History of the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kona, Hawaii
King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel is on one of the most historic sites in all of Hawaii. King Kamehameha the Great established his royal residence adjacent to the current site of his namesake hotel. During his reign he rebuilt Ahu'ena Heiau, a temple dedicated to Lono who was the Hawaiian God of peace, agriculture and prosperity. Here Kamehameha the Great lived and conducted matters of government, until his passing on May 8, 1819. Indeed, our Hawaii hotel owes quite a debt to our island’s rich history and culture.
King Kamehameha's residence included all of Kamakahonu, the bay around which the hotel is focused. Besides homes, his residence also had numerous fishponds and gardens.
Our Kona, Hawaii, hotel is filled with many exquisite and historic artifacts and depictions of 18th Century Hawaiian life. Among many of King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel's treasures are a fascinating mural, portraits
of Hawaiian royalty, Ahu'ula (treasured feather cape),
Mahi'ole (feather helmet), Pahu Heiau
(temple drum), Lei Hulu (feather wreaths),
Lei Nio Palaoa (whales tooth pendant), war
weapons, ancient Hula instruments, and displays of domestic
and agricultural artifacts.
Reconstructed by King Kamehameha the Great between 1812-1813, the Ahu'ena Heiau is on the register of National Historic Landmarks as one of the most important of Hawaii's historic sites. In the heiau or ancient temple, the dominant temple image was of Kalaemoku, a chief deified for his healing of acute diseases. Carved upon Kalaemoku's helmet was a perched bird. Other images in the heiau were of ancestral gods with whom Kamehameha maintained close rapport for the benefit of his kingdom.
Members of Kamehameha's council frequently met with him at the Ahu'ena Heiau for ritual prayers and to instruct Kamehameha's young heir in the ways of wise government.
Prominently displayed in the lobby area of the King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel is a large and compelling mural painted by renowned artist Herb Kane. The mural depicts Kamehameha, dressed in a simple kapa wrap, in conversation with his son Liholiho, heir apparent who ruled as Kamehameha II.
In the painting to the left sits Ka'ahumanu, a favorite wife of Kamehameha and champion of the missionaries. Without her assistance in the guise of Christianity, the missionaries would not have landed in Hawaii and been allowed to stay. A formidable person, she became the most prominent woman in politics and was named Kuhinanui, or Esteemed Regent, to Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III. Embodied with much power in her own right, Ka'ahumanu successfully maneuvered to acquire even more power. Her leadership capacities were outstanding.
Portraits of Hawaiian Royalty
In addition to portraits of King Kamehameha I, the hotel boasts 20 beautiful paintings of other Hawaiian royalty including Queen Ka'ahumanu (his favorite wife), King Kamehameha II and his wife Queen Kamamalu, King Kamehameha III and his wife Queen Kalama, King Kamehameha IV and his wife Queen Emma, and the bachelor king Kamehameha V.
Ahu'ula (Treasured Feather Cape)
Bird catching was an esteemed profession in old Hawaii and the feathers gathered were offered as tax payments to rulers. Red and yellow feathers were especially prized, though not easily acquired, as the birds were small in size. The feathered cloaks became symbols of rank and status and were worn into battle by royalty.
Mahi'ole (Feather Helmet)
Unique to Hawaii, feather-covered helmets completed the feather capes worn by the highest-ranking leaders. While the helmets of leaders of lesser rank lacked feathers, they were often adorned with ornaments and woven decorations.
Pahu Heiau (Temple Drum)
Played only in temple ceremonies, this drum was an integral part of ancient Hawaiian worship. Made usually of trunks from coconut or breadfruit trees, the Pahu Heiau displayed at the hotel is instead made of Koa, a pristine and highly prized hardwood of Hawaii.
Lei Hulu (Feather Wreaths)
Prized ornaments of high-ranking women of ancient Hawaii, lei hulu were worn either around the neck or head. Lei Hulu made of yellow feathers were the most valuable.
Lei Nio Palaoa (Whales Tooth Pendant)
Worn only by the highest-ranking leaders and only during occasions of great importance, the Lei Nio Palaoa were made from the ivory teeth of sperm whales. They were carved into the shape of a tongue and fastened by a single cord of human hair wound many times to form a comfortable fit.
On display at the hotel are war clubs made from wood, bone and a combination of wood and stone. Examples can also be seen of wooden short spears, daggers, tripping weapons and slings, and long spears.
Ancient Hula Instruments
Featured are feather gourd rattles called Uli Uli, a bamboo pipe, gourd drum, musical bow, nose flute, gourd whistle, shell trumpet, stone castanets, treadle board, split bamboo and hula sticks.
Domestic & Agricultural Artifacts
Part of this display is a cross-section of an imu (underground oven) and a lu'au, digging tool, and stone poi pounders. Also included are examples of two- and three-pronged fishing spears, ancient fishnets and fishhooks.