Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

Divers pick up their net at Makua Beach early in the morning.
In early times, fishing was a daily activity at Makua.

Photo by Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin

Makua's Storied History

Makua in ancient times was an ahupua'a, a land division from mountain to sea, that shared the valley with Kahanahaiki Ahupua'a to its north, and was bordered by Ohikilolo Ahupua'a to the south

Not much is known of how people lived in Makua before European contact, but a fishing village probably dominated the beach scene and agricultural plantings were probably most extensive in the lower valley. The population was estimated between 300 and 400 people.


Fishing was a daily activity at Makua. The waters were a rich source of moi, 'ama'ama, aholehole, akule, 'opelu, papio, enenue and kala. Coral-shelf areas were a source of sea salt.

The beach area was once an important canoe-landing site, the last stop for canoes traveling from Waianae to Waialua around Kaena Point. Travelers slept on the beach until morning.


A missionary visiting the school in the fishing village of Makua describes clusters of sugarcane growing, perhaps for Hawaiians' personal use. The lower part of the valley was known as a good place for growing cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cotton, tobacco and corn.

A Protestant minister describes an area including Makua as "uninhabited and the remainder where people live, scattered and few they are, and fishing is their favorite occupation."


An April 4 story in the Star-Bulletin states that "Kaneana (Makua Cave) is still kapu -- a sacred place," and that "ancient rites were still performed there as recently as 50 years ago."


The military takes its first parcels of land in Makua Valley and begins to use the Waianae Coast for war games, conducting amphibious landings at Makua Beach.


Only a sandy platform remains of a heiau at Makua that was destroyed. A rectangular-shaped fishing shrine that is still "regarded with respect" by old fishermen in the region is observed in the center of the beach. The shrine was later destroyed by the military.

DEC. 7, 1941

The U.S. Army takes over the entire Makua-Kaena Point area for military security and training operations with the territory under martial law. Kuleana residents, railroad workers and McCandless Estate ranch workers are asked to leave the valley.


The territorial governor requests the return of Makua from the federal government to the state. The terms of a revocable permit that allowed the military to use the land stated that it would be "for the duration of the present war (WWII) and six months thereafter."

The military maintains use of the area and buys out several private landowners, ordering them to leave the area.


Statehood allows the federal government to reserve land for military and other government purposes, and to transfer remaining lands to the newly formed state government.


President Lyndon B. Johnson issues an executive order that reserves use of the interior portion of the valley for the federal government.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources signs a 65-year lease with the Army. The coastal area, which the state has plans to turn into a public park, is granted to it as a public trust.


People living in tents on the beach are evicted by the state when the Army allows the filming of the movie "Hawaii," on Makua Beach. Expensive and elaborate structures are constructed in traditional Hawaiian style. Hawaiian civic groups ask the state to keep the structures after filming so they can maintain a Hawaiian heritage village for educational purposes, but the Army is opposed.


A Feb. 10, 1977, article in the Star-Bulletin counts 40 dwellings in the area and calls it "Squattersville Makua." Another article, one year later, reports that the state intends to evict about 60 families living on the beach to make way for a Makua-Kaena State Park.


Makua residents move back to the beach after being "evicted" by Hurricane Iwa and then barred from returning by the state.

On Jan. 4, the state bulldozes seven shacks on the beach, but a group promises to return and set up a "traditional Hawaiian fishing village."

On Jan. 16, several return again to set up a new camp. The state moves in on Jan. 20 and arrests six people for obstructing a government operation. They are later banned from returning.


State officials post eviction notices at camp sites on March 12, giving more than 200 campers until April 15 to leave. Gov. Ben Cayetano extends the deadline two months to avoid displacing about 50 students.

Source: Cultural History Report of Makua Military Reservation and Vicinity Makua Valley, Oahu, Hawaii, Marion Kelly, 1977.

Stoney Bailey proudly displays the catch from his nets.
Photo by Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin

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