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CRAMP Study Sites: Kealaikahiki Ili, Island of Kaho‘olawe,

Hakioawa Ili -- Kanapou Ili -- Kūnaka-Na‘alapa Ili -- Kealaikahiki Ili -- Honoko‘a Ili -- Ahupū Ili -- Kūheia & Kaulana Ili -- Papaka Ili

Geographic Name: Kealaikahiki Ili

Geographic Location (shoreline):

From Lae Paki South to Puhi Anenue Point

Chart showing coastline of Kealaikahiki Ili.

Chart showing coastline of Kealaikahiki Ili. (Click image for larger view.)

1993 NOAA aerial photo of Kealaikakiki Ili provided by Steve Rohmann.

1993 NOAA aerial photo of Kealaikakiki Ili provided by Steve Rohmann. (Click image for larger view.)


This section of shoreline is dominated by sandy beaches. A wide submerged shelf containing remnants of Black Rock and Kuia Shoal extends offshore from Lae o Kealaikahiki. This portion of the island is subjected to strong southern and southwesterly swell, and coral coverage is low. Coral communities are dominated by Pocillopora meandrina. The adjacent watershed faces southwest with gentle slope of land. The area is vegetated and is producing little sediment. Native vegetation in this area is regarded as being in relatively good condition.

Reef Structure, Habitat Classification:

Many shipwrecks have occurred off Kuia Shoals, which is located off Lae o Kealaikahiki.

Oceanographic and Meteorological Conditions:

This coastline is exposed to south swell and Kona storm surf. Flood tidal currents follow the patterns of the prevailing trade wind currents, diverging around the eastern end of the island and converging off the southwest coast at Lae o Kealaikahiki. At ebb tide the direction of the tidal current reverses, although the net effect due to the over-riding importance of the wind-driven surface current is flow southward along the coast (Environment Impact Study Corp., 1979).

This water flow pattern known as "The Way to Tahiti" has historically been used by Hawaiian voyagers. Starting from Lae o Kealaikahiki, the wind and current patterns favored long journeys to the south.

The western end of the island has two large beaches, Hanakanai‘a (Smuggler’s Cove) and Keana a ke Keiki (Twin Sands), separated by Lae o Kealaikahiki. Two excellent surfing sites, Kaukaukapapa, east of Lae o Kealaikahiki and Kanapou (Clark, 1980) are locally reknown. Kaukaukapapa has a moderately steep slope and powerful currents from north to south. Kanapou is exposed to strong waves from the Alalākeiki Channel.

Human Use Patterns:

Area contains facilities at Honokanai‘a built by military to support the bombing range. These facilities presently being used to support the ordnance removal operation.

Each year a makahiki or festival is held. The procession ends at Keanakeiki Beach near Lae o Kealaikahiki. A canoe bearing gifts for the Hawaiian god Lono is then launched.

Noteworthy Biota or Ecological Conditions:

A pod of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris) rest offshore during day. In addition, NMFS surveys found that the nearshore waters off Smuggler‘s Cove, including Kuia Shoal, the northwest coast from Lae o Kealaikahiki to Lae o Kukui and the‘Alalākeiki Channel area between Lae o Kukui and Lae o ka Ule appear to be especially desirable humpback whale habitat bordering Kaho‘olawe. Groups of whales sighted in these areas often include calves, indicating their possible importance as nursery grounds (Environmental Impact Study Corporation, 1979).

A salient feature in this area was created in 1965 when over 500 tons of explosives formed the Sailor’s Hat. This crater 50 m in diameter is relatively close to shore (50 m) and thus reaches the watertable. Although it has no connection to the ocean from the surface, the crater varies with tidal fluctuations. The deepest point of this anchialine pond is approximately 5 m. Small amounts of groundwater intrusion is evident from its salinity, which is only slightly lower than the adjacent seawater and a slight elevation in silica. The native anchialine shrimp (Halocarindina rubra), and the endemic tubeworm (Vermiliopsis torquata) are among the dominant species that thrive in the pond. Lacking a surface connection for colonization, it has been suggested that species may have been dispersed by wind or storm waves. The endemic shrimp most likely immigrated through cracks and crevices in the surrounding rock, which prevented entry by larger predators.

Historical and Cultural Importance:

The western most point of Kaho‘olawe, Lae o Kealaikahiki, "The Way to Tahiti", is a point of departure for voyaging canoes to distant lands. Here canoes were launched, smugglers brought in contraband, and a base camp for military target range was established. This is also a significant site for its fishing ko‘a or shrines and petroglyphs.


Last Update: 04/21/2008

By: Lea Hollingsworth

Hawai‘i  Coral Reef Assessment & Monitoring Program

Hawai‘i  Institute of Marine Biology

P.O. Box 1346

Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744

808-236-7440 phone

808-236-7443 fax