In Hawai‘i, many towns, districts and streets, are named for a natural geographical characteristic, historical event, mythical spirit, or famous inhabitant. Learning the story about these names can open new doors of wonder. An example is the southeasternmost district on O‘ahu, Maunalua (two mountains). Maunalua, was named for its two, volcanic tuff cones (mountains), Koko Head and Koko Crater. Kawena Pukui and Mr. Theodore Kelsey agree the koko part of the name, probably originated from the red soil at Koko landing; a small canoe landing on the Wai‘alae (mudhen water) side of Koko Head. Or, perhaps, it was from the blood (koko) of a man bitten by a shark at that location. Historically, Maunalua was an ‘ili (land section) of Waimānalo (potable water) in the Ko‘olaupoko (short windward) district. Later in Hawai‘i’s history, Maunalua became a part of the O‘ahu’s Kona (southern) district.
Maunalua was home to a very large, ancient, fishpond named, Keahupua o Maunalua (The shrine of the baby mullet of Maunalua). This large fishpond was called, Kuapā (fishpond wall). It was built by menehune for Chiefess Mahoe. Kuapā was 523 acres in size. Its walls began immediately beyond the district of Kuli‘ou‘ou (sounding knee – knee drum). Henry J. Kaiser’s development company partially-filled Kuapā, creating a marina and new land for his Hawai‘i-Kai community. In ancient Hawai‘i, Maunalua was known as a sweet potato growing area, for several notable heiau and for beautiful Maunalua Bay. There are many “storied places and objects” along its eastern coast and within the district. Today, Maunalua district has several popular tourist sights, namely, the Makapu‘u lighthouse, Blow Hole or Hālona (peering place), Sandy Beach, Hanauma Bay at Koko Crater, Koko Head Botanical Gardens and the Koko Head stairs. These “stairs” were built by the U.S. Military during World War II. The steps supported rails of a tram for hauling heavy military gear and ammunition up and to the defense emplacement built atop Koko Head.
Annually, thousands of tourists and residents stop at the Hālona Blow Hole, for a panoramic view of the coastline, ocean and, if lucky, a view of the islands of Maui and Moloka‘i in the distance. Neighboring Sandy Beach (wāwāmalu or ‘ōku‘u) is a beach for experienced swimmers or surfers and, a tanning spot for others. In ancient Hawai‘i, when Paki was konohiki (headman, for ahupua‘a), Hanuama was the realm of Chiefesses ‘Ihi‘ihilauākea and Kauanonoula. Hanauma was a favorite fishing and recreation area for ali‘i (chiefs). The ali‘i amused themselves with fishing, hula and games of uma (arm wrestling). The bay derives its name from that pastime, uma or arm wrestling. Every year, about 3000 thousand tourists visit Hanauma, in addition to residents and visitors who just drive-through the parking area at Hanauma (curved bay or hand wrestling bay; pronounced, ha-nau-ma). Hanauma boasts a bay, beach park, underwater park, and marine life conservation district.
Koko Head became the new location of Lunalilo Home in 1969, located on the slopes of Koko Head. King Charles David Lunalilo was the 6th ruler of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1857 and, upon his death in 1874, his will provided a home for elderly Hawaiians. In 1883, the first Lunalilo Home was built on property owned by the King in Makiki, just makai of Roosevelt High School. After 45 years, the home needed repair, and the decision was to move to a new location, so Lunalilo Home now sits on the slopes of Koko Head.