Explore An Ahupua’a

A Little Bit of HistoryBig Island

PHOTO: HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND VISITOR BUREAU (BIVB) / ANNA PACHECO

Early Hawaiians used a system of land management that was defined by wedge-shaped divisions that stretched from the uplands to the ocean. Called AHUPUA‘A, these land divisions were environmentally sound and fostered good stewardship practices among the occupants of each division. One of the best ways to grasp ahupua‘a land management is to visit LAPAKAHI STATE HISTORICAL PARK, which is located about 14 miles north of Kawaihae on Route 270.

Here, you’ll fi nd the RECONSTRUCTED VILLAGE OF KOAI‘E. Hawaiians first settled in the Lapakahi area during the 1300s, and the fishing village of Koai‘e served as the center of activity in the Lapakahi ahupua‘a until the late 1800s. The 265-ACRE PARK encompasses a variety of partially restored sites, numbered to coincide with information in a free brochure, available in the park’s visitor center.

Moving through the village, it’s not hard to imagine life in this ahupua‘a: farmers growing crops in the mountains, and families catching fish, and then trading for other goods closer to the sea. There are GAMES, like kōnane (sometimes called Hawaiian checkers) and ‘ulu maika (a form of bowling using stones), that children are encouraged to try. Throughout the area, flowers, shrubs and trees are identified, and park guides are in attendance daily between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Note: at press time, this park was closed due to COVID-19 rules. Go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/hawaii/lapakahi-state-historical-park/ for updates.

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