History of Helumoa

In the 16th century, O'ahu ruler Ma'ilikūkahi relocated his court from central O'ahu to Waikiki. The abundance of fresh water made the area ideal for agriculture. Ma'ililkūkahi established Waikiki as the royal seat of government and brought about decades of peace and prosperity.

Six generations later, his descendent, Kakuhihewa, encountered the supernatural rooster Ka'auhelemoa who flew down to Waikiki from Palolo valley to challenge him. Furiously scratching into the earth, the impressive rooster then vanished. Kakuhihewa took this as an omen and planted niu or coconuts at that very spot. Helumoa, meaning “chicken scratch,” was the name he bestowed on that niu planting that would multiply into a grove of over 10,000 trees.

Years after his conquest of O'ahu in 1795, King Kamehameha I established a home in the Helumoa coconut grove names Kūihelani, guarded by stately coconut trees that resembled kahili—royal feather standards of the ancients. In the 1880s, Helumoa was inherited by Kamehameha’s great-granddaughter, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

Today, Helumoa is home to Royal Hawaiian Center. Learn more about our fascinating history in the Kaulani Heritage Room in the Royal Grove, adjacent to Lei 'Ohu Guest Services.

painting of a Hawaiian landscape with people working in the forground
Historic mural by Solomon Enos depicts Ma'ilikūkahi—15th century O'ahu ruler and his family, expert agriculturalists, land managers and revered leaders.
painting of a beach scene with several people
Solomon Enos’ mural recalls the encounter between O'ahu ruler Kakuhihewa and the mythical rooster, Ka'auhelemoa. Niu (coconuts) were planted at the spot where he left his mark in the earth, establishing the legendary Helumoa ulu niu (coconut grove) at Waikiki. Helumoa means “chicken scratch.”