Until a few years ago, anyone driving by this spot would see nothing but a tangle of haole koa trees and cactuses. Billy Kaohelauli‘i, on the other hand, has always known what’s hidden behind the thicket.
A fisherman who grew up on the edge of Kāneiolouma, Kaohelauli‘i had heard the stories passed down among his family, which has lived here for generations. Since he was a kid, Kaohelauli‘i knew the location of the chiefs’ residences, the sports arena (possibly the only intact structure of its kind in Hawai‘i), the heiau (temple). His family drank the water that flowed from the spring of Waiohai.
Ke Kahua o Kāneiolouma is an ancient Hawaiian village and heiau just inland from Po‘ipū Beach Park, on the south shore of Kaua‘i. It dates back to at least the fifteenth century, and the eleven acres of county land on which it sits are all that’s left of a huge complex of agricultural and habitation sites that numbered well over a thousand features—a highly sophisticated society that prospered for centuries before the village was abandoned in the early nineteenth century.