeated the forces of the king.
Toward the mountains above Kewalo lies Makiki plain, the place where rats abounded, living in a dense growth of small trees and shrubs. This was a famous place for hunting rats with bows and arrows.
Ula-kua, the place where idols were made, was near the lumber-yards at the foot of the present Richards Street.
Ka-wai-a-hao (The water belonging to Hao), the site of the noted old native church, was the location of a fine fountain of water belonging to a chief named Hao.
Ke-kau-kukui was close to Ula-kua, and was the place where small konane (checker) boards were laid. These were flat stones with rows of little holes in which a game was played with black and white stones. Here Mamala and Ouha drank awa and played konane, and Kekuanaoa, father of Kamehameha V., built his home.
Kou was probably the most noted place for konane on Oahu. There was a famous stone almost opposite the site of the temple. Here the chiefs gathered for many a game. Property and even lives were freely gambled away. The Spreckels Building covers the site of this well-known gambling resort.
In Hono-kau-pu was one of the noted places for rolling the flat-sided stone disc known as “the maika stone.” This was not far from Richards and Queen Streets, although the great “Ulu-maika” place for the gathering of the chiefs was in Kou. This was a hard, smooth track about twelve feet wide extending from the corner of Merchant and Fort Streets now occupied by the Bank of Hawaii along the seaward side of Merchant Street to the place beyond Nuuanu Avenue known as the old iron works at Ula-ko-heo. It was used by the highest chiefs for rolling the stone disc known as “the maika stone.” Kamehameha I. is recorded as having used this maika track.
Ka-ua-nono-ula (rain-with-the-red-rainbow) was the place in this district for the wai-lua, or ghosts, to gather for their nightly games and sports. Under the shadows of the trees, near the present Hawaiian Board Mission rooms at the junction of Alakea and Merchant Streets, these ghosts made night a source of dread to all the people. Another place in Honolulu for the gathering of ghosts was at the corner of King Street and Nuuanu Avenue.
Puu-o-wai-na, or Punchbowl, was a “hill of sacrifice” or “offering,” according to the meaning of the native words, and not “Wine-hill” as many persons have said. Kamakau, a native historian of nearly fifty years ago, says: “Formerly there was an imu ahi, a fire oven, for burning men on this hill. Chiefs and common people were burned as sacrifices in that noted place. Men were brought for sacrifice from Kauai, Oahu, and Maui, but not from Hawaii. People could be burned in this place for violating the tabus of the tabu divine chiefs.”
Part of an ancient chant concerning Punchbowl reads as follows:
“O the raging tabu fire of Keaka,
O the high ascending fire of the sacrifice!
Tabu fire, scattered ashes.
Tabu fire, spreading heat.”
Nuuanu Valley is full of interesting legendary places. The most interesting, however, is the little valley made by a mountain spur pushing its way out from the Kalihi foothills into the larger valley, and bearing the name “Waolani,” the wilderness home of the gods, and now the home of Honolulu’s Country Club. This region belonged to the eepa people. These were almost the same as the ill-shaped, deformed or injured gnomes of European fairy tales. In this beautiful little valley which opened into Nuuanu Valley was the heiau Waolani built for Ka-hanai-a-ke-Akua (The chief brought up by the gods), long before the days of Kakuhihewa. It was said that the two divine caretakers of this chief were Kahano and Newa, and that Kahano was the god who lay down on the ocean, stretching out his hands until one rested on Kahiki (Tahiti or some other foreign land) and the other rested on Oahu. Over his arms as a great bridge walked the Menehunes, or fairy people, to Oahu. They came to be servants for this young chief who was in the care of the gods. They built fish-ponds and temples. They lived in Manoa Valley and on Punchbowl Hill. Ku-leo-nui (Ku-with-the-loud-voice) was their master. He could call them any evening. His voice was heard over all the island. They came at once and almost invariably finished each task before the rays of the rising sun drove them to their hidden resorts in forest or wilderness.
Waolani heiau was the place where the noted legendary musical shell “Kiha-pu” had its first home—from which it was stolen by Kapuni and carried to its historic home in Waipio Valley, Hawaii. Below Waolani Heights, the Menehunes built the temple Ka-he-iki for the “child-nourished-by-the-gods,” and here the priest and prophet lived who founded the priest-clan called “Mo-o-kahuna,” one of the most sacred clans of the ancient Hawaiians. Not far from this temple was the scene of the dramatic plea of an owl for her eggs when taken from Kewalo by a man who had found her nest. It forms part of the story of the battle of the owls and the king.
Nearer the banks of the Nuuanu stream was the great bread-fruit tree into which a woman thrust her husband by magic power when he was about to be slain and offered as sacrifice to the gods. This tree became one of the most powerful wooden gods of the Hawaiians, being preserved, it is said, even to the times of Kamehameha I.
At the foot of Nuuanu Valley is Pu-iwa, a place by the side of the Nuuanu stream. Here a father, Maikoha, told his daughters to bury his body, that from it might spring the wauke-1tree, used for making kapa ever since. From this place, the legend says, the wauke-tree spread over all the islands.
In the bed of the Nuuanu is the legendary stone called “The Canoe of the Dragon.” This lies among the boulders in the stream not far from the old Kaumakapili Church premises.
In Nuuanu Valley was the fierce conflict between Kawelo, the strong man from Kauai, assisted by two friends, and a band of robbers. In this battle torn-up trees figured as mighty war-clubs.
These are legendary places which border Kou, the ancient Honolulu. Besides these are many more spots of great interest, as in Waikiki and Manoa Valley, but these lie beyond the boundaries of Kou and ancient Honolulu. In Kou itself was the noted Pakaka Temple. This temple was standing on the western side of the foot of Fort Street long after the fort was built from which the street was named. It was just below the fort. Pakaka was owned by Kinau, the mother of Kamehameha V. It was a heiau, or temple, built before the time of Kakuhihewa. In this temple, the school of the priests of Oahu had its headquarters for centuries. The walls of the temple were adorned with heads of men offered in sacrifice.
Enormous quantities of stone were used in the construction of all these heiaus often passed by hand from quarries at great distances so the work of erection was one consuming much time and energy.
According to the latest investigations there were one hundred and eight heiaus on the island of Oahu, some evidences of which may still be traced, showing the far-reaching influence of kings and priests over these primitive people.