Hanohano Hale‘iwa (Hale‘iwa Hotel)

An Essay by Kīhei de Silva                                                                       << HMI MM preview 2014                                                    

Haku mele: Unknown.

Date: After August 5, 1899, the date of the hotel’s opening, but probably before 1909 when             Iaukea left his post as general manager.

Sources:  1) “Hale‘iwa Hotel,” Kimo Alama Keaulana Collection, MS Grp 329, 2.10, Bishop Museum Archives.  2) “Hale‘iwa Hotele, Ka Ui Mahiehie Ma Waialua, Dilinahima Ka Lokomaikai, Iaukea Ka Puuwai Hamama,” Kuokoa, 8-11-1899.

Discography: 1) “Hanohano Haleiwa,” Aloha Pumehana Serenaders, Hula Gems, Poki SPCD 9013.  2) “Hale‘iwa Hotel,” Nā Palapalai, Ka Pua Hae Hawai‘i, Koops KSPE 1004.

Our Text: “Hale‘iwa Hotel,” Kimo Alama-Keaulana Collection (with minor revisions). Translation: Kīhei de Silva.

  1. Kapalulu ana na kapuai lio hao ma ka uwapo o ka hotele hou. Nana ae la makou i ua Ui nei o Waialua, e nenee ana no iluna o ke kahua manienie me ka hiehie nui. Oia no oe o ke ao opua-lani e haaheo ana i ka ponahalani. He Ui ia! E welo ana na hae maluna o kona mau pahu hae. He hai Hawaii ma ka hikina, a he hae Amerika ma ke komohana. Hoomanao ae la au, he Hawaii-Amerika ke kahua i ku ai ka hale. I ka alawa wale ana aku ma ke alo o ua hale la, hulali mai ana na hua gula, a ikeia aku la ka inoa HALEIWA.

  2. The hooves of the iron horse thundered at the depot of the new hotel. We gazed at this Beauty of Waialua poised so elegantly on a mound of mānienie grass as if it were an ‘ōpua cloud strutting proudly in the encircling skies. How beautiful it is!  The two flags are waving on its flagpoles. A Hawaiian flag on the east and an American flag on the west. It made me think that the foundation on which the house stands is Hawaiian-American. And upon the briefest of glances at the front of this hale, the gold letters sparkle, and the name HALEIWA is seen.1

Both the newspaperman who wrote the Kuokoa article excerpted above and the unknown haku mele of “Hale‘iwa Hotel” share the same optimism for Hawai‘i’s future at the close of the 19th century. Both offer post-overthrow expressions of hope in our ability to fly the beloved Hawaiian flag next to that of America’s – not alone, not above, but at least up there. While many of us feel that this vision is more step than goal, we cannot discount the sincerity of those ʻōiwi who advanced it, nor can we discredit the deeply abiding sentiment with which “Hale‘iwa Hotel” is most infused: ‘O ka hae Hawai‘i ka‘u aloha.

Benjamin F. Dillingham’s O‘ahu Rail and Land Company built the Hale‘iwa Hotel in the late 1890s as a means of diversifying its holdings along the OR&L plantation train route that, by December 1898, had reached all the way from Kūwili to Kahuku.2  America, in the person of Dillingham, may have put up the money, but America relied on Hawai‘i, in the person of Curtis Pi‘ehu Iaukea, to give the hotel its heart and hospitality. Iaukea, whose place in Hawaiian politics spanned every form of government from Kalākaua to the Territory, became the first manager of the “House of the Frigate Bird.” He stayed on for a decade, 1899 to 1909, and is often credited with the early success of that enterprise and its initial “haole owned, Hawaiian run” model. 3

The unknown poet of “Hale‘iwa Hotel” holds these owners at bay until the ninth of its ten verses. Our haku mele concentrates instead on fitting the new structure into the old landscape, on dressing it in beautifully familiar language, on transforming it into a kama‘āina home, and on acknowledging the Hawaiian hosts who invite us so effortlessly into their family haven.

“Hanohano” and “kūkilakila” are time-honored adjectives in poetry written for people and places we admire: “Hanohono Hanalei,” “Hanohano Hawai‘i,” “Hanohono Pihanakalani,” “Hanohano Hawai‘i…kilakila ‘o Maui,” “He nani kūkilakila,” “Kilakila nā Rough Rider,” “Kilakila ‘o Haleakalā,” “Kū Kilakila ‘o Kamehameha.” Our mele takes the new hotel and establishes it, in hanohano-kūkilakila fashion, on the riverbank and ocean’s edge of Anahulu. Within the space of three verses, hōkele becomes hiwahiwa and home nani, a beautiful, much-cherished home of hospitality. By the fourth verse, Hale‘iwa seems to have always been there, poised on high, elegant, and eye-catching. It is adorned in Ko‘olau blossoms; it takes its place as a companion of Pua’ena-in-the-sea-spray and Māeaea-of-the-powdery sands. It belongs.

Verses five, six, and seven introduce us to the Hawaiian family responsible for this transformation: Pi‘ehu4 Iaukea in verse five, his wife Charlotte Kahālo‘ipua Hanks Iaukea in six, and their daughter Lorna Kāhilipuaokalani Iaukea (Watson) in seven. Here is Pi‘ehu, distinguished, gentle-hearted, and gracious. Here is the charming Kahālo‘ipua, who, like a mother, takes everyone under her wing. And here is the beautiful and much cherished Kāhili, gently waking us in the morning with the music of her piano. All three are tied by carefully chosen “h” words to the hanohano of Hale‘iwa home: father is hiehie, mother is ho‘ohie, and daughter is ho‘oheno. This doesn’t seem accidental, and it is consistent with the sentiments expressed in a second, now-forgotten mele composed for the “liko lehua” couple of Hale‘iwa:


  2. Hooheno keia no Waialua      

  3. No ke ehuehu kai o Puaena      

  4. No na liko lehua i Haleiwa      

  5. Maoli ili lahilahi.          

  6. Hea aku makou o mai oe      

  7. Kahaloipua no kou inoa      

  8. Pali ma ke kua mahina ma ke alo  

  9. Ku a ka wahine ui          

  10. Hea aku makou o mai oe      

  11. Iaukea no kou inoa          

  12. Pali ma ke kua mahina ma ke alo  

  13. Ku a ke kanaka ui.5         

  14. This is a cherished lei of words for Waialua

  15. For the sea spray of Pua‘ena

  16. For the budding lehua at Hale‘iwa

  17. Natives with skin like fine leather

  18. We call, please respond

  19. Kahālo‘ipua is your name

  20. Back like a cliff and face like the moon

  21. Such a beautiful woman

  22. We call, please respond

  23. Iaukea is your name

  24. Back like a cliff and face like the moon

  25. Such a handsome man.

A 5:00 p.m. “flash of lightning” startles us out of the morning reverie induced, in verse 7, by Kāhili and her piano. The allusion to ‘anapa may have been obvious then, but it is something of a mystery today. The language of verse 8 suggests that this flash was a recurring rather than a unique event. Perhaps the reference is to the flare of sparks from the evening train as it left for Honolulu.6 Or maybe to the ceremonial throwing of a switch that set the hotel’s incandescent lights ablaze.7

We can’t identify the specific allusion, but the metaphor is clear enough: the flash of lightning is a moment of clarity – a burst of insight – and its sudden appearance signals a final shift in the song’s focus as it moves from place to person to promise. In verse 8, our haku mele comes to the realization that a work of kupanaha significance has occurred at Anahulu. In verse 9, he attributes this work, this amazing hotel-home, to the side-by-side efforts of Iaukea and Dillingham as symbolized by the kaunu-like pairing of the beloved hae Hawai‘i with that of Maleka. And in the closing ona ‘ia words of verse 10, he echoes the imagery of the legendary Mākālei (“ka lā’au pi‘i ona a ka i‘a,” the branch that fish could not resist) in order to define Hale‘iwa as irresistible to the fish of his own day.

We find it interesting that the most significant words in these three verses – kupanaha, kaunu, and ona ‘ia – are double-edged and perhaps cautionary. Kupanaha means “amazing” but also “strange” and “unaccountable.” Kaunu means “to love, to make love” but also “to be absorbed in.” Ona ʻia means “attractive” but also “infatuated.” Is our haku mele quietly asking: “Who will be accountable? How desirable is absorption? How lasting is infatuation?” Did he intentionally undercut his own paean to collaboration? We can’t say for sure, but we find it unlikely that the ambiguous connotations of these words would have gone unrecognized by a poet of such talent. We suspect that he was not blind to the risks inherent in an Iaukea-Dillingham honeymoon, but he must have been caught up the excitement of the day and in hopes for the success of what he saw then as a glorious and unprecedented experiment.  

Time eventually provided an answer that the poet had hoped not to hear. Iaukea left the hotel in 1909. Dillingham died in the 1918. In the 1920s, the lure of a vacation getaway by train became less appealing as more people bought cars and chose other destinations. In 1930 the OR&L closed the Hale‘iwa because the cost of maintaining its “luxury and level of service” had rendered it unprofitable. It opened, for a time, as the private Hale‘iwa Beach Club, and it later became the Hale‘iwa Army Officers’ Club, but it closed for good in 1943. The OR&L shut down it trains in 1947. And the termite-riddled edifice of “Ka U‘i o Waialua” was torn down in 1953. It is now the location of Hale‘iwa Joe’s.8

At least three members of the Iaukea family – Liane and daughters Sydney and Lesley – still recognize and cherish “Hale‘iwa Hotel” as a tribute to Pi‘ehu and Kahālo‘ipua. Lesley Iaukea writes in response to our facebook inquiry about the song:

  1. Mahalo nui! this is my great great grandfather/grandmother. Every time we hear this song and many others, we think of him and the many things he has done for kanaka maoli… we have done a study, so many things he has done, but what to publish first? My sister, Sydney Iaukea, published a book entitled “The Queen and I” where there’s a lot about him but there’s definitely more to write… Iaukea passed away in 1940 and the “Hanohano Hale'iwa” song was played/or sung for him for so many years in his honor.9

It is largely through her sister’s research that we have come to understand Pi‘ehu as a man of fierce dedication to queen and people – and not, as he is so often portrayed, the turncoat realist and model of “adaptability” to which forward-looking Hawaiians should aspire. Sydney Iaukea’s Queen and I offers the following previously unpublished account of her great-great-grandfather’s conversation with Lili‘uokalani on the day she left ‘Iolani Palace and surrendered her authority to the Provisional Government”:

  1. On seeing me at the doorway, the Queen said “mai.” A familiar expression amongst Hawaiians bidding one to come and be welcome. As she gave me her hand as I reached the head of the table where she was sitting, I felt a slight tremor as I bent to kiss it. Her eyes were filled with tears. She motioned to me to sit beside her, which I did and it was as much as I could do to restrain my own tears and emotion. All of us were feeling too depressed to speak or say much.

  2. My object in going to see the Queen before she left the palace was, as I said, to offer my personal services to her, as I felt it my duty, and to inform her that the Provisional Government had asked me to remain in office as Crown Land Agent, an office that I had held under her brother Kalakaua and to which she had appointed me when she came to the throne in 1891.

  3. After some intense moments of silence, I told her what I had come for. She then said, “No, I’ll not need your service as there will be nothing for you to do at Washington Place. Stay where you are until I come back. You will keep account of the Crown Land revenues for they belong to the reigning sovereign. I know my rights as Queen and constitutional monarch of Hawaii which I have been wrongly deprived…will be restored to me when the people and government of the United States have been fully informed as to the way the fall of the monarch was accomplished.”

  4. Then, recovering herself somewhat, she added, “Yes, come and see me sometimes and keep me informed of what is going with the Provisional Government.”

  5. Acting with her full knowledge and approval, I left the breakfast table after bidding the Queen and her company good-bye with the expression of hope that she would soon be restored to her own.10

Iaukea returned to Lili‘u’s side in the last decade of her life. He went, almost literally, from running the Hale‘iwa Hotel to caring for his deposed queen. He defended her estate, defied those who charged her with incompetence, and fearlessly navigated, with her, those dreadful waters in which canoes are capsized not by the wave from outside, but by the wave from within. As we are just beginning to learn, Pi‘ehu was a man of honor. A man we can dance for.

Hanohano Hale‘iwa (Hale‘iwa Hotel)11

Hanohano Hale‘iwa kūkilakila      

Ka hōkele e kū i ka lihi kai          

He makana hiwahiwa no Anahulu      

A ka malihini a‘e kipa mai ai          

E ‘ike i ka nani o ia home          

Kiliwehi i ka pua o ke Ko‘olau      

Lei ana Pua‘ena i ka ‘ehu kai          

Ua wali ke one o Māeaea          

Eia mai ‘o Pi‘ehu me ka hiehie                        

Pu‘uwai wai‘olu me ka nahenahe      

He ho‘ohie nō ‘o Kahālo‘ipua          

Ka makuahine a‘o nei lehulehu      

Ka piano hone i ke kakahiaka          

Ho‘oheno ‘ia e ka u‘i Kāhili              


Ka hola ‘elima o ke ahiahi          

‘Anapa ka uila hana kupanaha      


‘O ka hae Hawai‘i ka‘u aloha           

E kaunu nei me ka hae o Maleka      

Haina ‘ia mai ana ka puana          

Hale‘iwa e ka home i ona ‘ia.


Majestic is Hale‘iwa, standing tall

The hotel that rises at the ocean’s edge

A cherished gift for Anahulu

That the malihini will visit

See the beauty of this home

Finely adorned with blossoms of Ko‘olau

Pua‘ena is wreathed in sea spray

Fine-grained are the sands of Māeaea

Here is Pi‘ehu so distinguished in manner

Gentle-hearted and gracious

Attractive, indeed, is Kahālo‘ipua

Who is like a mother to everyone here

The piano sings sweetly in the morning

Played lovingly by the beautiful Kāhili

At five in the evening

The lightning flashes, an amazing thing

The Hawaiian flag is what I love

Romancing with the flag of America

Tell the summary of the song

Hale‘iwa is the irresistible home.


1 “Hale‘iwa Hotele, Ka Ui Mahiehie Ma Waialua, Dilinahima Ka Lokomaikai, Iaukea Ka Puuwai Hamama,” Kuokoa, 8-11-1899; our translation. This delightfully detailed article was written on August 5, the opening day of the hotel, by one of an army of self-styled “po‘e Naita o ka maka peni” (Knights of the pen-nib) – nūpepa men from all the Honolulu papers who were invited to ride to Hale‘iwa on private cars pulled by “ka lio hau Ka‘ala” and enjoy the inu-a-kena, ‘ai-a-ma‘ona hospitality of Iaukea and company.

George W. Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 380.

3 John R. Clark, Beaches of O‘ahu, UH Press, 2004, p. 122-123. Joseph P. Schwieterman, When the Railroad Leaves Town, Vol. 2, Truman State University Press, 2004, p. 113-114. Peter T. Young, “Hale‘iwa Hotel,”1-23-2012, totakeresponsibility.blogspot.com/2012/06/haleiwa-hotel.html. “Haleiwa Hotel” in Island Expat, hawaiiantimemachine.blogspot.com, June 27, 2010.

4 Iaukea explains that the name was given to him as a boy by Kamehameha IV, who made note of Iaukea’s shy nature (pi) and fair-skinned appearance (‘ehu) and suggested that he be called Pi‘ehu (Curtis Piehu Iaukea and Lorna Kahilipuaokalani Iaukea Watson, By Royal Command, Hui Hanai, 1988, p.2).

5 Verses 1, 5, and 6 of the 6-verse “Na Liko Lehua i Haleiwa,” Kuokoa, July 13, 1900. Translation ours.

6 The OR&L train schedule of September 1903 lists the arrival time in Honolulu for trains departing from Kahuku, Waialua, and Wai‘anae as 5:30 pm. (“Manawa Holo,” Kuokoa, 1-25-1903). The three-hour train from Waialua would have had to leave the hotel at 2:30 p.m. The Sunday-only “Haleiwa Limited” left the hotel at 8 p.m. and arrived at 10 (“Manawa Holo,” Kuokoa, 5-10-1918). These schedules don’t coincide at all with our song’s 5 p.m. flash, but more research needs to be done before we can entirely rule out the possibility.

7 The opening day Kuokoa article describes the hotel as “hoomaamaamaia ana…me na ipukukui uila” (illuminated with electric lights) and a Paradise of the Pacific advertisement penned by Iaukea himself notes that “the House conducts its own electric lighting system on the premises [and] provides telephonic communication with Honolulu” (May 1903, p. 3). We have yet to find a description of the electrical system at the hotel, but the typical system of the day, like that used in ‘Iolani Palace, involved a small steam engine and a direct-current dynamo (Hawaiian Electric Light, “The Story of Electricity in Hawaii,” www.hawaiianelectric.com/vgn-ext-templating/v/index.jsp?...).

8 Peter T. Young, 1-23-2012.

9 www.facebook.com/halaumohalailima, 1-2-2014.

10 Sydney L. Iaukea, The Queen and I: A Story of Dispossessions and Reconnections in Hawai‘i, University of California Press, 2011, p. 35. From the Iaukea Collection, M-70, Hawai‘i State Archives, Box 2-7, Historical Notes on Hawai‘i.

11 According to the opening-day Kuokoa article, “Hale‘iwa” was not the old name for the area on which the hotel stood. “O ka inoa kela o ka hale kula kaikamahine o Waialua, i kona wa e ku ana malaila.  Ua hala aku ia hale, a eia kela inoa ke o nei maluna o keia hotele nani, a ui nohoi. He oiaio he hale nani maoli no keia, he ui ia ma na ano apau. Pololei ka heaia ana o kona inoa o Haleiwa (8-11-1899).” [Hale‘iwa: was the name of the Waialua girls’ school when it was still standing there. The school is gone, and the name is now carried by this beautiful, vibrant hotel. There can be no doubt that this is a truly beautiful home; it is lovely in every respect. How fitting that this place be called by the name Hale‘iwa. – Translation ours.] Oliver Emerson provides us with a similar but more detailed backstory; he tells us that his father John S. Emerson, established the Waialua missionary station in 1832, and he was succeeded by Orramel Gulick in 1865, at which time Gulick and his wife founded the Waialua Boarding School for native girls on Anahulu Stream. “The school was called by the natives Hale Iwa, and in the spring of 1871, Miss Mary Green took charge...In 1881 Miss Green returned to her home in Makawao, Maui [and the school was closed for good]” (Oliver Emerson, Pioneer Days in Hawaii, 1928).

© Kīhei de Silva 2014.  All rights reserved.
This essay was published in Hālau Mōhala ‘Ilima's 2014 Merrie Monarch Fact Sheet. 

It is offered here in slightly revised form.