Step from the beach to historic Hawaii

Magnificent canoes hand carved from koa wood glide through the history of Hawaii. A convenient exhibit makes it easy to see one of these canoes and learn its heritage just steps from the sand of Waikiki on Oahu.

The canoe is named Kaiolohia, which means Calm Tranquil Sea. It was a six passenger surfing canoe that was also used for fishing, transportation and race training during its active life. Now restored as a museum piece, it rests in a special display area inside the Outrigger Reef on the Beach Hotel in Waikiki. The canoe and a giant paddle are on either side of the alcove with a video in the center that tells their story. A series of posters around the room also illustrate the history and hope of canoe making in Hawaii.

The 34 foot Kaiolohia was built around 1915 in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, according to a plaque posted near the canoe. Canoe makers needed both practical and spiritual skills. “The wood needed to be h3, healthy and of the right length since the hull was made from a single tree trunk.” But the search for a good tree didn’t begin in the forest.

Every canoe began with a prayer and a dream. Before the canoe builder began, he first prepared a pig, a red fish and a black fish and offered them to the gods. When this was done, the carver went home and invited dreams in his sleep. If the dreams were good, he would go to the forests the next day. But if they were unfavorable, a tree would not be cut. (display poster)

The canoe was central to society, providing food, trade, travel and competition, as shown by the ways Kaiolohia was used. In 1942, it was moved from the Big Island to Oahu and called the Stephanie, for the new owner’s daughter. The canoe’s condition and original name were restored in 2000. The Outrigger Canoe Club entrusted the canoe to the Outrigger Reef on the Beach so that it would be “exhibited in a place of honor as a symbol of our Hawaiian Culture.”

It may not be possible for visitors on a Hawaii vacation to greet Polynesian Voyaging canoes, but seeing this exhibit only requires a detour of a few steps from the beach for a rare look at Hawaii history.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher