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Malama Na Pali

The Na Pali Coast

Kalalau Beach

Located on the northwest coast of Kauai, Na Pali in over 14 miles contains some of the Pacific Islands most spectacular wilderness area and contains some of Hawaiis best preserved archeological site. The ancient Hawaiians lived in the seemingly inhospitable seven main valleys, and left agricultural, habitational, and religious remnants throughout. From the heiau (temple) of Laka the hula goddess, at Kee, the northern gateway, to the heiau of the departing soles at Polihale, the southern entrance.
"The Na Pali coast is a valuable resource for an understanding of Hawaiian prehistory and adaptation, said Myra Tomonari-Tuggle", an archaeologist who wrote "An Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey: Na Pali Coast State Park" (1989) a survey of portions of Na Pali in the summer of 1979. "But significance goes beyond an academic evaluation of importance. The Na Pali coast is of value to the people of Hawaii as it represents a part of history and a way of life that once existed in these islands but is not now reproducible."

Today images of the park are used throughout the world to broadcast the beauty of Hawaii. Stunning images that show sea cliffs that tower up 4,000 ft above the ocean, magical sea caves and waterfalls that shimmer down the pali to land in the sea. The park is a land of natural and cultural uniqueness.

Yet there are problems in paradise.


The use pressure on Na Pali Coast State Park receives is at an all-time high while the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the state agency responsible for the care of the park, has had their budget slashed to less than $7 million according to Dan Quinn, State Parks Administrator. Once you omit salary, special funds etc., approximately $700,000 is budgeted for the repair and maintenance of 70 parks spread over 27,000 acres in Hawaii, or just $25.93 per acre. Compare this to The Hawaii Tourism Authority which usually receives $61 million. Of that budget the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau funding comes to $45 million, with the Kauai Visitors Bureau receiving $2.7 million of that total.

spinner dolpin

Although the sea life along Na Pali appears rich compared to more heavily fished areas. Life-long mariners like Paddy Boy Malama says the years have not been kind. A quick trip to Niihau will show anyone what rich fishing grounds were once found along Na Pali. State Parks archaeologist Alan Carpenter says another big problem facing Na Pali is the impact of illegal, "outlaw" campers who make long stays in Kalalau Valley and other sections of Na Pali. These illegal campers, he says, continually come from across the globe to find that little piece of paradise, in turn destroying and rearranging archeological sites and leaving behind untold tons of abandoned campsites and trash in the farthest extremes of Na Pali. Last spring a rather large camp that included a large library of books was discovered near Davidson falls some 1.5 miles up Kalalau Valley. All one needs to do is walk a few yards off the main trail in any valley and an old abandoned campsite can be found. The Legislature passed a law during this years session that adds teeth to the fines State Parks can impose for illegal camping. This allows the State Parks enforcement officers to confiscate illegal camp sites and remove them. But any removal in such an inhospitable location is an expensive process that takes away from the desperately needed projects. Wayne Souza, Head of DLNR, Kauai, says that helicopter time is costing $650.00 per hour. It takes approx: one hour to do one sling load out of the valleys. Add the cost of personal and transporting the garbage from Kokee to Kekaha and one can see how expensive illegals can be.

Ke'e the northern gateway

Kalalu Beach sand

E Malama Na Pali

The Na Pali Coast is a fragile and sacred environment and it is up to us to help her. Simple things like packing out your trash, camping only in designated campsites and leaving what appears to be random rocks that really are an ancient Hawaiian site are some of the most basic and simple rules.

As a concerned citizen you can

- Write your representatives and demand that the proper funds be made available for DLNR.

- You can become involved with the Na Pali Coast Ohana and its programs

- Demand that travel personnel and the visitor bureau educate their guest on the coast - Na Pali is a wilderness area not a city park!!!

-Use the power of the ballot and make sure that your hopefull will help malama the coast.

We must care for this beloved land or well destroy her

For nearly a millennium the ancient Hawaiians
called such seeming inhospitable places as Honopu home

Volunteers continue work at Nu'alolo Kai

Labor day weekend found a rather sizable crew cleaning, mapping and documenting the ancient Hawaiian sites at Nualolo Kai. Centrally located in the Na Pali Coast State Park, Nu'alolo Kai is a small rocky shore and reef flat containing some of the most spectacular archaeological sites found anywhere in Hawai'i.

Beginning about 800 years ago, until about the turn of the last century, Hawaiians lived in Nu'alolo Kai. The evidence of that long occupation abound in Nu'alolo Kai, in the form of a village with an impressive heiau (temple), a walled pool, well, house platforms, canoe sheds and unique pathways. Kamaile peak, which towers some 1500 ft over Nu'alolo Kai, was one of only two known places on Kaua'i (the other being Makana Peak at Hä'ena) where Hawaiians practiced their version of fireworks - tossing firebrands of hau and papala off of the summit to sail on the updrafts on their way to the the ocean below. Missionary Hiram Bingham who traveled the coast in the summer of 1821, and noted approximately 70 people fishing on the Nu'alolo's reef. He was the first Westerner to witness the Hawaiians using the famous wooden ladder to ascend the sheer cliff to Nu'alolo 'Aina, the sister valley where kalo (taro), sweet potato,banana and sugar cane were grown. Between the rich fishing of Nu'alolo Kai and the abundant farming of 'Aina, Hawaiians flourished through the centuries.

The State Parks Nu'alolo Kai Archaeological Resource Management Project has been carried on since 1996 and with the combined efforts of State Parks, DLNR, the Na Pali Coast Ohana volunteers and the Na Pali coast boat companies, all who have worked together to make this one of the most successful curatership programs in Hawaii. Over the summer months of May to September, work groups arrive in Nualolo with the help of the tour boat companies that service the coast. The main objective has been to map and document all the existing hawaiian sites, so that condition can be assed and a long term caretaking plan can be implimented. To date over half of the sites have been documented, yet on almost every trip new sites are discovered.

Alan Carpenter, State Parks Archeologist, one of the original organizers, tells us that "on this project, we haven't done any digging. We're focusing on the spatial relationships of the structures on the surface and what they tell us about how people lived and arranged their environment here, and maybe what they can tell us about the duration of their use - were they rebuilt over time, etc? All these features are important to this understanding. Archaeologists today are so often forced to make subjective decisions about which sites in an area are "significant", so the ones that "aren't" can be paved over. To me, if you want to really understand the importance of a site, it's necessary to see the entire system surrounding it, not just the most spectacular pieces. Which is why this place is so special - it's all here right before our eyes."

The Labor Day crew was the third crew this summer. The core of scientists who devoted their time to mapping the previously cleared sites where joined by a devoted crew of volunteers organized by Hawaiian community leader Sabra Kauka, President of the Nä Pali Coast 'Ohana. A welcome shot in the arm was provided by a large day trip crew organized by Aunty Puna Dawson's Hula Halau, who joined in cleaning sites and caring for the already opened areas. Visually the project has opened much of the previously hidden areas of Nu'alolo, as noted by Diane Ferry, renowned Kauai photographer, commenting on the difference the project has made to the valley: "When I first came here in the mid 80's their was barely one rock wall of the heiau exposed, the rest was totally overgrown. Now that it has been properly cleared, I'm awstruck what a huge area it is and what an incredible complex they (Hawaiians) built here."

Kekahas Ronson Kelii Sahut (UH student), remembers as a Hawaiian child on the west side there where those that felt hawaiians where fat, lazy and stupid... Things like this (the Nualolo project) makes me proud when I hear (Archeologist) like Moe (Majors) and Alan, say how smart the hawaiians where, they had all their things down to a science, it makes me feel good. I feel like the younger kids could see this kine stuff and learn this kine stuff, they would be proud... all they have to do is go in their back yard.

Eventually the first stage of the project, the mapping & documentation will be accomplished, and Sabra Kauka says that she hopes that eventually Nu'alolo will serve as an educational center for the children of Kaua'i so they can retouch their past.

Alan agrees, and continues " Nu'alolo Kai is a becoming a model of what I foresee for the future of Parks resource management. State Parks is not provided with the funding or positions it needs to effectively take care of the areas under our jurisdiction - I don't think we have a choice but to rely on local communities and outside organizations for help. We have to be creative to assure that the future of places like this is a bright one. I'm an archaeologist, so my focus is on the cultural sites. But this is a living place- and I see it as a place we can restore to an earlier time, not just the rock walls, but the native and Hawaiian-introduced plants, even the marine environment. Revive what we call the 'cultural landscape'. And what an awesome outdoor classroom and laboratory - it's a place where we can both learn and teach."


Over the last 20 years I have been documenting the Na Pali Coast through photography and oral interviews. The Photography work has been done according to the Guidelines of the National Historical Trust, using Archival 4 X 5 Black and White Negatives. Along with 35 MM slides that have lead to a stock file of over 20,000 images. The oral interviews are of the people of the coast.

Many of these images and interviews can be seen in our latest publication "Malama Na Pali", a preservation guide to our beloved coast. Due in Fall 2007