Keauhou's history comes alive for hotel's guests
2/14/13: Partially obscured by shrubs along Keauhou Bay, the treasures of Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa had been overlooked for decades. Long forgotten, too, were their stories.
When Lily Dudoit began working at the property as a sales assistant in September 2005, she often strolled along the coastal edge of Kaukulaelae Point, where the hotel is situated. She noticed what appeared to be the remains of historical sites there, and wondered why no one was talking about them.
"I didn't want to ask questions because I was a new employee, and I told myself I should just be quiet and do my job," Dudoit said. "In a few months I was promoted to executive assistant to the general manager. As time went on, the idea that we needed to acknowledge and preserve Keauhou's history became a priority. The feeling that I should speak up got stronger and stronger."
Dudoit finally summoned the courage to approach her boss about researching the sites and incorporating the information in new cultural programs. To her surprise, he readily agreed.
Today, Dudoit is Sheraton Kona's alakai hooluana, director of cultural and leisure activities. Among other duties, she oversees three free historical walks that are open to the public.
The aina (land) and Auntie Lily Kong, a respected Hawaiian cultural resource who has lived in Keauhou all her life, were Dudoit's guides as she developed the walks.
"When I wrote the narratives and publicity materials," Dudoit recalled, "I showed them to Auntie Lily and asked, ‘Are these OK?' She said, ‘Lily, why are you asking me? You need to ask the place. Listen with an open mind and heart, and you'll feel the answers in your naau (gut).' She was right."
Over the years, Dudoit has spent countless hours reading books, studying maps, poring over old photos and meditating at Kaukulaelae Point beside the archaeological sites. She views the walks as a way of honoring Keauhou's past.
"I tell guests that just because we look around and see cars, roads and buildings here, it doesn't mean the essence of Keauhou is gone," she said. "Its stories about Hawaiian values and traditions are not gone, and it's important that we share them to keep Keauhou's history alive. The heiau and other sites show us that Hawaiians lived here long ago. They help us remember where we came from and that there are important lessons to be learned from our ancestors."
Dudoit leads four of the five walks every week, always rejuvenated by her role as a steward of Keauhou and her interactions with visitors. "Many of them get teary-eyed," she said. "The energy at Kaukulaelae is peaceful yet powerful. It's the land that's really speaking to them, not me."
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won several Society of American Travel Writers awards.
Lekeleke Burial Grounds
When Liholiho became ruler of the Islands after the death of his father, King Kamehameha, in May 1819, one of his first acts was to abolish the kapu (taboo) system. Among the chiefs who wanted to preserve these ancient laws was his cousin Kekuaokalani. A rebellion ensued, culminating in a December 1819 battle between the armies of the two royals on a lava field at the end of what is now Alii Drive. Liholiho emerged victorious but the price was high. Mounds on the surrounding hillside mark the graves of more than 300 warriors who died in that conflict.
When hit in the right place with a stick or stone, this large rock would emit a loud clang akin to the sound of a bell. It was used to alert villagers about impending danger and important news.
This temple dates to the 1700s, but not much else is known about it since all that remains of it are scattered rocks. After the demise of the kapu system in 1819, many heiau were destroyed because they were seen as symbols of the old ways. Scholars believe Kaukulaelae Heiau was among them.
Before heading to sea, fishermen left offerings to the gods here to ask for protection and a bountiful catch. When they returned, they presented the first fish they caught to the gods in gratitude for a safe and successful trip. This temple has not been restored, but it is intact and in fair condition.
Villagers collected seawater in indented stones along the coast. When the water evaporated, paakai (salt) remained, which was used to preserve fish, in healing remedies and as a cleansing agent for religious rituals.
Stones fitted tightly together form what was once the foundation of a house and the walls of a cattle pen and a canoe shed.
The opiuma (opium) tree gets its nickname, Menehune Tree, from the large lumps on its trunk, which reflect the muscular build of the Menehune. That race of little people supposedly constructed walls, roads, heiau, ditches and fishponds only at night. If they didn't complete the work before the sun rose, they left it unfinished.
SHERATON KONA RESORT & SPA AT KEAUHOU BAY
» Meet at: Pool terrace on the ground floor (near the Link@Sheraton lounge), Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, 78-128 Ehukai St., Keauhou, Hawaii island
» Phone: 930-4900; ask for the concierge desk
» Email: email@example.com
Kaukulaelae Historical Tour
Sundays, 5 p.m., free
Easy one-hour walk covers all the sites in the accompanying sidebar except the Lekeleke Burial Grounds.
Historic Keauhou Bay by Land & Sea Experience
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.
An optional one-hour ride around Keauhou Bay on the Kinikini, a Hawaiian sailing canoe, can follow the land tour described above. Cost is $55 per person. Space is limited; reservations can be made on a first-come, first-served basis. A stop is made at Kamehameha III's birthplace by the bay before visitors board the canoe.
Holoholo Keauhou-Mauka Makai
Mondays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m.
After a free 90-minute walk to the Lekeleke Burial Grounds, participants can go on the optional $55 canoe ride. The walking distance is about two miles; be aware the terrain is rocky and uneven in some areas. Wear a hat, sunscreen and sturdy, comfortable covered shoes.
Tel. 866-716-8140 www.sheratonkona.com.
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