Wai‘oli contains 3350 acres, much of it unusable mountain area, which forms a great tourist attraction for its sheer beauty. Wai‘oli means Singing water or Joyful water


Wai‘oli: Singing water or Joyful water

The ahupua‘a contains 3350 acres, much of it unusable mountain area, which forms a great tourist attraction for its sheer beauty.

Wai‘oli contains the most magnificent and individual mountain peaks on Kauai: Hihimanu, Nāmolokama, and Mamalahoa. These form a deep valley through which the Wai‘oli river rushes from the pool at the bottom of the waterfalls of Nāmolokama, passing the ridge of Kamo‘okoleaka, skirting the ridge of Makaihuwa‘a, and forming a swampy low lying area just before entering the ocean. Today this area goes by the name of Hanalei valley.

That the river gave life to the people of Wai‘oli is abundantly clear by the legends connected to it. It was heavily settled in ancient days. High at the top of Nāmolokama is a swamp where the colorful forest birds were abundant and plants unique to the high altitudes of this island grew in profusion, source of food, dyes, and medicines. The river flowed constantly down a sufficient slope so that the broad plain could be easily irrigated and kula lands were also abundantly watered, making this ahupua‘a a rich and fertile land. The ahupua‘a opens directly into the great bay, sheltered by a reef in all but the worst of winter storms. Here great schools of fish came and canoes could easily be launched out into the great ocean.

When the New England Congregational missionaries Samuel Whitney and Samuel Ruggles, brought King Kaumuali‘i’s son George Humehume back to him in 1820, Kaumuali‘i asked them to remain, giving them land in Waimea on which to settle. Within a year, Samuel Whitney had crossed the Alaka‘i swamp and visited this area. Soon after he formed a mission in the area given him by Kaumuali‘i for his use. Several families from Waimea joined Whitney. They named the lands they settled Betelema, or Bethlehem. The settlement continued, and today the mission house is the second oldest building on Kauai. In 1821, when Liholiho (Kamehameha II) came to visit Kaua‘i, Ka-umu-ali‘i, ruler of the island, toured the island. While he was in Hanalei, Ka-umu-ali‘i gave some land to the early church members who had moved from Waimea under the missionaries Whitney and Ruggles. Rev. Samuel Whitney was the first konohiki chief of this new ‘ili.

In 1824, King Lunalilo came to Kaua‘i to visit with King Kaumuali‘i. He sent ahead of him his favorite sailing vessel, Haheo of Hawaii, the former Cleopatra‘s Barge. The ship went aground on the reef of Wai-koko. Under Lunalilo‘s direction, huge ropes of hau bark were woven and tied to the ship in an effort to pull the ship off the rocks. However, the sea was running high and when the ship was finally gotten off the rocks, it was smashed back against them and quickly sank. There is a quarter size model of the great stateroom of this ship in the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts.