kūkaʻi: vi. to appear.
au: nvi. era; current, tide; weather.
Often called "Kukaiau" today, Kūkaʻiau is the place where the currents and weather patterns appear. This place name also perhaps alludes to the ascending (kū) of new eras (au) of leadership (kaʻi), as a result of the well-known battles that were fought on this ʻāina. Our moʻolelo tell us of the battle between Palila, the great warrior from Kauaʻi, and the great warriors of Hāmākua, during the reign of Wanua. It is also said that Kamehameha I defeated his cousin, Keōuakūʻahuʻula of Kaʻū, here, in the battle of Koapāpaʻa.
Today, however, Kūkaʻiau is known to most people as the location of Kūkaʻiau Ranch, which was established in the upland regions of this ahupuaʻa in the 1890s. Ma kai of the ranch, Kūkaʻiau's lowlands were almost completely clear cut to make way for the Kūkaʻiau Plantation Co. Now, planted over in eucalyptus, the moʻolelo of this ʻāina have persisted, however, in the landscape, and in each of its living descendants.
To learn more, check out our Moʻolelo, Mele & ʻŌlelo Noʻeau, Maps, and Wahi Pana pages below!