Hawaiian Fishponds

image Ancient Hawaiians were geniuses at making it easy to catch a seafood dinner.  They built fishponds along the shores and water inlets.  They created rock walls that allowed sea water to ebb and flow into the ponds.  Gates would be built into the wall that would help circulate new seawater and allow small fish in. Once in the fishpond, fish would eat and grow to be too large to swim back through the wall. See this satellite view of Molii Fishpond on Oahu to get a better idea of how the ponds were shaped and constructed.  You can distinctly see the wall between the sea and the ocean.

The fish from the ponds was primarily reserved for the ali’i (chiefs).  Fishponds were a sign of the chiefs’ wealth (per mauifishpond.com).  If you were a commoner who was caught eating fish out of the fishpond, you were subject to death.

When you go to Hawaii, keep your eyes open to see one of these ancient engineering feats.  Here are some fishponds across the islands to look for:

Oahu
image- Molii Fishpond – This pond (photo on left) is on Kualoa Ranch’s private property, but you can take a guided tour to see it.  A tour fee applies.
- Heeia Fishpond (Click here for map.)
- Huilua Fishpond (Click here for map.)

Kauai
Menehune Fishpond (Click here for map.)

Maui
- Maui does not have many accessible fishponds.  The Koieie Fishpond near Kïhei is being restored.  There are opportunities to help the restoration efforts, if your interested.

Big Island
image-  There are seven fishponds at the Mauna Lani Resort.  The resorts web site had details on the ponds.  Note that the photo on the left shows the gates used in the wall of one of the fishponds on the Mauna Lani grounds.
- Kaloko Fishpond  at Kaloko-Honoköhau National Historical Park.  (Click here for map.)
- Heleipalala Fishpond at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.  (See a previous post for more information on visiting Puuhonau o Honaunau.)
- Near the grounds of the Marriott at Waikoloa, you’ll find several great examples of fishponds.

Molokai
Molokai probably has more fishponds than any of the other islands.  According to this site, Molokai has as many as 60 historic fishponds along the southern coast.  You can see these fishponds from Highway 450.

Lanai
- Loko Lopa Fishpond is at Lopa Beach and is accessible by 4WD.

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About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

10 comments

  1. aloha sheila,
    ancient hawaiian fishponds don’t get the tourist attention they deserve.

    stop by at the mauna lani fish ponds on the big island located between the mauna lani bay hotel and the mauna lani beach club (best secret beach with best snorkel to see eagle rays – you have to walk there from bay hotel parking spot though). this is one of the most tranquil and peaceful places on the big island. see the photo on our big island photo page where it say ‘mauna launa fish ponds’…sit down on that bench (you will be all by yourself), relax and meditate!!!!!!!!! aloha, pua

  2. Aloha Pua – I have been fortunate enough to stay at the Mauna Lani Resort. The history and well preserved grounds around the resort are really second to none. So, of course as I wrote this post about fishponds, there was no way I’d forget to mention those lovely series of ponds.

  3. I have walked upon the wall at Heeia Fishpond several times with my husband who was interested in aquaculture at the time, early 1990′s. The fishpond walls were in bad shape due to the proliferation of mangrove trees growing on and through the wall, breaking up the stones. No one was really caring for the pond then.

    Happily, today, it is stocked with Moi (a Hawaiian delicacy fish), and being taken care of by the community. Read the article below for more info.

    http://starbulletin.com/2006/09/11/news/story02.html

  4. HawaiiVacationGifts – That’s great to see that the ponds are being restored. Thank you for adding that article.

    Was Moi once a fish reserved only for royalty? It seem like we were told that once at restaurant in Hawaii.

  5. Hi Sheila,
    You were correctly informed, Moi was once reserved for the Ali’i or Hawaiian ruling class. Your fishpond post and question about Moi inspired me to do a post on this wonderful tasting fish. You can see it at
    http://doublebrush.typepad.com/hawaiivacationgifts/2007/09/you-dont-have-t.html

  6. why would you want to show off things about hawaii. as a hawaiian i don’t want tourist to go and mess up something that is meant for the kanaka. because of that reason so much of the secrets of the kanaka are no longer secrets.

  7. i agree with kila…. hi im keaokea (: i am a haumana from Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o ‘Anuenue and WE DONT want tourist to go and MESS up something that is meant for the hawaiianz/kanakas. these fishponds are ANCIENT and KAPU, these were made for us hawaiians not these tourist. like what kila said, whyy would you want to SHOW OFF things about hawai’i? because of that reason so much of the secrets of the kanaka are no longer secrets!

  8. To kila & keao –

    There are no secrets given away here…and no suggestion to do anything other than simply admire these ingenious inventions.

    Aloha,
    Sheila

  9. As a longtime visitor I agree that non-kanaka should leave a very small footprint. But I admire greatly the ancient fishponds near Hamoa at Hana (Maui).
    mahalo, Sara

  10. I have been to the Loko Lopa Fishpond pond on Lanai. It is beautiful, but looks as though it also needs some restoration.

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