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Sea of Riches
Looking toward the ocean, you’ll notice the reef that is prominent from the waves washing over it. In the days of the ancient chiefs and kingdom, this reef was called Ka Papa Limu A Pi’ilani (meaning “the seaweed reef of Pi’ilan,” the great chief) because it was known to contain every variety of seaweed important to the Hawaiians. Just south of here was Mikila, a primary fishing ground, where men would stand on the reef and throw out their nets to retrieve a bountiful catch.
As you can imagine, this long reef was prized in ancient times for its rich food source. But it was also a prime recreational spot. The high chiefs of old Hawai’i would take their papa he’e nalu (surfboards) and ride to shore. The longest continuous wave on Maui began at ‘Uo (north of here at the edge of the harbor) and continued to Makila Beach. The area you are gazing at was so coveted, in fact, that it remained Crown Land even after the Great Mahele land partitioning of 1848.
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Maui’s Royal Family
The royal family of the great Maui chief Pi’ilani, who lived in the late 16th century, was notable throughout the Hawaiian islands for carefully maintaining a spiritual and physical power greatly coveted by rival chiefs.
From the lizard goddess Kihawahine (daughter of Pi’ilani who was deified after her death) through the high chiefs Kekaulike and Kahekili II to Kamehameha the Great’s sacred family, Maui chiefs and Hawaii’s kings have made their home in Lahaina. The area from this oceanfront park across Front Street and toward the mountain was the primary site of their royal grounds. Several lines of Hawaiian royalty can trace their roots back to Lahaina’s royal family, from whom they inherited land in this district: Hawaii’s last Queen Lili’uokalani, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, and the very popular Queen Emma.
In Lahaina’s prime as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdome (1820’s – 1840’s), divine Queen Mother Keopuolani, her son King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli), daughter Princess Nahi’ena’ena, and other members of royalty (ali’i) resided in the royal complex which included the region from Banyan Tree Park to Shaw Street, up to Waine’e Street and across to Prison Street. This location was a recreational and entertainment area for the ali’i.