On the island of Oahu, in front of the Halekulani Hotel is an odd natural phenomenon that over the years has drawn visitors from around to world to experience its apparent powers. Known as the Healing Waters of Kawehewehe, it is a natural channel of water that runs through the reef below where large amounts of fresh spring water burbles up into the sea. Here, people who are sick, ill, or in pain come to seek relief for their symptoms and ailments.
Hundreds of years ago Hawaiian royalty would come to Kawehewehe to bathe. Wearing seaweed leis of limu kala, they’d remove the lei in the ocean while asking forgiveness for past wrongdoing (misdeeds were believed to be a cause of illness and “kala” means to forgive).
The tiny section of beach fronting the hotel is now called Gray’s Beach by some. Named for Gray’s-by-the-Sea, a small two-story boardinghouse near the beach that was operated by La Vancha Maria Chapin Gray from 1912 to 1929, the boardinghouse closed when Juliet and Clifford Kimball, one of the earlier waves of profiteers, bought the property to build the Halekulani Hotel.
Gray’s Channel as Kawehewehe came to be known, was grossly enlarged by dredging in the early 1950s to allow catamarans to come ashore at the beach. The Kawehewehe channel also lies between two popular surf sites, Paradise and Number Threes.
To find Gray’s Beach, and the healing waters of Kawehewehe, head to the east (on the Diamond Head side) of Halekulani, but be mindful of the tides. Due to the seawall in front of the hotel the beach may be under water at high tide.
Kawehewehe is Trail Marker #13 on the Waikiki Historic Trail. For more information and other historic sites in Waikiki, head here.
While soaking in the waters of Kawehewehe is a fantastic reason to visit Halekulani, the property is also one of Oahu’s most luxurious stays, a 453-room resort situated on five prime oceanfront acres on Waikiki Beach. Surrounded by open courtyards and lush gardens, guest facilities include three restaurants, three cocktail lounges, a pool, an award-winning spa, fitness room, and more.
The original property in 1907 was a residential hotel called Hau Tree and consisted of a beachfront home and five bungalows. Then in 1917, the Kimballs took ownership and gradually expanded it, establishing the property as a stylish resort for wealthy vacationers. They named it Halekulani, which means “House Befitting Heaven.”
In the 1930s, they replaced the old residence with a plantation mansion-styled Main Building with a high-pitched hip roof to catch the cooling trade winds. Also known as the “Dickey” roof, it is a trademark of Hawaii’s legendary architect C.W. Dickey.
Following the Kimballs’ passing, the Norton Clapp family of Seattle bought Halekulani in 1962 and in 1981, sold it to Mitsui Fudosan, Inc. which later formed the Honolulu-based Halekulani Corporation. Today, the historic main building has been restored and retained along with coconut palms and a century-old Kiawe tree. The sister property, Waikiki Parc, is across the street and shares many facilities and operations.
For more, visit www.halekulani.com.
Headline photo by Lindsay Taub, Sunset photo by Barbara Kraft.