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Did you know that Waikiki used to have a grove of more than 10,000 coconut trees?
Called Helumoa, the fertile piece of land was rich with agriculture, as well as history in the islands. Legend points to an Oahu ruler named Kakuhihewa, who planted the niu (coconut) after a scuffle with the mythical rooster, Kaauhelemoa. The rooster left his mark in the earth, which the ruler saw as a sign to plant in this very spot. Hence, the name Helumoa means “chicken scratch.”
Today, tourists can take a step back in time when visiting the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki. Located in the heart of the center is The Royal Grove. It was inspired by the historic Helumoa oasis and spans more than 30,000-square-feet across the center’s grounds. While it may not have as many coconut trees as it did in the past, the grove does make sure to be ethno-botanically sensitive by including native foliage to its landscaping.
The Royal Grove is also the site for performances of Hawaiian story-telling, music and dance. We watched a (free) Hawaiian jazz show at this open-aired space, which was especially nice on that clear and starry night. There’s also plenty of seating for curious passerbys to have a sat and enjoy the show.
One of the most significant features of the Helumoa of present day includes an elegant bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. As the great-granddaughter of King Kamehameha I, Pauahi inherited Helumoa during the 1880s. She was a well-known Hawaiian philanthropist who established Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu.
If you want to learn more about Pauahi or about the royal grove itself, take a few minutes to visit the Kaulani Heritage Room nearby. It’s a mini theater offering short films on Hawaiian history, Helumoa heritage and contemporary Hawaiian society.
Photo Courtesy: Royal Hawaiian Center
THE ROYAL GROVE • Royal Hawaiian Center, 2201 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815 • Opens Mon-Fri 10am-10pm • 808-922-7555 • www.royalhawaiiancenter.com