Kealakekua Bay – Historical Facts

Kealakekua Bay – Overview


Around 12 miles south of the famous Kailua Village lies the Kealakekua Bay, a marine-life sanctuary loaded with natural beauty and rich history. The crystal clear water at the Kealakekua Bay makes it the favorite snorkeling destination. It is also the home of tropical fish and colorful coral that inspired Disney for the animated hit “Finding Nemo”.

For ancient Hawaiians, Kealakekua Bay is a sacred site. The name Kealakekua translates to “the pathway of the God,” and it was believed that the Kealakekua Bay was the home to the Hawaiian fertility god, Lono-i-ka-makahiki. However, with a calming demeanor today, Kealakekua Bay has a dramatic past.

History of the Kealakekua Bay


Before 1779, thousands of Hawaiians inhabited this place. Fishing, swimming, and canoe paddling were the source of fun and livelihood for the locals. However, in 1779, things changed forever. A British explorer, Captain James Cook, with his ships the Resolution and the Discovery, sailed into Kealakekua Bay. Captain Cook and his crew arrived during what Hawaiians call the Makahiki Season. This is a time of festivity for the Hawaiians. Food, play, and peace are the essentials of the Makahiki season. According to some historians, the Hawaiians believed that Captain Cook was the Hawaiian god Lono, the god of peace, fertility, and agriculture. So they greeted him and his crew with open arms. The Captain and his crew enjoyed the feasts and fanfare, and in return, they offered tours of his ships to the locals. The Captain and his team also hosted a display of fireworks that both spellbound and frightened the Hawaiians.

After almost two weeks of festivities, the Captain left with his ships and sailed along the coast of Alaska. On their way, they encountered a storm, and the ships needed repair. So they head back to Kealakekua Bay, but this time the bay was strikingly different. The Makahiki festival was over, and the Hawaiians had set up the tikis of Ku, the God/symbol of war. Some historians believe that Captain Cook and his crew left an unfavorable impression on the natives, while others believe that the Hawaiians wanted metal from the ships, which was a valuable commodity not common on the island. Therefore the locals took over one of Cook’s small boats and burned it to ashes to get hold of the nails. These metal nails were excellent for making fish hooks, an essential tool needed by the locals for fishing.

It was when Captain Cook demanded his ship that a fight began. Captain Cook, along with five of his crew, was killed during the dispute. While people did not regard him as the Hawaiian god, they recognized his position and offered him the Hawaiian burial where his body was burned. The ashes were distributed among the tribal chiefs.

The Monument


It was not until almost a century later that the U.S. government allocated a small area of land where the Captain Cook Monument was established in 1894. Since the land is considered to be a part of the British Territory, the British Navy maintains the monument.


Also, the largest mausoleum in Hawaii can be found at the Kealakekua Bay. This large cliff is home to thousands of lava tubes and some dramatic local traditions explain how the lava tubes are fueled. If you want to visit a travel destination with both beauty and history, then Kealakekua Bay should be your choice. To know more about Kealakekua Bay’s history or visit the Big Island, contact Kona Directory today!


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