Located point-center between the world famous ex-whaling town of Lahaina to the west and heaven-like beaches of Kihei to the east sits an area known as Olowalu.
Olowalu is a small community along the Honoa-pi’ilani Highway with a land area measuring just under 3 miles and a population of 80 residents.
Driving route 30, many travelers overlook Olowalu with the anticipation of forthcoming beach resorts and amenities. What goes unnoticed is the significance this area holds in ancient Hawaiian history.
Anceient Hawaiian History
Ancient Olowalu was a sustained community once holding a large population. It was governed by the high chiefess Kalola, daughter of Maui ruler; ali’i King Kekaulike.
Historically, ancient Hawaiians farmed the land growing dry land taro, sweet potato and luxuriant shady ‘ulu (breadfruit) groves. They also tended crops which produced useful materials for clothing, shelter and transport. Streams and irrigation ditches nourished these crops. It was home to a traditional farming community until European arrival, when it was replaced with a sugarcane plantation.
Olowalu was considered a pu’u honua or place of refuge, by Hawaiians. Anyone pursued for committing an offense were untouchable once they stepped inside its borders. Olowalu created an interval of space and time to resolve disputes.
The Olowalu Massacre was a significant event, over 100 Hawaiians were killed, many others wounded. Captain Simon Metcalfe of a European ship called the Eleanora noticed one of his small boats went missing. He sailed to Olowalu but found that boat had been broken up for its nails. Metcalfe invited the Hawaiians to meet the ship, indicating he wanted to trade with them. However, he had all the cannons loaded and ready. He opened fire on approaching villagers and into Olowalu village.