Where You Live: Kane'ohe

By Brenton Awa
Published On: Feb 06 2014 06:55:00 PM HST

Riches and hidden treasures are no secret for Kaneohe residents. People on the Windward side value their beautiful land and what the east side of the island has to offer. KITV4's Brenton Awa takes you to Kaneohe.

KANEOHE, Hawaii -

Nourished by the Ko'olau range lies Kane'ohe.  One of the 11 ahupua'a in the Ko'olaupoko region spanning Kualoa to Makapu'u.

Click here to watch Brenton Awa's story.

Once considered the bread basket in times of drought on the Leeward side with food hauled  around or carried over the ridge.

The wai, or water, still saturates the aina here.

"Its mana is so rich, in the soil; in the water; in the bay; in the plants that grow here.  In the people," said Mahealani Cypher of the Ko'olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club.

A prized treasure that caught the eye of Kamehameha the Great.

"Looking down on Kane'ohe form the Nuuanu Pali, he would've seen flowing streams from the mountain to the ocean," said Cypher.  "He would've seen farm lands that stretch from the base of the land all the way to the shore and he would've seen dozens of fishponds in the bay."

Today, the mailing address of Kane'ohe includes ahupua'a He'eia, Kahalu'u, Waihee, Waiahole and several others.

Which begs the question:  Where you live?

Debatable, depending on whether you're following the Hawaiian land division or the modern zip code.

Then, there's the division of the town itself.

Kane'ohe today is crowded with homes and shops.  Back in 1879, there were no roads.  Just a mill and farmland.  That was much of Kaneohe back then.

The Kapunahala neighborhood was once occupied by Lo'i before being converted to rice fields.  Just up the road, the Halekou neighborhood was filled with cattle dairies.  Just down the hill, Keapuka is now home to the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens.

Nearby, the Kane'ohe-Kailua dam, built after the floods in the 1960s ripped through this subdivision.

"The rain was in the mountain, not in the town, and they lost a few ladies," said Alice Hewitt of the Ko'olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club.

Kane'ohe is also steeped in Hawaiian history.  Homes in Kawa'ewa'e were built just below an ancient Hei'au believed to date back to the 12th century.

In Waikalua, what is now the Kane'ohe Beach Park was once the site where four chiefs made peace and spared a bloody war in these waters from taking place.

Historically, Kane'ohe was a very poor town.  To help, the Yim family opened their first market next to what is now Ben Parker Elementary.

The Yims own eight buildings today, but times weren't always this comfortable.

"We bought a ton-and-a-half truck to haul all these things on the dangerous Pali tunnel," said Evan Yim.

Yim says he's lucky to be alive after all of those trips over the gateway to and from his town.  Now, he gets to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

"Can't believe it.  Can't believe it.  But, we did this all for the people of Kane'ohe," said Yim.

Perhaps one of the most memorable places in Kane'ohe sat at the corner of Lilipuna Road and Kamehameha Highway back in the 1960s.

Honey's Cafe was the "go to" watering hole and where Don Ho's career got its start after he took over the family business.

As Kane'ohe grew, so did its technology.  A song called "Kane'ohe Hula" was composed just after the town turned its lights on getting electricity for the first time.  Now, many say this town is thriving.

But, even as things change, others still remain.  At Paepae o He'eia, an ancient fishpond, volunteers are rebuilding the past to serve the future.

"For us it's really a mission of getting the people that live here more connected," said Hi'ilei Kawelo of Paepae o He'eia.  "More connected with their surroundings and their environment and their ecosystem so that we can make the most informed decisions for our future."

A glimpse of Kane'ohe, where many agree the lights still shine bright.  Preserving its past, savoring the present and preparing for generations to come.

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