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The Palauea Cultural Preserve

About the Preserve

The Palauea Cultural Preserve is located in  the ma kai (coastal ) region of the ahupua'a (traditional land division) of Palauea, in the  moku (larger land division comprised of ahupuaʻa) of Honuaʻula, on the island of Maui. Palauea is situated between the ahupua’a of Paeahu to the north and Keauhou to the south.

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Location and Topography

(Nohopapa Hawaiʻi 2017,25)

The project area is located in coastal Palauea. The ahupuaʻa of Palauea is situated in southeast Maui, within the moku of Honuaʻula. (Palauea is situated in the northern portion of Honuaʻula (Figure 2), between the ahupuaʻa of Paheahu to the north and Keauhou to the south.At the coastline, the historical ahupuaʻa boundaries are just south of Wailea Point and at Halo Point.

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The boundaries of the moku of Honuaʻula vary with maps however, Paeahu is identified across sources as the Northern most ahupuaʻa of Honuaʻula. To the southeast, this study will acknowledge Kanaio as the ahupuaʻa border of the moku. The Government Survey Map no. 1268 lists 17 ahupuaʻa within the moku. With various prominent physical and cultural features and landscapes such as Haleakalā, Molokini, and Kahoʻolawe, the regional cultural setting of Honuaʻula links various histories and numerous wahi around the island of Maui as well as the greater Hawaiian Archipelago.

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Environmental Setting

Situated on the western slope of Haleakalä, the district of Honua‘ula (literally, Red-land or earth) is
comprised of some twenty traditional ahupua‘a, of which Palauea is one. In the Honua‘ula District, the
fisheries—both near shore (including fishponds) and deep sea fisheries—were highly valued. Also,
potable water could often be found in ponds and springs near the shore. Named localities such as
Waia‘ïlio, Waiala, Wai‘äpuka, Wai ‘A‘awa, Waipao, and Waile‘a, are among those that commemorate
places known for their coastal region water resources. It was at such near-shore watered places that
natives relied upon when the uplands were dry. When the native forests were of greater scope, and
extended further down the mountain slopes—in the centuries prior to the introduction of foreign cattle
and other ungulates that destroyed vast forest regions—the këhau (early morning dew), born on
breezes from the mountain slopes, could be relied upon on a daily basis to keep native crops in the
uplands (generally between the 2,000 to 4,000 foot elevation) supplied with water for regular growth
(Handy, 1940). (Maly 2005, 11)

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Path Towards Preservation

1969-1970- Patrick Kirch Surveys

Patrick Kirch conducts Archaeological studies for Alexande & Baldwin, the owners of the project area at the time. Kirch would identify what is now known as the heiau complex and the Palauea Landing Complex. These sites along with others would be reported and the high concentration of archaeological sites would be one of the deciding factors when an area for the Preserve was being located.

1998-Kīhei Mākena Community Plan

In 1998, the Kīhei-Mākena Community plan established the Palauea Cultural Preserve as a portion of Project District 8. It is important to note that the significance of the archaeological resources in coastal Palauea was acknowledged during the first inventory survey of the proposed Wailea Resort development in 1969 (Kirch 1969, 1970) which identified the Palauea Landing Complex (SIHP Site 50-50-14-1028) and the Palauea Heiau Complex (Site 1029) which were later designated as archaeological preserves in the Master Plan that was developed for the Wailea Resort Area by Alexander and Baldwin. (Donham 2002, 2007) The Community Plan was adopted on March, 6 1998, and established general protocols for the Preserve.

2002- Phase I Palauea Preservation Plan

Theresa Donham authored the first phase of the preservation plan for the preserve in 2002 was focused on native plant revegetation but also proposed educational engagement with the community and the Preserve.(Donham 2002,7) Other topics and issues that were proposed for the remaining phases were, native plant revegetation and removal of non-native plants (Donham 2000,2002) enhancement of the cultural setting; facilities, infrastructure and organization of the preserve management team, development of research design for further study, site stabilization, possibly some restoration, and long-term interpretive and educational program and plan for uses of the preserve


1,800 acres of land  was acquired by the investor and developer Everett Dowling for luxury residential development.(Kubota, 2000) The subdivision and development of the surrounding homes was allowed in exchange for the creation of the preserve. Dowling formed a partnership with the University of Hawaiʻi: Maui College (UHMC) allowing access to the preserve for archeological field schools and cultural practices.


In 2013, the Preserve was conveyed from the Dowling Corporation to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). field schools of various types, and classes held by UHMC.


In 2017, Nohopapa Hawaiʻi was contracted by OHA to complete a Preservation Plan. The plan has yet to be published pending approval from the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission and review of the Maui-Lānaʻi Island Buiral Councils. This project has permission from Nohopapa to cite the report where appropriate for providing historical and archaeological context.

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