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:
- 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.)
Menehune Fishpond (Click here for map.)
– 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.
- 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 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.
- Loko Lopa Fishpond is at Lopa Beach and is accessible by 4WD.