Kailua is located on the Windward side of O‘ahu, and is known by many for its cool breezes and great beaches. Malanai is the name of the gentle breeze that Kailua has, and ‘Āpuakea is the name of the rain from Kailua. Meaning two seas, Kailua, is named for the two currents, which run through Kailua Bay. However, some people say that Kailua is short for Kaiulua, which means the sea of ulua fish, which were once plentiful.
In old Hawai‘i, Kailua was known as the playground for the ali‘i. Many chiefs trained in Kailua when they were younger. In Kailua, spear throwing, Makahiki games, and war tactics, were learned.
The ahupua‘a (named Ko’olaupoko) of Kailua had vast farmlands, making Kailua a sought after place to be for the chiefs. Land was key, and Kakuhihewa, the chief of O‘ahu liked Kailua to such an extent, that he built a government house there named Pamoa. It served many purposes including: debates about land divisions, ancestor claims, genealogy registration, war club practice, spear thrusting practice, astrology, designing, astronomy, and much more. In addition, the Kailua ahupua’a offered beautiful natural wonders like Kapa’a valley, Kawainui marsh, and the Ko’olau mountain range for the ali’I to use.
Aside from being a place to enjoy by the Hawaiian chiefs, Kailua was home to Hawaiian temples or heiau. One of which is Ulupō, which means “Night Inspiration”. It is one of the few remaining temple sites in Kailua. The estimated building date was close to 500 AD around the eastern edge of Kawainui fishpond. This was originally built as a māpele type of heiau; once used for agricultural purposes, and later evidence showed that the heiau might have changed to a luakini; once used to worship the god Kū and required human sacrifices. Today, it’s relatively intact by the Kailua YMCA parking lot, and described by some as a “pile of rocks”
Residents describe the evolution of Kailua by saying it went from pastures to suburbs.A thousand years ago, Kailua was primarily ocean, which was then slowly filled in by the runoff from mountain streams’ debris.
In the early 1920s, if you lived by the beach, you wouldn’t have electricity, running water, or a sewer system. Sand surrounded houses – no weeds, just flat land. Farmers living around the area would grow rice, watermelons, gourds and cucumbers among other things, receiving credit from local merchants for trade. In the mid to late 1930’s, more people started to populate Kailua building houses by the beach. At first they started as one-room cottages, but eventually grew bigger. By the late 50’s Kailua started to develop the footprint that you see today.
Picnics, ocean sounds, jam sessions any hour any day, and “no street” noise after dark are childhood memories for many. Kailua is a small town that makes for good memories. Crossing through the Ko’olau Mountains creates a sigh of relief once you see the windward side, lush terrain, streams, marshes, and the blue ocean. The farmers’ markets, Fourth of July parade, summers at the boat ramp, canoe paddling races, hula dancers, musicians and artists, are all a part of what make Kailua, Kailua.