History of Hale‘iwa – House of the ‘Iwa

Hale’iwa town is located in the district of Waialua, which was one of the first and largest Hawaiian settlements on O‘ahu. Waialua, meaning “two waters,” had an abundance of resources which made the district a place of residence for ali’i (chiefs) who designated lands for agricultural production, aquaculture and habitation.

The origin of Hale‘iwa as a town name is traced back to about 1865. The missionary Rev. Orramel H. Gulick established the Waialua Female Seminary when he moved to Waialua to help his fellow missionary, John Emerson.

In 1898, visionary businessman Benjamin Dillingham, a promoter of real estate and railways, opened a grand Victorian hotel that he named the “Hale’iwa,” which means “House of the ‘Iwa,” or frigate bird. The hotel was situated where Hale’iwa Joe’s restaurant stands today. Dillingham felt the frigate bird best exemplified the ambience he wanted to create for the hotel. The hotel grew to become hugely popular and established a reputation as a luxurious retreat from the city.

‘Iwa is the frigate or man-of-war bird (Fregata minor palmerstoni). It boasts an impressive wing span of 12 meters. Traditional Hawaiian associations with ‘iwa are linked to people with appealing appearances, charisma, charm and skill. Bernice Pauahi Bishop herself, the great granddaughter of King Kamehameha and founder of Kamehameha Schools, was associated with the ‘iwa bird. She was compared to Kaiona, the goddess of the Wai‘anae Range who sent ‘iwa to help aid travelers who were lost or needed to find their way.