Kaena Point From Mokuleia: Bunkers, Legends, and Old Railways

I love exploring the north and west shores leading up to Kaena Point, primarily because I think it is the last stretch of wild coastline on Oahu. Once you step beyond where the paved roads end in both Mokuleia and Waianae, you are instantly surrounded by beautiful coastal terrain, cultural sites, and remnants of a historical past once dominated by plantations and the military.

One of the earliest posts on Exploration: Hawaii was an exploration of Kaena Point starting from the Waianae side. Nearly five years since that post, we return to Kaena Point and take a look at the northern coastline from Mokuleia. The first time I explored this stretch of coastline was many years ago (before this blog even existed) when I read about Ancient Hawaiian folklore describing this area to be home to the jumping off spot for the spirits of the recently deceased. Needless to say, we had chosen the wrong time of the day (late in the afternoon) and the wrong attire (rubber slippers) to do much exploring. The light faded quickly, and instead risk becoming one of those unfortunate souls that we had read about, we turned around. I don’t think we ever reached the jumping rock, and I know for sure that we never made it to Kaena Point.

It is believed that the Kaena coastline, leading to Kaena Point, was home to small fishing villages. By 1898, The Oahu Railway and Land Company changed all of that. The remnants of this historic railway remain. Look down at any given time and you might be able to make out the faint remains of wood and metal. The old rail connected Honolulu to Kahuku, via Waianae and Waialua. This was in fact the only time in Oahu’s history that a major mechanism for transport existed in this part of the island. A 1946 tsunami led to the demise of the railway and by 1947 it was abandoned. Every now and again, public discussion pops up in regards to building a modern road that connects Waianae to Mokuleia. Let’s hope that never happens.

As we made our way to Kaena Point, we decided to explore the many military leftovers from World War I through World War II. What’s left of the bunkers and pillboxes are artifacts from the old Kaena Point Military Reservation which was established in 1923. Existing structures still viewable today include a fire control station, radar station, tunnel complexes, and various concrete quarters. The flat area below the mountains, where the albatross sanctuary now exists, was once home to Camp Kaena. It’s hard to imagine that this nature reserve was once home to a bustling military camp.

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Leave your dogs at home. Kaena Point is a Natural Area Reserve and home to fledgling albatross.

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Remember that jumping off rock I mentioned earlier? This is it. It’s actually known by Hawaiians as Leina A Ka Uhane, or, “the souls leaping place.” Some folklore mention it as White Rock, Kahuna’s Leap, and Ghost’s Leap. Ancient Hawaiians believed that when an individual died, their souls traveled west, toward the setting sun. On Oahu, that would be Kaena Point, and this is the rock that the soul leaped from, as it transitioned into some other world. Maybe not so wise for the person in the photo to be contemplating while sitting on it.

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Dubland Ireland native, Eoin (ArtByEoin), uses natural canvases to create his art. Here, is a piece that he did on a concrete artifact at Kaena Point. This caused quite the controversy in 2013. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t yet been painted over.

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Looking back towards Waianae.

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About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

2 comments

    • Yep, I wouldn’t stand on that rock. Guy sitting on the rock was some random dude that we noticed while we were making our way to Kaena Point. He probably had no idea…

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