Kauai, the oldest and northernmost of the islands was also
probably the first island settled by voyagers from southern
Polynesia around 1,800 years ago. To a land blessed with
rich soil, flowing rivers, and abundant rainfall, the settlers
brought the plants and seeds that would make the island lush and
beautiful. Historically, the name Kauai has been translated to mean
"season of abundance" or "time of plenty." On an island ringed
with gorgeous bays and beaches, the area known as Hanalei stood
out as a place of beauty and power. This area and its immediate
surroundings were kula lands – land available to the maka'ainana or
common person for cultivation and fishing.
Overlooking Hanalei Bay was the plateau, which is now known as Princeville – a
place of spiritual mana or power. From the community’s present site to Po'oku,
just beyond the highway, there is said to have been one of the largest hala
(pandanus) groves throughout Hawaii. The grove was celebrated in many
chants and stories, as the hala was very important to the Hawaiian people. The
presence of the tree indicated that there were abundant water sources, and the
leaves provided weaving material for mats and other household items. Further
up Po'oku was one of Kauai’s largest heiau, meaning temple.
The site of the Princeville Hotel was known as Pu'u poa or pu'u pa'oa -- pu'u
meaning mountain, and pa'ao meaning the staff of the Fire Goddess, Pele, who,
when searching for a new home would strike her staff into the earth to create a
new crater. Directly below the hotel is a marshy area known as kamo'omaika'i,
the site of a large fishpond.
"I never saw such a romantically beautiful spot in all my life time. Were I forty years younger... I would
throw the Foreign Office with all its musty papers in the King's hands and spend the remainder of my life
here," so declared Robert Crichton Wyllie, the founder of Princeville at Hanalei, during the building of his
Kauai retreat in 1860. After a lifetime of adventure, success in the financial world
and at Hawaii’s royal court, Robert Crichton Wyllie, a Scotsman, served as
minister of foreign affairs for the Kingdom of Hawaii for 20 years. It was Wyllie
who purchased much of the Hanalei area, planted sugar cane and coffee,
constructed a large, modern sugar mill in Hanalei, and built himself a plantation
estate, Kikiula, near the present resort site.
In 1860, Wyllie hosted his dear friends King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma and
their two-year-old son, Prince Albert at his estate for several weeks. In honor of the
child, the most beloved ali'i of all Hawaii, Wyllie named the plantation the Barony
de Princeville, the City of the Prince. A great tragedy befell the royal family and
the kingdom when Albert, Hawaii’s only prince, died at the age of four.
Princeville, the legacy of a small Hawaiian Prince who did not live to rule his
"barony," continues to honor its origins and its history.
Na Leo 'O Princeville, A publication of Princeville Corporation & Princeville Utilities Company, Inc., Spring 2003