The site of the Princeville Hotel was known as Pu’u poa or pu’u pa’oa — pu’umeaning 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.