Makakilo means ‘observing eyes’ in the Hawaiian Language. This is a small community of about 15,000 people that is really a neighborhood of Kapolei. Sitting on the slopes of the hillsides moving away from the beach – there isn’t really anything to draw visitors here. Like nearly everywhere on Oahu, the really nice neighborhoods are generally military housing. To the West is the manufactured resort neighborhood of Ko Olina.
Ko Olina has a golf course, four beautiful man-made lagoons that would be private in a different state where beach access wasn’t guaranteed. There are four high end resorts on the property along with an unusually large number of wedding chapels and a sort of tourist village with shops and restaurants. The resorts include the Disney Aulani as well as the Four Seasons.
Ko Olina is largely focused on timeshares and short term condominium rentals though there are a small number of full time residents. Ko Olina is made up of about 642 acres comprised of the four resorts, the golf course, and six ‘villages’ of mostly condos. The population is listed as about 1800 people but I doubt that many of these are full time residents – though if you go to the lagoons early in the morning – there is a group of mostly white senior citizens who gather to play ukulele and sing together on some days.
As you can see from the photo below – taken from the Ko Olina information site – Ko Olina is working very hard to create a fantasy version of Hawaii – and with the Paradise Cove Luau, the Disney Aulani Resort, the four lagoons, and the creation (in progress now) of an Atlantis Hotel (the one in Dubai) – it is succeeding. If you want to see the Hawaii of your imagination and you can afford it – Ko Olina is the place to go – but make sure you close your eyes while you are driving there from the airport because all around Ko Olina you will see the real modern Hawaii complete with traffic, homelessness, people struggling to survive economically, and since Ko Olina is on the dry side of Oahu – a lot of brown…because all that water used to make Ko Olina green has to be brought there.
Visitors to Oahu tend to have heard of The North Shore, Waikiki, Honolulu and maybe Kailua – but those are just three places out of hundreds. You have to hit the road to find the most interesting places.
The North End of the Windward Side of the Island of Oahu is an interesting place! What makes it interesting? What about a bizarre collision of Mormonism, Sumo Wrestling, shrimp, and giant lizards? Interesting enough for you? Because you will find it all there.
Let’s start with the giant lizard – Hawaiian legend has it that the rocky point in Laie (Laie Point) yused to be patrolled and guarded by a giant monster lizard name Laniloa. A warrior named Kana came and killed the lizard, slicing it into five pieces – these pieces can still be seen today as the islands off the point – including the skull of Laniloa with his eye socket staring at you!
Laie is a Mormon town. The Mormons trusted a man named Walter Murray Gibson to come buy them an island homeland in Hawaii after the U.S. occupied Utah. Gibson bought the island of Lanai for them but decided to keep it for himself. He gave up Mormonism, took to drinking with King Kalakaua, and became the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Prime Minister. When the Mormon’s arrived – he refused to give them Lanai and instead the king sold them Laie where they built a temple, a university, and the Polynesian Cultural Center. You’ll also find the Hukilau Cafe, though it’s not the one from the movie 50 First Dates.
Just south of Laie is Hau’ula. There’s not much in the town, but it is well known as the home of one of Hawaii’s most famous sumo wrestling schools and many of the sumo greats trained or came from Hau’ula.
I’ve been told that Konishiki came from Hau’ula. I actually met him at the backyard sumo school there about twenty years ago. I wasn’t wrestling, just checking it out.
North of Laie you find Kuhuku with the shrimp ponds, the remains of the old sugar mill, and the many food trucks that have moved there. Locally, however, Kuhuku is most famous for the high school football team, the ‘Red Raiders’. This tiny school’s team has produced more NFL players than any school in Hawaii and has ranked second in the U.S. for most active NFL players from a single school.