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Waikiki History

By Jonathan Howery

Hawaii Turtle Tours takes the scenic route through this district of Honolulu while it drives to sightseeing destinations. One thing you will learn is about Waikiki history. The word Waikiki means spouting water in the Hawaiian language. This is in reference to the springs and rivers that flowed into the area from rains in the mountains. In the 1400s, a local chief by the name of Kalamakua planned an irrigation system to tap into the area’s resources. Taro patches were planted fishponds were built. Then during the 1450s a local tribunal government was set up.

Waikiki is also one of Hawaii’s historic battlegrounds. Kamehameha I arrived in 1794 from the Big Island with 100s of canoes and 1000s of warriors. His army took over Waikiki Beach and set up their camps along the shores. Then Kamehameha’s army moved toward the Nuuanu valley to attack the Oahu forces and their chief Kalanikupule. Kamehameha had superior forces pushed many of Oahu’s warriors over the Pali cliffs to the deaths.

As trade grew under Kamehameha rule over the unified islands of Hawaii, Honolulu’s population also grew. This meant and expansion of the harbors for more ships and more trade. King Kamehameha moved his court in 1812 from his home in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island aka the Big Island to Honolulu, Oahu. Waikiki itself functioned as a retreat for the royalty to enjoy as a vacation of sorts. Royal descendents kept their own homes in the area of Waikiki for such reasons.

It wasn’t until the mid 1850s that Waikiki became a tourist destination. When more crowds started showing up, the Ala Wai Canal was built to drain the area and allow for more development. This lead to an expansion of hotel construction and the Waikiki skyline is now full of an abundance of high-rises for resort hotels. However, the beaches are still sandy (although mainly man-made) and the surf at Waikiki is famous for summer-time swells making it ideal for beginners here on holiday.

Enjoy your vacation here in the lovely Hawaiian Islands and if you have any questions about Hawaii Turtle Tours or about this blog, feel free to email at


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