The Legacy of Kamehameha III

Note to reader: Because of the irresponsible actions of others, this site is off limits and Hawaii DLNR will not hesitate to detain trespassers. Although, many people do come to the site and many bring offerings of lei’s, fruit and flowers. I will intentionally not divulge the location of this treasure in this article or accompanying video, but if you find yourself at the site, please respect this important historical landmark.

Kam III Summer Palace

Kuniakapupu CoverHave you ever started down a path and immediately felt that something magical was surrounding you? A sense that you entered a realm, a mysterious, otherworldly domain where everything you see has a presence. And when you arrived at the destination, was the scene was more than you could imagine?
I’ve hiked in the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs and stood on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. I experienced walking over a live volcano at Kilauea on the Big Island, and I know the rush of adrenalin as I stood on my surfboard, sliding down the face of a big wave in Laguna Beach, California. There is a sense of spiritualism, of something larger than myself with all these experiences and I count myself lucky to have a personal history that includes them and more.
I recently experienced a compelling encounter during a recent unexpected journey.
A friend and I went hiking on a Saturday morning. I was writing an article on WWII pillboxes on Oahu and wanted to visit one of the many sites where they still exist on the island.
My friend is Hawaiian. He was raised in the islands and he promised to take me hiking to some of his favorite places. And he promised to take me to some of the little known points of interest that don’t make it to the tour guides. It was just the combination of circumstances I was looking for.

After we spent several hours scaling cliffs to stand atop the Crouching Lion and visiting the serene beauty of La’ie Point, he said he would take me somewhere special. All he would tell me was that we were going to the summer palace of King Kamehameha III.
I had no sense of what I would see or experience. I read about the summer palaces of Hawaiian royalty, but I had no idea where a summer house to the royalty of Hawaii would be. We stopped alongside the road in a lush landscape and walked to an obscure opening in the thick growth. The journey from the car to the site was short (about 6 minutes) and it was an extraordinary transition from the world of asphalt and machines into a thick bamboo forest. Once off of the roadway it was a spellbinding hike, ending at an old arrangement of construction that had long ago gone to ruins.


Kamehameha III was born Kauikeaouli Kaleiouli Kaleiopapa on August 11, 1813 Kamehamehaiiiat Keauhou Bay on Hawaii Island (Big Island), the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The second son of King Kamehameha I and Queen Keopuolani, he was the third king of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1825 until he passed in December of 1854.
His full Hawaiian name was Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa and then lengthened to Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kīwalaʻō i ke kapu Kamehameha when he ascended the throne.
Kauikeaouli was 16 years younger than his brother Liholiho, who ruled as Kamehameha II starting in 1819. Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and his queen consort, Kamamalu, met an unfortunate demise in 1824 after contracting measles while traveling in Britain.

Under the reign of Kamehameha III, Hawaii evolved from an absolute monarchy to ahawaii constitutional monarchy with the signing of the 1840 Constitution, which was the first Hawaiian Language Constitution. He was the longest reigning monarch in the history of the Kingdom, ruling for 29 years and 192 days, although in the early part of his reign he was under a regency by Queen Kaʻahumanu and later by Kaʻahumanu II. As he grew into the monarchy, his goal was the careful balancing of modernization by adopting Western ways, while keeping the traditions of his nation intact.

Kauikeaouli had a troubled childhood. He was torn between the Puritan Christian guidelines imposed on the kingdom by the kuhina nui (Queen Regent) who was his stepmother Kaʻahumanu, and the desires to honor the old traditions. Under the influence of Oahu’s then governor, Boki, and a young Hawaiian-Tahitian priest named Kaomi, Kauikeaouli’s aikāne partner, he rebelled against his Christian teachings, created the secret order of Hulumanu (Bird Feather), and named Kaomi his co-ruler. By 1835 he had returned to ways of the missionaries.

Kamehameha III married Kalama Hakaleleponikapakuhaili in 1837. They had two children, but unfortunately, both died in infancy. Aware of the need for the continuity of the royal family, Kamehameha III adopted his nephew Alexander Liholiho at birth and named him as his successor.

Following a Declaration of Rights promulgated by Kamehameha III in 1839, the introduction of Hawaii’s first constitution in 1840 established a new era of constitutional monarchy. The 1840 document contained a revised version of the Declaration of Rights (modeled after the American Declaration of Independence) and essentially codified existing governmental structure and practice.
Hawaii’s government, as authored by Hawaii’s chiefs and the king, operated as partially separated executive, legislative and judicial branches. A house of nobles continued to exist with membership based on heredity but an elected house of representatives was added to create a bicameral legislative body. The constitution also created a supreme court for adjudicating legal questions. The document also included a process for constitutional amendment.


In the early 19th century, Honolulu was situated on a dust plain. It was leeward and this arid part of the island lacked water, save for the Nuʻuanu Stream, which prompted many residents to seek reprieve a few miles outside of town in the forested uplands. In this suburb, American missionaries, merchants, and the Hawaiian royals built European-style homes to escape the summer heat.
It was in these uplands where Kamehameha III, and his queen, Kalama, built a summer home.

Kam III Palace

The site was known then as Luakaha (place of relaxation) and it was the summer residence for the king and queen. The palace was built prior to the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii moving to Honolulu from Lahaina (on Maui) in 1845. It was later called Kaniakapupu which refers to the kāhuli (Oʻahu tree snails) which were once abundant in the area. According to Hawaiian folklore, these snails were able to vocalize and sing sweet songs at night.
The new royal residence was built to resemble the royals home, Kam III PalaceMokuʻula, the king’s royal residential complex in Lahaina on Maui. On July 5, 1842, American missionary Amos Starr Cooke, the teacher of Royal School, wrote in his journal that Governor Kekūanāoʻa was in the process of building a “stone house” for the king in Luakaha. The retreat was completed in 1845. It became a place for entertaining foreign celebrities, chiefs, and commoners.
On Hawaiian Sovereignty Restoration Day (Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea) in 1847, King Kamehameha IIIKam III Palace and Queen Kalama hosted a grand luau at the palace. The celebration commemorated the fourth anniversary of the restoration of Hawaiian independence and sovereignty by British Rear-Admiral Richard Darton Thomas, following a five-month British occupation of the kingdom during the Paulet Affair of 1843.
The palace may also have been the site of an earlier luau, or great ahaʻaina (feast), which was part of the initial ten-day restoration festivities in 1842. Children from the RoyalKam III Palace School, including all of the future Hawaiian monarchs, often visited with their teachers (the Cookes).

By 1874, a map of the region labeled the area as the “Old Ruins”, implying a dilapidated state. No records exist as to when and why the site was abandoned. Research is being conducted by archaeologists and historians, but the mystery has proved elusive.

Today, the site is managed by the State Historic Preservation Division of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) with the help of the Historic Hawaii Foundation and other local preservation organizations. Kaniakapūpū was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as site number 66000293.

I was thankful to my Hawaiian hiking guide because the trail that leads to the ruins is inconspicuous and is easily missed by those who are unaware. Located in a protected watershed, the remnants of the king’s summer retreat are officially off-limits to the public, although state DLNR officials do not regularly monitor the site. Trespassers are subjected to citations if caught. For that reason, my description of the location is discrete. For those who do find their way, be respectful, appreciate the grounds for what they represent. Take an offering (a piece of fruit, a lei or single flower) and leave it at the base of the plaque erected at the front of the residence. And if you find others at the site, especially those who might have come to say a prayer or sing a chant, be gracious and allow them their time as well.


On June 6, 1825, Kauikeaouli was proclaimed king of Hawaiʻi. To the people he said, “Where are you, chiefs, guardians, commoners?  I greet you.  Hear what I say! My kingdom I give to God.  The righteous chief shall be my chief, the children of the commoners who do you right shall be my people, my kingdom shall be one of letters.”  (Kamakau – Kamehameha Schools Press)

June 7, 1839, he signed the Declaration of Rights (called Hawai‘i’s Magna Charta) that, in part, noted, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the earth, in unity and blessedness. God has also bestowed certain rights alike on all men and all chiefs, and all people of all lands.”

June 17, 1839 he issued the Edict of Toleration permitting religious freedom for Catholics in the same way as it had been granted to the Protestants.

June 28, 1839 he founded Chief’s Children’s School (The Royal School;) the main goal of this school was to groom the next generation of the highest ranking chiefs’ children of the realm and secure their positions for Hawaiʻi’s Kingdom.

October 8, 1840 (the King was about 27-years-old) he enacted the Constitution of 1840 that, in part, changed the government from one of an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. It provided for a separation of powers between three branches of government, with executive power in the hands of the king, the kuhina nui (similar to a prime minister) and four governors; a bicameral legislative body consisting of a house of nobles and a house of representatives, with the house of representatives elected by the people; and a judiciary system, including a supreme court.

April 27, 1846 he declared that “the forests and timber growing therein shall be considered government property, and under the special care of the Minister of the Interior.” effectively starting the process of protecting the mauka watersheds.

January 27, 1848 through March 7, 1848 he participated in what we refer to as the “Great Māhele” that was a reformation of the land system in Hawaiʻi, the result allowed private ownership of land.

June 14, 1852 he enacted the Constitution of 1852 that expanded on the Declaration of Rights, granted universal (adult male) voting rights for the first time and changed the House of Nobles from a hereditary body to one where members served by appointment by the King. It also institutionalized the three branches of government and defined powers along the lines of the American Constitution.

Toward the end of Kauikeaouli’s reign there were 423 schools in Hawaiʻi with an enrollment of over twelve-thousand-students. Most of the schools were elementary schools using Hawaiian as the language of instruction.

See the video at: Kaniakapupu Video

View the print version of this story: Kaniakapupu


The Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii
by: S.M. Kamakau

Kamehameha II: Liholiho
and the impact of change.
by: Kamehameha Schools Press


Photography & Videography  by:

P A  Davis Photography

PA Davis-photo card

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