Pu'u O Mahuka (Hill of Escape)

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How familiar are you with culturally significant lands in Hawaii?  At Sunset Ranch, part of our mission of "helping advance land conservation and self-sustainability" involves improving our understanding of the aina (land).  The process of establishing a conservation easement on Sunset Ranch, which permanently protected the site, taught us not only about the surrounding area's historical significance, but the importance of protecting it.  Thanks to the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT), we continue to learn more and more about the history of the aina that surrounds us.  Specifically, the NSCLT's "Greenprint" initiative helps identify the characteristics of North Shore lands, and prioritize protection efforts.  An area of particular interest to Sunset Ranch?  The land surrounding Pu'u O Mahuka (Hill of Escape): Oahu's largest heiau (important religous site or temple).

Pu'u O Mahuka sits atop the bluff just north of Waimea Bay, makai (towards the ocean, or west) of Sunset Ranch (photo circa 1930).  The heiau is undoubtedly one of the more culturally significant sites on Oahu's North Shore.  It played a critical role in the social, political and religious dynamic of the Hawaiian community living in Waimea Valley.  Thanks to information obtained from Hawaii State Parks, here are some additional details on Pu'u O Mahuka:

1.  The heiau was likely constructed by the Hawaiians in the 1600's, and covers approximately two acres.  The picture on the right clearly shows Pu'u O Mahuka's strategic location relative to Waimea Valley.  The picture (circa 1930) is a view of the heiau (left) looking mauka (towards the mountains, or east) towards Waimea Valley;

2.  We know that Waimea Valley was home to a large Hawaiian community during the 'pre-contact period', or before Captain Cook's arrival to the islands.  Given the heiau's location on the bluff, historians believe that Pu'u O Mahuka was often used by Hawaiians living in Waimea Valley to communicate with Hawaiians at a heiau in Wailua on Kauai.  Communication would have been via extremely large signal fires.  The picture below, taken in the 1970s, provides a great view overlooking the heiau facing makai.  Try to imagine what it may have looked like when the Hawaiians were using signal fires and communicating with residents of Kauai.

3.  Pu'u O Mahuka had three distinct wall enclosures ranging from three to six feet in height.  The heiau was most likely built by commoners, with construction overseen by an ali'i nui (high ranking chief) and his priests (kahuna).  Within the walls of the heiau existed wood and thatched structures, and the ground was paved with stone;

4.  New ruling chiefs very well may have modified the heiau.  In fact, it is believed that the mauka portion of Pu'u O Mahuka was likely built first, and was primarily used as the ceremonial section of the heaiu.  The makai enclosures are presumed to have been added later, perhaps in the 1700s.  These areas were likely used as the sacrificial areas of the heiau; and

5.  In the 1770s, a high ranking priest named Ka'opulupulu (under Oahu Chief Kahalana) oversaw Pu'u O Mahuka.  This was a time of war in Hawaii, and it is presumed that the heiau was often used as a sacrificial site.  After Kamehameha I conquered Oahu in 1795, his high priest Hewahewa conducted religious ceremonies at Pu'u O Mahuka.  It is believed that ceremonial use of the heiau continued until 1819.  Study of Cook's Voyages suggest that after Captain Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay in 1779, the HMS Resolution landed in Waimea Bay to stock up on water.  Imagine what the view may have been like from Pu'u O Mahuka.

So the historical significance of Pu'u O Mahuka is very clear.  That said, what is the current state of the heiau and the lands surrounding it?  We have some great news to share.  While the State of Hawaii (State Parks) owns Pu'u O Mahuka and a very small buffer around it; there is only one private land owner of the more than 200 acres that surround the heiau.  Subsequent closing of the conservation easement at Sunset Ranch, we were contacted by the land owner to discuss the possibilities of protecting this 200+ acre site.  The entire parcel is currently undeveloped, prime agricultural lands that wraps around Pu'u O Mahuka and works its way mauka up into the community of Pupukea.

We're currently talking to the land owner about two primary objectives:  (i) increasing the size of the State owned buffer around Pu'u O Mahuka; and (ii) protecting the remaining 200 acres of agricultural lands with a conservaion easement.  In partnership with the local community, the North Shore Community Land Trust and the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust (HILT), we hope that this vision will soon become a reality.  The land is simply too important to not protect, and the current zoning provides the potential for at least a 77 lot subidivision.  With current ownership in the hands of a conservation minded land owner, now may possibly be the best time to assure this special site's perpetual protection.

Hopefully this blog has provided a better understanding of Pu'u O Mahuka, and why we're so excited about the possibility of protecting the land surrounding it.  Land that is just a short distance from Sunset Ranch.  We hope that our small success story of protecting our approximate thirty acre site can help facilitate the protection of this important land.  While it will be no easy task; we're committed to helping all parties involved any way we can.

If you haven't already seen Pu'u O Mahuka, please take the time to explore it.  And while there, please think about what you've learned from this blog.  The site truly has some of the most spectacular views of Oahu's North Shore.  Also, if you have more information on Pu'u O Mahuka, or would like to discuss it further, please contact us at (808)638-8333.  Please also feel free to e-mail us at admin@sunsetranchhawaii.com.  We would love to hear from  you.  If you would like more information on the North Shore Community Land Trust's "Greenprinting" efforts, please click here, or contact Doug Cole at (808)497-0036.  Mahalo nui loa!

Land Preservation in Hawaii

A great summary of the symposium held in January.  These informational sessions are critical to spreading the word on land conservation in Hawaii, and educating the community on the programs and instruments available to assist with accomplishing our long term objectives of adequately balancing the preservation of land and development in Hawaii.

Symposium-LandPreservation_Page_1 Symposium-LandPreservation_Page_2

Guest Suites at Sunset Ranch

In the interest of sharing Sunset Ranch, now permanently protected from development, we do our very best to provide one of the most exclusive event venues in Hawaii. As discussed in our November 2011 blog, event clients are provided exclusive access to the property for the entire day of their event. In addition, we provide clients exclusive access to two guest suites in the main ranch house.  The guest suites can be used throughout the duration of the client's event (overnight accommodations are not provided).  Here is a brief description of the ranch house, and the guest suites that are included in the site fee:

Ranch House and Guest Suites

Nestled atop Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu, Sunset Ranch is one of the largest private estates on the island. The approximate 30 acre property, also known as Pu’u O Kolea (Plover Hill), is one of the most private, secluded areas on Oahu, with spectacular views of the northwest side of the island. Sunset Ranch’s elegant beauty, pristine views and gentle breezes make this special property like no other.

The plantation-style ranch house, originally built in 1975 and renovated in 2008, includes a guest bedroom wing that is made available to all event clients. The guest suites are adjacent the event venues "Charlie's Pond", "Sunset Vista" and "Fern's Garden". They are also within close walking distance of "Sunset Meadow" and "Sunset Stables".

The guest suites are separate key entry and each provide a luxurious 350 square feet of living space that includes: private bathrooms, walk-in cedar closets, and spacious river rock showers. Amenities include: peruvian travertine flooring, luxury ranch furnishings and bedding, and flat screen televisions. Each guest suite opens up to breathtaking ocean, island and ranch views from a spacious veranda that surrounds the ranch house. We're excited to share these special suites with our event clients! For more information on our guest suites, please contact us at:  admin@sunsetranchhawaii.com, or call us at (808)638-8333 or toll free at (855)638-8333. Mahalo!

Event Venues at Sunset Ranch

In the interest of sharing Sunset Ranch, now permanently protected from development, we do our very best to provide one of the most exclusive event venues in Hawaii.  Specifically, event clients are provided exclusive access to the property for the entire day of their event.  We also have five event venues from which clients can chooseClients can use one venue, or all five venues, on the day of their event.  The site is exclusively theirs.  Further, how event clients decide to design and use Sunset Ranch is completely up to them.  They are limited only by their imagination.  Below please find brief descriptions of each of the five event venues available to our clients at Sunset Ranch:

Sunset Vista

Breathtaking ocean and island views within an expansive, manicured grassy area is what clients will discover at Sunset Vista.  The venue is level at the top and gently sloping as one walks westward towards our lower pasture.  The lower pasture comprises approximately twelve acres of prime grazing lands and is home to eight of our horses, providing a spectacular back drop to Sunset Vista.  The grade of the venue also provides a natural 'stadium seating' effect, allowing guests to easily view a ceremony or event located below them.  Sunset Vista also works well for receptions and other parties that include a tent in the upper section of the venue where the grade is more level.  Clients that use Sunset Vista also tend to use other venues at Sunset Ranch.  As an example, wedding clients will often choose to use Sunset Vista for their ceremony, followed by a reception in Charlie's Pond (south, and adjacent Sunset Vista) or Sunset Meadow (north).  While we've included a few photos of Sunset Vista below, please enjoy more photos of this great venue here.

Sunset Meadow

Gentle island breezes, spectacular ocean and mountain views, expansive open space, and our signature eucalyptus tree are what clients experience in Sunset Meadow.  This venue includes approximately five acres of manicured grasslands, where event design is limited only by one's imagination.  Sunset Meadow has been host to a wide variety of events over the years, including:  fundraisers, weddings, corporate retreats, horse parties, birthday parties, luaus and other local gatherinsgs.  The venue sits on the northeast end of the property and has some of the best views on site.  The venue is also adjacent another very large grassy area that is often used for parking when clients choose to use Sunset Meadow for a venue.  You can find pictures of Sunset Meadow below as well as  here.

Sunset Stables

Sunset Stables provides clients a rustic, yet elegant, indoor barn with approximately 10,000 square feet of floor space.  While the venue can accommodate very large events; it can also be partitioned to accommodate smaller events.  Sunset Stables is one of only two indoor riding arenas on Oahu, truly delivering an event venue like no other.  Prior events held in Sunset Stables have ranged from 40 guests to 500 guests.  The barn has one large sliding door on the north end that is often used for the main entrance to the venue.  Alternatively, clients can choose to have guests use the open aisle of stalls to enter the venue.  While we can locate a horse in a stall at the request of our clients; clients can also choose to use stalls for photo booths or other event attractions.  There are also three parking locations surrounding Sunset Stables, providing convenience for event guests.  Please click here for more pictures of Sunset Stables.

Charlie's Pond

Charlie's Pond provides an intimate and elegant setting between the plantation ranch house and large pond.  This outdoor venue offers panoramic ocean and island views of the North Shore of Oahu, and the most spectacular of sunsets.  Charlie's Pond also includes a tropical garden that sits on the south side of the venue and provides views overlooking Waimea Valley and out towards the Waianae mountain range.  The garden is home to giant eucalyptus trees, monsterra, ginger, hibiscus and other Hawaiian flora and fauna.  The mauka side of the garden also houses a small imu (underground oven) that can be used by event clients.  This garden area works very well for an event receiving area, cocktail party, ceremony, or any main event.  While Charlie's Pond typically caters to event sizes of 50 to 150; the venue can comfortably handle up to 300.  Charlie's Pond is a great venue with a variety of options for event design and set-up.  You can find more pictures of Charlie's Pond here.

Fern's Garden

A private, intimate garden with views looking out across Waimea Valley towards the southern point of the Waianae mountain range, and surrounded by giant eucalyptus, monsterra, other native Hawaiian plants is what clients are afforded in Fern's Garden.  This magestic venue is great for cocktail parties, ceremonies, rehearsal dinners, bridal and baby showers, dinner parties, a receiving area, or transition area between other venues at Sunset Ranch for larger events.  The garden includes fragrant Hawaiian flowers, a spacious area for set-ups and some of the property's most spectacular views. Additional pictures of Fern's Garden can be found here.







For more information on our event venues at Sunset Ranch, please contact us at (808)638-8333.  You can also reach us on our toll free line at (855)638-8333, or you can send us an e-mail at admin@sunsetranchhawaii.com.  More pictures of these venues, as well as photographs of some recent events, can be found on our web-site under Photo Albums on the Events tab here.  For a LIVE view from Sunset Vista, please check out our RanchCam.  We are also in the process of developing a video site tour that will provide footage of each of the venues at Sunset Ranch.  Stay tuned!  Mahalo nui loa for your support!

The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national non-profit organization with a mission of 'protecting land for people'.  TPL's work started in Hawaii in 1979 on the Big Island, with the protection of approximately 279 acres of Volcano National Park.  To date, TPL has helped protect over 36,000 acres throughout Hawaii, including projects on every major island.  Teaming up with the North Shore Community Land Trust (NSCLT) in 2008, TPL  also played a critical role in the protection of Sunset Ranch.  The local TPL staff assisted us with all elements of the fundraising process, from application processing to site visits to presentations to meeting after meeting after meeting.  Their involvement was invaluable and we simply could not have completed the project without their assistance and support.  

Similar to the NSCLT, TPL has played, and continues to play, a critical role in the protection of land on Oahu's North Shore. A couple of notable TPL land conservation successess near Sunset Ranch include:  (i) Pupukea-Paumalu (~1129 acres north of Sunset Ranch), a property that was potentially subject to significant commercial and residential development; and (ii) Waimea Valley (~1875 acres south of Sunset Ranch), a culturally significant parcel also threatened by development.  Currently, TPL and the NSCLT are working together to protect over 400 acres near Turtle Bay, referred to as:   Turtle Bay Mauka Agricultural Lands

The aforementioned land conservation projects are just a few examples of TPL's efforts in Hawaii.  Thanks to TPL and other organizations like the NSCLT, all of this important land has been, or is in the process of being, permanently protected. 

The Trust for Public Land is an incredible organization comprised of exceptional individuals who have nothing but the best interests of Hawaii residents in mind.  If you're interested in land conservation in Hawaii, TPL is an organization you should know about.  Here is their stated mission:

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.

If you're interseted in meeting the local TPL team, come join us at Sunset Ranch for the NSCLT benefit on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm.  You can buy tickets here.  For more information on TPL, contact their local Hawaii office at (808)524-8560.  We also recommend that you visit their web-site at TPL Hawaii.   The time for land conservation in Hawaii is now.  Get involved.  Mahalo!

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