Palauea Cultural Preserve, Honua'ula, Maui

The Palauea Cultural Preserve is co-managed by the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH-Manoa, in partnership with Maui Community College. The preserve encompasses 20 acres of undeveloped land between the towns of Kihei and Makena, along the west coast of Maui Island (near the Wailea Resort). Palauea is one of eighteen traditional ahupua'a (community territories) within the larger moku (district) of Honua'ula.

Location of Palauea Cultural Preserve

Prior to European contact, the Palauea Preserve was a native dry-land forest and the coastal area was the home of a traditional fishing village. Much of the area is now covered by non-native kiawe trees and other plants that were introduced by early Polynesians and later Europeans.

Aerial view of a heiau (right foreground) and nearby coastline (background)

Archaeological remains are abundant at this locale and include pre-contact religious temples (heiau), house foundations (hale), agricultural terraces, foot trails, cairns (ahu), and possibly water wells. The beach below the preserve contains archaeological evidence of fishing and other resource extraction activities. Remnants of historic-period ranching activities are also present on the preserve. Together, these sites provide valuable insights on the traditional Hawaiian landscape of Palauea, and on the nature of changes that occurred in this region in the 19th century.

View of Maiapilo, a native plant in the Preserve

The most visible cultural sites on the preserve were re-discovered by archaeologists in the 1960s during the development of the Wailea Resort. Preliminary stabilization work on some of the cultural remains was implemented by Patrick Kirch, formerly with the Bishop Museum, in 1969. To date, more than 16 sites (or site complexes) comprised of 255 features have been documented at the preserve, and many more are likely to be revealed by upcoming archaeological studies by students from the University of Hawai'i.

A doctoral student from UH-Manoa, Ms. Theresa Donham, will instruct a summer field class (Anthropology 381) at the preserve.
Many of the Hawaiian cultural remains are located on 'a'a lava

This course will be conducted as part of the Outreach College 2003 Summer Session. Students will receive training in techniques of archaeological fieldwork and historic preservation. Students interested in an affordable field school in the Hawaiian islands are encouraged to apply. No previous coursework in archaeology or anthropology is required.

View of heiau interior wall

Education, historic preservation, and community involvement are central to the management of the preserve. Consultation with cultural practitioners and other community members, the compilation of oral histories, and the examination of relevant documentary sources are all germane to the responsible stewardship of Palauea. The University of Hawaii is currently developing a long-term plan for protecting the cultural sites and natural landscape of the Palauea Cultural Preserve.

A large enclosure at Palauea Cultural Preserve

All images courtesy of Theresa Donham