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Field Site:

This REU-Site will focus student field activities within the ahupua‘a of Kailua on the island of O‘ahu.

Kailua literally means two (ʻelua) seas (kai), and is so named because the two great fishponds – Kawainui and Kaʻelepulu – that connect to the sea[1].

The Kailua ahupua‘a is the largest ahupua‘a of the moku of Koʻolaupoko and the largest valley on the windward (east) side of O‘ahu. From the Koʻolau ridge line the ahupuaʻa extends down two descending ridge lines which provide the natural boundaries for the sides of the ahupua‘a. Ka Malanai is the gentle (northeast, according to some) breeze associated with Kailua [2]. ʻĀpuakea is the prevailing rain in Kailua, named for the most beautiful woman in Kailua that out of jelalousy perhaps, Hiʻiaka turned into rain[3]. Pikoakea – a spring found just below Awāloa (the peak that marks the center of Maunawili Valley) – is the is the source of clean pure water that feeds the streams[4]. At least 50 springs (43 seasonal and 7 perennial) recharge the streams, flow northeast through Kawainui Marsh and empty into Kailua Bay [5].

Kailua was traditionally one of the most productive food baskets in the state, known for irrigated taro farming, inland fishponds, and coastal and deep water fishing grounds.  Kawainui, the second largest fishpond in Hawaiʻi (and now the largest remaining wetland in Hawaiʻi) was so productive that not only was it capable of growing upwards of 500,000 pounds of fish per year, but it was so clean that the mud at the bottom of the pond was sought after as a delicacy that fed aliʻi (chiefs) and makaʻāinana (common people) alike.

The ahupua‘a of Kailua features prominently in mo‘olelo, or stories that maintained the oral tradition of Hawaiian knowledge and ways of knowing. Such as:

Kailua has a network of University of Hawai‘i researchers from associated research institutions, and several organizations that integrate modern science and indigenous Hawaiian ways of knowing to produce food, preserve biodiversity, and increase resilience to global change.

Our on-site partner is Kauluakalana – a community-based, non-profit organization that was founded in 2019 by kamaʻāina (born and raised in that place) of Kailua. The mission of Kauluakalana is to grow relationships of people to place through the practices of retelling Kailua-specific stories, replanting and eating ancestral foods, and caring for the sacred sites, lands, and waters of our beloved Kailua.

Brief Timeline of Kailua

Kailua Ahupuaʻa Maps

Laboratory Site:

The institution sponsoring all laboratory research is the University of Hawai’i (Manoa campus). Individual laboratories are associated with the :


[1]. Pūkuʻi, Elbert, & Moʻokini. Place Names of Hawaiʻi. 1974, 2004. University of Hawaiʻi Press.

[2]. Nakuina, M. K. (1990). The Wind Gourd of Laʻamaomao. Kalamakū Press: Honolulu.

[3]. Akana, C. L. and Gonzalez, K. (2015). Hānau Ka Ua: Hawaiian Rain Names. Kamehameha Publishing: Honolulu.

[4]. Saffery, M. (2009). Pikoakea. In Kailua. (pp. 44-49). Kailua Historical Society.

[5]. Brennan, P. and Allen, J. (2009). Life Along the Streams in Maunawili. In Kailua. (pp. 73-86) Kailua Historical Society.

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