Ka'a'awa, Hawaii Guide

Ka'a'awa, Hawaii Guide
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Address , Kaaawa, HI 96730
Complete guide to the city of Ka'a'awa, Oahu, Hawaii.

• General: Educational • General: Guide • General: History

Guide Series: Hawaii City Guides
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Ka'a'awa Location

The small town of Kaaawa is located along the east side of O'ahu, south of Laie (with it's mega attraction the Polynesian Cultural Center) and north of Kaneohe. The main road that circles this part of the island, the Kamehameha Highway, runs right through the town making access very easy.

If you do a circle island tour, you'll certainly pass through Kaaawa along the way. If you're headed to Kualoa Ranch then you'll be right next door. Plenty of areas on O'ahu are beautiful but this area is very heavy on the eye candy. It has amazing ocean views mixed with the huge, lush Ko'olau Mountain range in the background and some small town charm sprinkled in the middle. Bring a camera.

Ka'a'awa History

When you look back to ancient Hawaiian history, Kaaawa was a very interesting place with a lot of history behind it. Back then, this area was one of the most sacred placed on the island of O'ahu and home to kings. When an ali'i (Hawaiian chief) had a child, their baby was brought here to be trained in the ancient traditions, art of war, and history. It was so sacred that fishermen in passing boats had to lower their sails with failure to comply being a death sentence. The only way to escape death was to reach a local pu'uhonua, or place of refuge, where priests could pray for you and all was forgiven. Makes traffic school look pretty tame, doesn't it?

This is also a place that has a lot of mythology behind it. It's said that the Nightmarchers walk through the valleys here, especially during a full moon. According to the lore, they're not to be messed with or even looked at if spotted. Even today, people still claim to see these ghost like warriors as well as hear their drums. Don't believe us? Read more about the Nightmarchers and see what you think.

The Ko'olau Mountain range that runs through the Ka'a'awa Valley / Ko'olau Valley has many peaks. One of those is called Pu'u Kanehoalani with a height of around 1,900 feet above sea level. Kanehoalani, which means "Kane's heavenly companion", was named after the Hawaiian god Kane who was the god of procreation. Some say Kane was even the father of Pele - The Volcano Goddess.

There is even a story about a shark god that lived in this area, similar to Nanaue - The Shapeshifting Shark-Man Of Makua Cave. The story says that the son of the shark god was fed fish by the local people in the area. One day a stingy chief decided that enough was enough and claimed the fish supply. The shark god wasn't pleased with this and create a Tsunami that killed the chief but not the rest of the people.

Around 1863 the Kualoa Sugar Mill was built in the area as Sugar in Hawaii became a big deal. It was owned by Charles Hastings Judd and Samuel Wilder but in 1866, Wilder's 9 year old son Willy was playing at this mill when he slipped and fell into a vat of boiling syrup. After a couple of agonizing days, Willy died from his severe burns. His mother who was in terrible sorrow, moved away shortly thereafter. By 1867 they decided to close the mill and the last crops were processed here in the summer of 1868. You can still see some of the ruins of the old sugar mill, right across the street from Kualoa Sugar Mill Beach.

In more modern times, this area gained a little fame in 1934 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped in, marking the first time a sitting president visited the area. During World War II, the U.S Military built an airfield in the area as well as bunkers in the cliffs above the ocean. Today, there is a massive marine base located a bit south in Kaneohe.

Ka'a'awa Attractions

You can't talk about this area without mentioning the mega attraction that is Kualoa Ranch. While the ranch uses a Kaneohe, the property stretches throughout the Kaaawa valley. If you aren't familiar with it, Kualoa Ranch is one of the more popular tourist attractions on O'ahu. It's a massive piece of land that's sort of a Hawaiian land of adventure. They offer everything from horseback riding, biking tours, zip-lining, ATV tours, nature tours, boat tours, and a trip to Secret Island (which is neither secret, nor an island).

We also can't forget their famous movie tour. That's right, if you think that this area looks familiar it's because you've seen it in a zillion movies and television shows (over 50 they claim). Some examples that were shot here include LOST (remember Hurley's golf course?), Godzilla, 50 First Dates, Hawaii Five-0, and many of the Jurassic Park movies. This is Hollywood's Hawaii Backlot (as they love to call it) and if that's your thing be sure to also check out Popular Movies & TV Shows Filmed In Hawaii.

We also highly recommend a stop at Tropical Farms Macadamia Farm Outlet. Sure, it's touristy but it's still a fun place to see because you can sample some coffees (free!) and even crack open and eat your own macadamia nuts (also free!). Worried that they'll go out of business with all of this free stuff? Don't worry, they're happy to sell you Hawaiian souvenirs (so are we).

While you're there, check out the Tropical Farms - Ali'i Tour as well which we love and always hear good things about. Also nearby is the Moli'i Fishpond which is one of the largest fishponds in Hawaii and said to be around 600-900 years old. This is right next to Secret Island mentioned earlier and tours are available if you're interested.

Another great option for adventure seekers is the popular Crouching Lion Hike which offers some amazing views, as long as you don't mind heights. Why the funny name? Simple, the rock formation at the top looks like a, you guessed it, crouching lion. Legend says that one of the rock formations here is actually Kupua, a relative of Pele - The Volcano Goddess.

If you do plan to hike the Crouching Lion Hike, just don't confuse it with the ridiculously difficult Pu'u Manamana Trail which is both very dangerous and legally off limits.

Looking for something a bit more relaxing? Checkout one of the nearby beaches which include Swanzy Beach Park, Ka'a'awa Beach Park, and Kalae'O'io Beach Park.

If you want to see the iconic Mokoli'i Island, more commonly known as Chinaman's Hat - The Giant Lizard, head to nearby Kualoa Regional Park and Campground which offers great view of the island. Bring a camera and be sure to frame your head just below Chinaman's Hat so it looks like he's wearing it, because that photo certainly doesn't exist on social media yet!

View all that Kaaawa has to offer here.

Ka'a'awa Fun Facts

Ever seen another word with three a's all in a row like there is in Ka'a'awa? Neither have we. Normally that's a deal breaker in the English language but this is Hawaiian where they make do with far fewer letters. So how do you pronounce Ka'a'awa? The ' mark, known as an 'Okina, is actually a word separator. So it sounds like Kah-ah-ah-vuh. In Hawaiian, the word Ka'a'awa means "the yellow wrasse fish."