Wai‘awa stretched from what is called the Mānā flats today to the edge of the Waimea Canyon. Wai‘awa means Bitter water.

Wai‘awa: Lit: Bitter water

The ahupua‘a of Wai-‘awa stretched from what is called the Mānā flats today to the edge of the Waimea Canyon. Wai‘awa means Bitter water, although it is not now known whether the name refers to the quality of the water which once flowed in the streams or to the water of a well which was located on the edge of the great marshes and swamps of Mānā.

There were house sites and taro terraces in the valley.

There were two small heiau in Wai-`awa described by Thrum as a 12 by 20 foot shrine and an 18 by 28 foot shrine. [Ben 14] [Ben 15] [G&R] [Geo] [Gay 55] [Thrum]


The Streams of Wai‘awa

The naming of the streams that drain the watershed of Wai‘awa was typical. Four streams drain water away from the canyon rim. Each two of these joined together to form a stream, and these two streams came together into one, and each branch was given a name.

Of the four streams, the one furthest to the east begins at a hill named Pu‘u-lau-ka-‘uhane. This hill is 2319 feet above sea level and is the hill just by the junction of the two highways leading to Koke‘e State Park. The name means Hill of the leaf belonging to the ghosts. 

The name of the stream is Ka-ohe, The bamboo. Several species of bamboo were indigenous to Kaua‘i, and several were endemic, unique to this island.

On the banks of the Ka-ohe, near the hilltop, the missionary Samuel Whitney in 1820 spent the first night of his trip around Kaua‘i. The spot bears the name Ka-moe-na-Wini, The sleeing place of Whitney’s group.

The next stream west is Ka-pu‘e, named after a lobelia plant Lobelia gaudichaudii var. Kauaiensis which can only be found on these slopes. Its flowers were white streaked with purple.

The third stream was Kukui-puha, Hollow kukui nut.

The fourth stream, which begins at Pōhaku-manō is also named after a plant, the kukae-‘iole, Rat pellets. This is a grass that grows in clumps and in olden days often had rat pellets around it. Some Hawaiians believed that the grass grew from these pellets but others maintained that the pellets were there because the grass was a good hiding place for rats.

Ka-ohe and Ka-pu‘e join together to form Ka-hoana stream and valley. A hoana was a type of whetstone or grindstone used to sharpen tools.

Kukae-‘iole and Kukui-puha join to form the Hō‘ea, To arrive. The ridge between Hō‘ea and Ka-hoana was named Hau-ola, Gift of life and is where the father of Ola (famed for the Menehune ditch in Waimea) built a heiau to celebrate his son’s safe arrival to adluthood.

Hō‘ea and Ka-hoana flow together to form Wai-‘awa which then flowed past housesites and taro fields before losing itself in the great swamps and marshes that stretched from Waimea to Polihale.