The Kaniakapupu Ruins, also known as the singing of the land shells, lie in the Nu’uanu Valley on Oahu. The name refers to kāhuli or Oahu tree snails, which were once copious in the land. Kaniakapupu was constructed in the 1840s to primarily serve as the summer palace of King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama, who ruled Hawai’i from 1825 to 1854.
Although no printed records show what the ruins encompass, the archeological survey conducted in 1999 indicates that the palace covered up to 10 acres of land based on the structures left behind. It is believed that the coral reefs melted in this area thousands of years ago to form mortar for the rock walls that still stand today.
The abandoned mansion is a medium-sized single-story home. Outside is a well-arranged rock pathway. Its grass roof is long gone now, but the four stone walls still stand, along with a single window in the center of the structure. This window is believed to have been used to ward off huaka’i pō, or night marchers. Night marchers are fallen Hawaiian warriors whose spirits linger on the battlefields of the island, looking for their next war. As King, it’s understandable why Kamehameha would want them kept at bay.
Many theories have come up concerning the remains of the old ruins. Archeologists and historians are working to revive the lost history of this sacred palace. However, there is no apparent reason why the ruin was abandoned decades after construction. One theory suggests that the palace was left to deteriorate after the US gained the Hawaiian islands as part of its territories.
King Kamehameha III’s Home and a Place for Ceremonies
Known initially as a Place of Relaxation, Kaniapupu had a central role in being a summer palace for the king and a site to unify the Hawaiian nation from colonial powers. Here it is believed that the ancient kingdom and its sovereignty were kept intact by holding ceremonies for foreign celebrities, royalty, chiefs, and commissioners.
On the Hawaiian Restoration Day (Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea), a celebration of the liberation from Hawaii’s five-month British occupation in 1843, the luau was most likely held between the ruins and the heiau, with more than 10,000 people in attendance, as stated in one of the records. It was the most celebrated event in 1847, and native Hawaiians still celebrate it.
The Hawaiian people highly regard the Kaniakapupu ruins since it was one of the places King Kamehameha I gathered his forces during the Battle of Nu’uanu Pali in 1795.
While not much is revealed about the ruins, hundreds of visitors visit to hike, pay their respect, and site-see. Unfortunately, the vandalism that occurred over the recent years prompted the authorities to prohibit accessing the sacred site. Access to Kaniapupu is strictly allowed by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife. The 185-year-old ruin is a significant piece of Hawaiian history and will remain so to preserve the Hawaiian culture.