Kamehameha III ruled the Kingdom of Hawai’i from 1825 to 1854. During his reign, the pressure to “modernize” and thus protect Hawai’i’s sovereignty from Pacific colonial powers was set against the need to keep the nation intact internally and ensure that this Western influence did not separate him from his chiefs and his people. Kaniakapūpū was an important site for achieving the latter goal.
Completed in 1845, Kaniakapūpū was built in the Nu’uanu Valley on O’ahu. The palace was situated on a parcel of crown lands called Luakaha, meaning roughly “place of relaxation.” The palace itself was a fairly straightforward structure in the traditional style, consisting of four stone walls enclosing one large room and surrounded by a porch on all sides. The grounds also included a stone perimeter wall, a detached kitchen house, a garden, and a Lono heiau (a temple or house dedicated to Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture, fertility, peace, and music). The palace was named Kaniakapūpū, which means “the singing of the land shells.”
Built as a place where the king and his court could escape the summer heat, it was also a place where they could retreat from Western influence, shedding their Western clothing and discussing matters of politics and governance with Hawaiian chiefs, providing refreshment and entertainment to the Hawaiian people, and entertaining foreign dignitaries in Hawaiian style. A luau held in honor of Hawaiian Restoration Day at Kaniakapūpū in 1847 reportedly had 10,000 people in attendance.
In 2016, vandalism to Kaniakapūpū prompted the closure of the site to visitors. Barriers have been installed around the crumbling 175-year-old structure.
Know Before You Go
The Kaniakapūpū Ruins are located on private land and is currently being reviewed for barriers for protection from vandals and destruction. Entry to the area is only allowed by permit from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.