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'Ili of Mokulua, Ka'ohao, and 'A'alapapa in the late 1920s. This area is commonly known today as Lanikai. (Hawaii State Archives).
Kapa'a Valley, 1886. (Hawaiian Historical Society)
Stream and lo'i kalo system ma uka of Kawainui, 1885. The hill of Ulumawao is at upper left, the Mahinui Hills are in the distant center. (Hawaiian Historical Society)
Because existing fonts display Hawaiian language diacritical marks inconsistently, we have omitted the use of the kahako in Hawaiian words in our site text.

Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Timeline

  • Ongoing - Community sponsored activities and service projects supported by a number of Hawaiian civic organizations have implemented improvements at Ulupō Heiau, Nā Pōhaku O Hauwahine, Kaha Park, and other locations to protect and enhance the native cultural and natural heritage of Kawainui and Hāmākua wetlands.
  • July 2011 - A signing ceremony for a partnership agreement between the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers was held for the Kawainui Marsh State Wildlife Sanctuary project that will create eleven terraced pond cells separated by low earthen berms. The pond design includes a single feedwater and drainage channel with hydraulic controls to allow independent filling and draining of each pond from onsite shallow wells.
  • March 2011 - The Wetland Restoration and Habitat Enhancement Plan was finalized to restore habitat for native Hawaiian waterbirds, migratory shorebirds and waterfowl, and native fish species on 60 acres of land near the intersection of Kailua Road (Pali Highway) and Kapaa Quarry Road. Erosion control improvements will be implemented on an additional 20 acres of upland forest area to mitigate storm water drainage into the restored wetland.
  • October 28, 2008- Ownership of Kawainui Marsh is transferred from the C&C to
    the State and placed under the jurisdiction of DLNR.
  • February 2005- The Kawainui-Hamakua Marsh Complex is designated as a Ramsar Convention Wetland of International Importance. The Ramsar Information Sheet documentation was compiled by David Smith, Wildlife Manager with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources; Eric Gilman of the National Audubon Society and Chair of the International Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists; and Muriel B. Seto, Culture Chair of Hawaii's Thousand Friends.
  • October 2002 - The Kawai Nui Gateway Park Environmental Assessment was based on a plan to develop a community park and nature trail on vacant land in the northeast corner of the marsh across from Kalaheo High School.
  • May 2001 -The Kawai Nui Marsh Pathway Plan was prepared through funding from the City and County of Honolulu visioning process to identify detailed recommendations for a pathway around the marsh in alignment with the 1994 DLNR Kawai Nui Marsh Master Plan.
  • 1997- Construction on the levee is completed.
  • July 1994- The Department of Land and Natural Resources prepared the Kawai Nui Marsh Master Plan to identify improvements in the area that help the public learn about, appreciate, and enjoy the marsh. Key elements of the plan included a visitor center, a cultural park, ethno-botanical gardens, community parks, and a pedestrian trail.
  • 1992- An open water channel through the west central portion of the marsh is dredged by the City to improve the distribution of stormwater flows.
  • New Year’s 1988- The New Year’s flood results in severe damage to the Coconut Grove subdivision, prompting a reassessment of the flood control capacities of the marsh by USACE and C&C of Honolulu Department of Public Works.
  • February 1988- Pahukini Heiau is rededicated.
  • 1988- A sewer line and pumping stations are routed along Kailua Road, connecting the neighborhoods of Maunawili, Olomana, Pohakupu, and Kukanono to the Kailua Wastewater Treatment Plant. This allows the C&C to close four secondary treatment plants that were discharging partially treated effluent into the marsh.
  • 1986- The Kailua Auto Wreckers auto dump along north end of the marsh is removed.
  • 1985- The Hamakua Drive extension is completed, linking Kailua Town with Enchanted Lakes.
  • 1983- The Resource Management Plan for Kawainui is prepared by the State Department of Planningand Economic Development (DPED).
  • 1982- The Hawai’i State Board of Geographic Names votes to officially change the spelling from “Kawai Nui” to “Kawainui” and designate the resource as a “marsh” rather than a “swamp.” The Kawainui Heritage Plan is prepared and updated by Robert Herlinger.
  • 1981- Ulu Po Heiau (as spelled on the register) is listed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places.
  • 1979- Kawainui Marsh is determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The U.S. National Registrar for Historic Places issues a “Determination of Eligibility Notification,” which states that “Kawainui Marsh is important as a major component of a larger cultural district which would include… the ponding/wet agricultural area… remains of extensive terracing systems, ceremonial sites, burial sites, and habitation areas associated with thiagricultural complex.”
  • March 1978- The State LUC orders 244 acres in the northern portion of Kawainui Marsh to continue to be classified as Urban following a petition by the State Department of Planning and Economic Development (DPED) to reclassify the acreage as Conservation.
  • December 1974- Land Use Commission(LUC) reclassifies 50 acres from Urban to Conservation. (TMK 4-2-14:02)
  • September 1974- The private developer which had proposed Kawainui Shopping Center on 88 acres of land at Kawainui Marsh cancels development plans.
  • 1974- The Model Airplane Park is developed on landfill.
  • November 1972- Ulu Po Heiau (as spelled on the register) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • September 1972- Pahukini Heiau is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Early 1972- A private developer proposes a shopping complex on 88 acres in the northeast corner of Kawainui Marsh. In response, community groups actively voice their objections against the development and using the marsh for sanitary landfill as previously proposed by the C&C in the late 1960s.
  • Late 1960s- The C&C Department of Parks and Recreation initiates planning for Kawainui Regional Park including a water-oriented recreation park and passive and active parks on the periphery. The Department of Public Works proposed that the filling of portions of Kawainui Marsh for recreational purposes should be accomplished with sanitary landfill.
  • 1968- Kane’ohe Ranch sells 250 acres of Kawainui Marsh lands to the City and County of Honolulu.
  • 1966- Kalaheo High School opens as an intermediate school. The school is later repurposed as a high school in 1973.
  • 1965- Kailua Drive-In Theater opens on the site of the current Le Jardin Academy.
  • 1964- C&C of Honolulu purchases, with Federal aid, 749 acres for $1.2 million from
    a private developer who had proposed a development on 200 acres of marsh land
    in 1961. The development, which proposed 4,000 homes on 200 acres, a 50-acre park, and a 40-acre pond, was previously granted subdivision approval in 1962.
  • 1963- Castle Hospital opens on land donated by Harold K.L. Castle.
  • 1962- Ulupo Heiau is designated as a State Monument.
  • 1959- Pali Highway is realigned with tunnels, anticipating windward development.
  • 1956- Kane’ohe Ranch drains Kawainui for pastureland. Water levels are reduced
    by 4’.
  • 1952- The canal along the entire length of Kawainui Marsh to the Waimanalo end of Hamakua Marsh is constructed to help control flooding. The canal replaced Kawainui Stream and was thirty yards wide and three yards deep.
  • 1949- Honolulu Construction and Drayage (today’s Ameron HC&D) leases 100 acres from Kane’ohe Ranch on Ulumawao ridge for quarrying operations.
  • 1940s-1960s- United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducts studies and implements flood control projects, including widening of ‘Oneawa Canal and constructing a levee on the ma kai side of Kawainui Marsh.
  • 1930s- Urban development begins along the coastline in Kailua. The Kukanono area is developed in the late 1930s.
  • 1924- The first real estate subdivisions were built at Ka’ohao. The subdivision is dubbed “Lanikai Crescent” with Kane’ohe Ranch land accounting for approximately one half of total acreage. Mid-Pacific Country Club opens.
  • 1923- Planning begins on the Coconut Grove subdivision. Elsie’s Store, the site of the existing Kalapawai Market, opens for business. Watermelon, pineapple, and coconut fields can be found in Kailua.
  • 1920s- Rice growing and aquaculture are abandoned due to lack of water and the marsh begins to form.
  • 1912- Kenzo Matsuda takes out a lease from Kane’ohe Ranch in 1912 for 7.99 acres at the rate of $80 annually, setting up the Matsuda Store on the marsh side of old Auloa Road, below the current site of Castle Medical Center. The building was last occupied by Martin Knott and his wife, May McCormack Knott. They lived in the building for 27 years until it was demolished due to termite damage.
  • 1900s- Rice replaces lo’i kalo and ranching. Ulupo Heiau is used as a cattle pen.
    The integrity of Holomakani Heiau is severely impacted. Kailua’s bustling community is concentrated between the base of Olomana and the ma uka end of Kawainui, along old Auloa Road.
  • 1880s- Chinese farmers begin to grow rice. In 1880, George Bowser described the fertility of Kawainui when he visited Kailua, noting the abundance of rice:
    “To my left, as I looked eastward, was the valley of the Kawai Nui, about one-fourth of which is already laid out in rice plantations.”
    (An excerpt from “Kailua,” published by the Kailua Historical Society)
  • 1878- The Waimanalo Sugar Company is established and constructs an irrigation ditch (its’ second to divert waters from Kawainui Swamp to Waimanalo Reservoir.
    The Company closed its sugar operations in 1947.
  • 1780s- Chief Kahekili of Maui resides in Kailua after defeating O’ahu chief Kahahana for control of O’ahu.
  • 1750- Kailua is the political seat of power for the district of Ko’olaupoko and a favored place of the O’ahu chiefs for its abundance of fish and good canoe landings.
  • 1650-1795- Settlement expands to Maunawili Valley. This move gives rise to the local ahupua’a and land tenure system. Kawainui is used as a fishpond and kalo (taro) is grown along streams and the periphery of the fishpond. Crops of dryland kalo, mai’a (banana), ‘uala (sweet potato), and (sugarcane) are grown along the fringes of the marsh.
  • 1640- Chief Kuali’i born at Kalapawai, Kailua.
  • 1400s- Chief Kakuhihewa probably participates in ceremonies at Ulupo Heiau.
    The date of construction of Ulupo varies from 900-1400 A.D.
  • 1300s- Chief ‘Olopana builds Pahukini Heiau. The heiau sits above the present City and County (C&C) of Honolulu Kapa’a Transfer Station.
  • 1100-1650- A trail system is developed and used to deliver fish from Kawainui to chiefs in Waikīkī and ‘Ewa.
  • 1100- Fishponds and taro cultivation occur in Kawainui, and Kapa’a and Mokulua quarries are in use.
  • 500- The ocean returns to very near its present level. This marine retreat would have largely exposed the wide reef fronting the bay of Kawainui. Fresh water from Maunawili mixes with the much less vigorous incursion of seawater, lowering the bay’s salinity, and Kawainui becomes a brackish lagoon. Through these times, the waters of Kawainui and Ka’elepulu were in direct contact.
  • 300-500 A.D.- The first Polynesians arrive in Kailua.
  • 500 B.C.- A sandbar begins forming across Kawainui Bay, creating Kawainui Lagoon, which was filled with coral, fish, and shellfish. This sandbar is present-day Kailua.
  • 1500 B.C.- The ocean reaches a height of 6’-7’ above its current level during the Ice Age. The ocean held that level for a few centuries before slowly subsiding. Coastal geologists believe that at this time a wide barrier of reef partially separated Kawainui from the open Pacific. This reef did not entirely prevent surf from sometimes reaching the inner bay. Today you can see evidence of the impact of waves on the edges of the marsh near Na Pohaku o Hauwahine overlook. The vertical bases of the low bluffs
    and hills here show undercut notches 2’-3’ high, indicating shoreline waves breaking at the slightly higher sea level of the time.
  • 4000 B.C.- Before the arrival of Polynesians, Kawainui and Ka’elepulu were bays connected to the ocean, which extended a mile inland of the present coastline.


Kailua Historical Society. “Kailua.” Honolulu: 2009.

Kailua Historical Society. Web. Retrieved: September 20, 2011.

Kane’ohe Ranch. Web. Retrieved: September 20, 2011.

State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Division of Water and Land Development. “Kawainui Marsh Master Plan,Report R-100.” State of Hawai’i. July 1994.

State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Ulupo Heiau State Monument Brochure.” State of Hawai’i. October 1997.

State of Hawaii Department of Planning and Economic Development . “Kawainui Marsh Resource Management Plan.” State of Hawai’i. March 1983.

Wilcox, Carol. “Sugar Water: Hawaii’s Plantation Ditches.” University of Hawai’i Press. Honolulu: 1996.

Mahalo to Kane'ohe Ranch Co., Hawaiian Historical Society, Hawaii State Archives, and Barbara Pope Book Design for the use and coordination of images on this page.