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Kaniakapupu: The Summer Home of King Kamehameha III

Note: Kaniakapupu is a closed trail and is not open to the public. Only authorized groups are allowed to hike Mariner’s Ridge, including, the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, and the Sierra Club of Hawaii. As our disclaimer partially reads: “I’m not your daddy, these are dangerous as sh*t hikes, even the simple ones, if you got club feet don’t even think about it yo, and if you or your estate tries to put this on me for damages I will F*ck your Sh*t up, I know some Samoans who can do it too.”

You can count this one as a totally awesome find. Why? Because you will not find Kaniakapupu in any Oahu guide book. It’s a hidden treasure that few locals know even exist. Tucked away in Nu’uanu lay the ruins of the summer home of King Kamehameha. These ruins are known as Kaniakapupu, or “the singing of the land shell.”

A few of us decided to venture out to the outskirts of the Pali highway to find this ancient Hawaiian ruins. This is the perfect excursion for those of you who want to do a little exploring but don’t have a lot of time to spare. The trail to the ruins is located off of Nu’uanu Pali Drive and takes about 5-10 minutes to access the site. You’ll need to navigate though about 600 ft. of bamboo to reach the ruins.

A view from the front of Kaniakapupu.

A view from the back of Kaniakapupu.

Kaniakapupu is the only remaining structure associated with Kamehameha III. Furthermore, since Kaniakapupu was the home to a king, it was considered to be kapu (Hawaiian word meaning forbidden, though it also carries the meaning of sacred, consecrated, or holy). It honestly did feel a bit eerie to be roaming the home of a former Hawaiian monarch. There were a few chicken skin moments that I experienced while I was exploring the back of the ruins by myself. It was like I could feel the mana (Hawaiian word meaning supernatural or divine power, or to have authority, privilege or power) being exuded from the site.

There isn’t much left of the home, however, there is a memorial placard posted toward the front of the home. It reads:

Kaniakapupu

Summer Palace of King Kamehameha III and his Queen Kalama

Completed in 1845, it was the scene of entertainment of foreign celebrities the feasting of chiefs and commoners. The greatest of these occasions was a luau attended by an estimated ten thousand people celebrating Hawaiian Restoration Day in 1847.

Directions:

From Honolulu, you will take the Pali Highway towards Kaneohe. You will then take the Nu’uanu Pali Drive exit. Follow this road until you see the Board of Water Supply building on the left. Park your car on the side of the street. You will find a bamboo pathway across the street of the Board of Water Supply building which marks the start of the short trail. Follow this trail about 300′, then take the first left turn and walk another 300′. The ruins will be at the end of this short trail.

Kaniakapupu Ruins Tips:

  • Use bug repelant. The Pali is notorious for being wet and mosquitos love wet things!
  • Respect the ruins. This was the stomping grounds of Hawaiian royalty. Pick up your trash before your leave.
  • This is a high break in area. Do not leave your valuables in your car.

Look for this bamboo passageway on Nu’uanu Pali Drive. It marks the start of the trail.

Navigating the Bamboo.

Once you reach these three trees, you’re close to the ruins.

View of Kaniakapupu.

The Front Door To Kaniakapupu.

Closer view of the Kaniakapupu Memorial.

Fresh Bananas.

Map of the site of Kaniakapupu done by an archaeology field school in 1999. The Luakaha property extends below the “stone perimeter wall.” Nuuanu stream lies off to the right. Via PacificWorlds.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii, Blogger, Hiker, Foodie, Apple Aficionado, T-Shirt Enthusiast, Psychologist, and Rogue Scientist.

24 comments

  1. Mahalo for your great review of this site, I will certainly check it out next time I’m on oahu

    Mahalo for sharing!

    • Thanks Melissa! Kaniakapupu is definitely worth checking out – lots of history there…and you can just feel the mana in the air. Also, if you hike a bit further back then you get close to an amazing waterfall!

    • Scotty, not too far away. Some say it’s about ~3 miles from the ruins. However, there is an alternate route that you can take that will get you there in about 20-30 minutes. We scouted the route a few days ago and will revisit soon. I’ll have directions on how to get there as soon as we verify the location! Check back soon and thanks for visiting!

  2. It is not pono to go to this site without a cultural guide. Contact Kaneohe Hawaiian Civic Club for advice.

    • Mahalo piha, Kamana’iki! It is absolutely inappropriate for visitors to go to this site without being invited, and without a cultural host to share the special stories of this place. Wandering around here without an invitation is intrusive and insensitive. Anyone interested in going here can contact Ka Lei Maile Alii Hawaiian Civic Club (in Kaneohe) as several of their members act as stewards of Kaniakapupu. Please, if you’re the kind of visitor who chooses to honor the Hawaiian culture and the people of Hawaii, don’t go here on your own. If you’re the kind of visitor (that we see WAY too much of) who feels entitled to intrude on any sacred place you feel they have a right to go to, there’s not much we can say to you in any case.

    • Who does the inviting? Is it illegal to access this site? Does the Hawaiian Civic Club have legal access to this site? Furthermore, to my knowledge, this site has not officially been declared a state or federal landmark.

      A quick check on the Hawaiian Civiv Club website mentions that tours are “offered for a nominal donation.” Why pay for something that can be accessed on foot in less than 5 minutes. What are the credentials of those giving the tours? Do they have legal permits to offer tours at this location? What makes a cultural guide, a cultural guide?

      I may not be Hawaiian by blood, but I was born and raised here. When I visit sites like this one I always do so with respect and make sure that I am not being disruptive or disrespectful. I would behave in the same way with or without a cultural guide. For me, the only purpose a cultural guide would provide would be to offer historical background of the site.

  3. GET PERMISSION? NO ONE ASKS FOR PERMISSION WHEN GOING TO SEE CATACOMBS IN EUROPE OR THE INSIDE OF THE PIRAMIDS, OR OTHER BURIAL SITES AROUND THE WORLD, GET A LIFE AND START SHARING. PEOPLE SHOULD BE RESPECTFUL BUT THAT’S THE EXTENT AND CONDITION THAT SHOULD BE APPLIED. HAWAII’S TREASURES SHOULD BE AVAILABLE TO ALL VISITORS LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLDS TREASURES, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT!

    • I agree Silvy. I think that as long as you’re respectful you should feel free to visit and explore ruins like this one.

  4. I think that people are very happy to “share,” as you mention, Silvy, but sharing is a little harder to do when people are just taking.

    The Hawaiians that invite people here for a visit do share a lot of fascinating information (historical and cultural) and do not charge, however you are welcome to make a donation in support of all their hard work in restoring and maintaining the site.

    There are many places in the world that people cannot visit just because they want to, even here in Hawaii. The pyramids and the catacombs all involve fees to visit, and sometimes with an extra fee for your camera or video camera!

  5. LOOK! I AM A HAWAIIAN MY SELF AND I DONT THINK NOW DAYS WE SHOULD ASK FOR PERMISSION DID THEY ASK PERMISSION WHEN THEY SOLD ALL OUR ISLANDS TO THE FLITHY WHITE OR JAPAN PEOPLE “NO” THEY DIDNT I AM GRATEFUL TO HAVE MY CHILD SEE THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL AND LIKE OTHERS HAD SAID ITS ALL ABOUT THE RESPECT AND THEY WAY YOU GO ABOUT IT TO KEEP IT GOING I WAS BORN AND RAISE HERE I AM 38 YEARS OLD AND NEVER IN MY LIFE KNEW ABOUT THIS AND YOU CALL ASKING FOR PERMISSION OR YOUR DONATION LMAO .. I AM TAKING GOD WITH ME AND MY COMPANY WHILE WE GO ON A ADVENTURE AS WE ARE THERE WE WILL STAY A LITTLE PRAY ASKING THE GOD TO HEP THE LITTLE GERNERATION OF HAWAIIAN HERITAGE !!!! PRESERVE US!!

  6. Leilani,

    Please do not let the actions of a few characterize an entire group. Just as it would be unfair to characterize your people by the actions of those who steal from cars, I think that it is unfair to call whites and Japanese “filthy” because of the actions of a few greedy people. I believe that greed and selfishness are the issue here, not ancestry.

    To those commenting on the appropriate way to visit this site,

    I believe that the only persons from whom I should have to seek permission are the descendents of the Hawaiian Royalty. While I respect the efforts of the Kaneohe Hawaiian Civic Club in preserving this property, I do not believe that the club should have exclusive rights to this beautiful piece of history. Even if the club “owns” the land, it most definitely does not own the history.

    I will research the cultural significance of Kaniakapupu in great depth before I visit, and I will do my part to be respectful and keep this site well preserved. As an outsider, I believe it absolutely necessary to show respect for the native culture its historical sites. I also think that it is necessary to learn about and experience the culture if it is to survive and continue to define the people whom occupy these islands.

    • Well said, and for the most part, I agree.

      Definitely a site that is worth checking out with respect and with the understanding that it is a historical site with important cultural significance.

  7. Do you have any directions to Luakaha Falls from the Ruins? Also, I’ve tried to contact DLNR AND the Hawaii Sierra Club for a permit and no one wants to get back to me. I guess I’m on my own on this one.

    • Hi Denise, directions to Lulumahu Falls and Luakaha Falls are coming soon. Luakaha Falls is actually quite near once you’re at the Ruins.

        • Denise – if you’re still around, basically you stay on the right side of the path instead of going up the left, when the trail forks. Stay on the right side and then follow the water pipe to the top of the falls. There is a clearing and then a path somewhat steep down to your right to the base of Luakaha.

  8. Respect Ke Ali'i Pauahi

    Exploration hawaii…GREAT JOB on your info about hikes. I’ve been a long time follower now.

    Pertaining to the cultural guide issue.

    The site of the actual home and living quarters is not sacred. Invitation not needed. Now entering the heiau to the right of the house where offerings were given is another situation entirely. To enter that area Kahea would be needed. That being said. If you’re familiar with your actual hawaiian history, you should know. Liholiho (Kamehameha II) stop those practices altogether. Which means by the time Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) became king, the practicing of older traditions were past and done. This is KeaweaweÊ»ula KÄ«walaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo KÄ«walaʻō i ke kapu Kamehameha’s summer home (Kamehameha III). Not Kalani PaiÊ»ea Wohi o Kaleikini KealiÊ»ikui Kamehameha o Ê»Iolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho KÅ«nuiākea’s (Kamehameha The Great) birthplace.

    As a concerned Hawaiian that wants to educate others who are visiting or concerned themselves, to know actual facts. This is why I share my mana’o.

  9. Aloha kakou,

    Kaniakapupu IS on the federal and state register of historic places. Access IS restricted by DLNR as it is in the Nu`uanu Watershed. We are `Ahahui Malama `o Kaniakapupu, and we DO have stewardship of the area.

    Ka Lei Maile Ali`i Hawaiian Civic Club is one of the stewardship partners of the `Ahahui.

    We have been having increasing problems recently because of vandlism and theft. Increasing publicity is not helping matters. We are not happy with people turning the place into some kind of tourist destination

    Yes, anyone can access it (despite violating watershed regs). It seems in the western world that everyone has rights and is free to do whatever they want. Just because one can do something does not mean the one should do it.

    You are not required to have permission to go. It is traditional for those who are malihini to ask permission from Na Akua of the place and the kupa`aina/stewards. Hawaiian traditional practices are even being abandoned by Kanaka Maoli for the western mindset.

    The `Ahahui has scheduled service days to malama the place. Ka Lei Maile `Ali`i Hawaiian Civic Club website has contact information. If you must visit it is better to give something back and not just take.

    Be part of the solution to the problem not part of the problem.

    Baron Ching, vice chair, `Ahahui Malama `o Kaniakapupu

  10. Aloha!

    I am a new follower! I found this post searching for more information on the ruins because I’m doing a post myself on them. May I borrow a couple of your pictures for my post with credit to you? Also, was your disclaimer at the top added after you originally posted this for legal issues? If so could I borrow that as well? :)Thank you so much. I look forward to getting to know you.

    ~Heather from thepinklab.blogspot.com

    • Sure Heather, you can go ahead and use some of these photos for your post. It would be nice if you linked back to this original post too!

      Disclaimer is added to posts in which access is considered questionable.

      Thanks for visiting! Hope to see you around here again soon!

Comments are closed.