Papakōlea has a rich and unique history as one of the first homestead communities designated under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1921. We are home to the largest concentration of Native Hawaiians in urban Honolulu, with eighty-five percent of residents being full or part-Hawaiian. Many of the elders have passed on a legacy of community pride and involvement to the younger generations. Here in Papakōlea there is a long history of community participation to improve the lives of our children and their families.

Ka Welina About Our Program

E Ho‘okipa Mai (extend hospitality; every visitor is entitled to hospitality)

A visit to Papakōlea will immerse you in the history and ongoing activities in this community of 350 Hawaiian families. We offer two different kinds of host/visitor experiences.

Itinerary #1: Community Development in Papakōlea

Papakōlea is the only urban homestead established with the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921, which began a process of returning approximately 200,000 acres of land to the Hawaiian people.  Located near Punchbowl crater, it is home to approximately 420 Native Hawaiian families. The Papakōlea Community Development Corporation (PCDC) is a non-profit organization that was established by members of the community to support community self-sufficiency and to house a full range of supportive services in collaboration with Kula No Na Po‘e Hawaii (KNNPH) and other organizations.  Together, both organizations share the history of their journey in community development in the context of self-governance. They will also provide a history of the homestead and their efforts to maintain their historical and cultural traditions and identity in the face of modernity and urban life.  And they will discuss the lessons they have learned in creating university-community partnerships.

  • Welcome and introductions
  • View segment of Edgy Lee’s documentary on the history of Papakōlea and Hawaiian Homesteads
  • Windshield van tour
  • Sharing of the history of community building in the Hawaiian Homestead community of Papakōlea, including the development of a full-service community center, university-community partnerships and participatory action research
  • Cultural education activity as time permits

Length of visit: ½ day (4 hours)
Transportation provided from visitor’s or other designated location
Refreshments provided
Maximum 25 persons per group

Requested exchange: $50 per person.

Itinerary #2: Traditional Healing Practices

There is a rich history of traditional healing practices in Papakōlea.

Na Lomilomi O Papakōlea is a group of traditional practitioners and healers in training. Founded in 1998, Na Lomilomi O Papakōlea is an established group that provides a training program in Hawaiian healing practices to interested community members and provides services at weekly evening clinics. Our training components include spiritual awareness, human anatomy, lomilomi (traditional Hawaiian therapeutic massage), lā‘au lapa‘au (traditional Hawaiian herbal medicine), hospital visits and home blessings.

Our healers are trained with a spiritual foundation acknowledging the source of healing is from Akua and as practitioners we are instruments of His healing power. To participate you must understand the power of prayer and have a servant spirit. The style of massage that is being shared is kino ho‘oponopono – which encompasses Hawaiian healing massage to provide total body alignment. Visits may be customized to your particular interests and can include demonstrations of lomilomi and lā‘au lapa‘au.

Length of visit: ½ day (4 hours)
Transportation provided from visitors or other designated location
Refreshments provided
Maximum 25 persons per group

Requested exchange: $100 per person.

Service Learning Projects

Papakōlea has a long history of working with educational institutions as a learning laboratory for those interested in a holistic approach to community health and development. We have trained hundreds of students in all fields of study from nursing and medicine to urban planning and social work. We involve students in a variety of community projects, including work with our kūpuna (elders), ‘ōpio (youth), and keiki (children). We have developed a curriculum, Kōkua Na‘auao for those who desire to work in our community. Kōkua Na‘auao is comprised of ten 1-hour modules that can be customized to the needs of the students.

Kōkua Na‘auao includes:

  • The history of Papakōlea as a Hawaiian Homestead;
  • Cross-cultural appreciation, understanding; Hawaiian values, cultural practices and protocols;
  • Bottoms-up community development approaches;
  • Holistic approaches to improving health and well being from a native epistemology; and
  • Other topics relevant to the service-learning students.

Kōkua Na‘auao also includes videotapes, a guided windshield tour, slide presentations, talk story sessions, reading materials, guest speakers, and experiential learning activities.

While students gain valuable and unique experiences, they contribute their time, energy and compassion to the community through the work they become involved in. Several of the organizations in Papakōlea have been working with instructors to provide an educational experience for their students as they volunteer in service to the community. Students have assisted with designing and conducting community surveys, doing research and developing a business plan, collecting historical and archival information for a commemorative report, assisting with strategic planning, and helping to provide health care to our residents, among other important contributions.

Service learning projects are ongoing and can be arranged depending on the needs and capacity of the community and the needs and capacity of students. We request a minimum commitment of one semester.

‘Aina The Place

Papakōlea has a rich and unique history as one of the first homestead communities designated under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1921. We are home to the largest concentration of Native Hawaiians in urban Honolulu, with eighty-five percent of residents being full or part-Hawaiian. Many of the elders have passed on a legacy of community pride and involvement to the younger generations. Here in Papakōlea there is a long history of community participation to improve the lives of our children and their families.

The Papakolea Community Center and Park

In June 2003, PCDC successfully assumed management control of the Papakōlea Community Center and Park under a twenty-year license agreement from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL). Since securing the Center, PCDC began rehabilitating the facility so that it can function as a meeting place, recreational facility, and full-service center providing health, education, human, technology, and economic development services.

The complex includes a covered basketball court with permanent bleachers, an open-air basketball court, a grassy play area and handicap compliant play structure, two parking areas, and a two-story hall. The Center houses a variety of low cost and free programs to the public. These programs are offered through partnerships with other non-profits and the community at-large.

‘Ohana The People

‘Ike aku, ‘ike mai, kōkua aku kōkua mai; pēlā ihola ka nohona ‘ohana.
Recognize and be recognized, help and be helped; such is family life.

Our ‘ohana includes all the members of our community, the largest concentration of Native Hawaiians in urban Honolulu, with eighty-five percent of residents being full or part-Hawaiian. Many of the elders have passed on a legacy of community pride and involvement to the younger generations. There is a long history of community participation to improve the lives of the children and their families.

Our ‘ohana is nurtured by our community umbrella organization, the Papakōlea Community Development Corporation. Papakōlea Community Development Corporation (PCDC) is a tax-exempt 501©3 organization, which was formed in 1999 to provide the residents of the Hawaiian homestead neighborhoods of Papakōlea, Kewalo and Kalawahine with a full range of comprehensive services at the Papakōlea Community Center and Park (the Center).  PCDC is a consortium of community-based organizations working to foster a healthy, innovative and sustainable community in the Hawaiian homestead of Papakōlea.

Our goals are:

  • To strengthen the Papakolea community’s social and economic foundation for self-determination
  • To develop strong and effective community leaders by offering educational and social entrepreneurship opportunities
  • To mobilize broad-based community participation in community programs and activities
  • To improve the health and wellness of Papakolea residents by offering culturally relevant health and human services
  • To provide a setting where programs that support the emotional well-being of individuals and the community can be offered

Our Vision

Our home is Papakolea, a community where the spirit of lōkahi and aloha inspires self-reliance and participation to share knowledge of our culture and respect of ‘ohana. Residents assume a responsibility to create a community with strong identity, spirit and pride. Our participation nurtures our growth in education, economic well-being and improved health conditions for generations to come.

Our Mission

The Papakolea Community Development Corporation strives to promote self-determination by managing community center facilities, to develop strong and effective community leaders, and to mobilize broad-based community participation in civic life.

  • Economic development: To enhance self-reliance, we bring together the resources and talents of our community to create jobs and economic opportunities.
  • Culture: Our culture is based on living the values of ‘ohana, aloha, laulima, lōkahi, and mālama. We are bound by our pride and respect for the cultural legacy of kūpuna.
  • ‘Ohana: Our families thrive as members share the values of aloha, kōkua, and kuleana. Our ‘ohana will preserve and nurture the spirituality of this community.
  • Education: The wisdom and guidance of our kupuna serve as the pathway toward academic and social achievement.
  • Health and Well-being: Our spirit of lokahi will be achieved by improving the overall well-being of the people through sharing the knowledge of good health that we may enjoy long life together.
  • Environment: Our wise use of the ‘āina will strengthen our community. Pride of home and respect for our people are nurtured by those who pass on the history of this land.

The Importance of our Culture

Our culture is based on living the values of ‘ohana, aloha, laulima, lōkahi, and mālama. We are bound by our pride and respect for the cultural legacy of kūpuna.

Through the rich cultural traditions of our Hawaiian ancestors, our community strives to uphold the values and traditional practices of our kūpuna as a foundation of community strength and pride. The Papakolea community has a long history of sharing this sense of community connectedness through various cultural and community activities that perpetuate these values and traditions. As in past generations, our kūpuna continue to pass on their knowledge and wisdom as vibrant members of our community. PCDC provides support to the community by hosting and facilitating the practice of these traditions at the Center.

Cultural Practitioners: The Papakolea community has a rich history of sharing and passing on Hawaiian cultural traditions such as music, hula, crafts, lomilomi, and la‘au lapa‘au through the generations. Our kupuna have included Hawaiian cultural treasures such as Aunty Genoa Keawe, Kupuna Alice Holokai, the Hew Len ‘ohana, Kumu hula George Holokai, and Kumu hula Hoakalei Kamau‘u among many others. These practitioners inspire and remind us of the importance of cherishing, taking pride in, and perpetuating our heritage for generations to come.

Halau and Gathering Place: Central to the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture is creating a gathering place that nurtures the practice of these traditions. Committed to the long-term goal of developing a Hawaiian cultural center in Papakolea, the Papakolea Community Center serves as a site for hālau hula classes and competition rehearsals, Hawaiian language classes, kanikapila music sessions, arts and crafts activities, as well as services and training in lomilomi and lā‘au lapa‘au.

Community Traditions: Our Papakolea community has perpetuated the values of civic pride and a deep sense of ‘ohana through a long history of involvement in community festivities, planning and organizing. Papakolea residents have also represented the Papakolea community on public commissions such as those for the Kamehameha Day festivities and Kūhiō Day celebrations among others throughout the years.

Community Celebrations:  The Papakolea community has perpetuated the tradition of organizing special occasions for residents to come together in the spirit of ‘ohana and aloha. As in times past, the community continues to gather during holiday celebrations such as the Thanksgiving Luncheon, Halloween dances, as well as the annual Breakfast with Santa. In celebration of the Papakolea Hawaiian Homestead anniversary, special anniversary lū‘au with music, hula, craft sale, and Papakolea historical displays have also been held to provide old and new residents a time to reunite and share a sense of community pride.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole Ho‘olaule‘a: In honor of Prince Kuhio, the Papakolea community has participated in and hosted the Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole Ho‘olaule‘a. Community residents have shared their talents through mele, hula, and arts and crafts during these festivities in celebration of its native Hawaiian heritage.

King Kamehameha Day Parade:  A celebration established over a hundred years ago, Kamehameha Day has been an occasion for the people of Hawai‘i to honor the legacy of Kamehameha the Great. These festivities have provided us with an opportunity to celebrate our native Hawaiian history and culture by participating in the Kamehameha Day Parade. Our community continues to participate in these festivities to foster community pride by coordinating a Papakolea community floral float. Started by kupuna George Kaniho, this tradition of float making has been passed on through the generations to other members in the community.

Community Outreach: The Papakolea community has also actively participated and supported other communities’ events such as school fairs and county fairs in other surrounding neighborhoods and Hawaiian homestead communities.

Mo‘olelo Our Stories

The community of Papakōlea is special in many ways. Its origins come out of community struggle. In the late 1800s, areas in downtown Honolulu were becoming increasingly crowded and unhealthy. Many Hawaiians, displaced from their land in the rural parts of O‘ahu, crowded into downtown tenements in search of work.

Several families moved onto the public lands above Downtown in an effort to revive some semblance of the healthy, self-sufficient life they had known in the countryside. The land was suitable for raising dry land taro (kalo) and sweet potato (`uala). These “squatters” settled in and created the first neighborhood of Papakōlea and Kalāwahine.

A 45-minute walk to the waterfront, sand wetland taro was obtained from Pauoa Valley. Fresh water fish and shrimp were available in Pauoa Stream and the forest was a source for additional food. The houses were one-story frame structures built with second-hand lumber and tin roofs.

The entrance to Papakōlea was once a narrow footpath used before the days of the automobile and the horse and buggy. Footpaths or narrow trails also led to the scattered homes in the community. As the years passed, friends and families gradually came to join the first group as they learned about the settlement, which offered all that was sufficient for a simple Hawaiian life.

While they were successful in creating a neighborhood, the families still had no legal right to the land they occupied. In 1923, the lifestyle of the settlers was threatened by a notice of sale of these lands by public auction at 10 cents a square foot. The settlers were well aware of their inability to buy what had been their home and way of life for many years. In a fashion that has never changed to this day, they organized and went to the legislature for aid, which resulted in the Commission of Public Lands immediately canceling the notice.

The families of Papakōlea, many of whom were native Hawaiian, wisely saw the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, which had been passed by the United States Congress in 1920, as a vehicle to obtain a legal right to occupy their land. This act had designated just over 200,000 acres for homestead leasing by native Hawaiians.

On May 16, 1934, after many years of lobbying, the congress of the United States amended the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 to designate the areas of Auwaiolimu, Kewalo and Kalāwahine as Hawaiian Home Lands.

Families who participated in the campaign to gain legal right to the land still reside in Papakōlea and took part in this project, passing on their legacy of community building. The Papakōlea community continues to take an active role in ensuring community health, sustainability and economic development for future generations.

E Pa‘alula Mai Protocols

We have protocols that we ask visitors to follow when coming to Papakōlea:

  • This is a quiet residential community, so please be respectful of our neighbors.
  • There is limited parking and accessibility to the site, so we prefer to pick up visitors from an off-site location.
  • When arriving at the Center, please remain outside the Center doors for proper cultural protocols asking permission to enter and for hosts to welcome our guests.
  • There are programs with both adults and children that take place during operational hours. Please do not approach or disturb children or other facility users.
  • Absolutely no videotaping of ongoing programs or traditional practices; still photos are allowed outside only.
  • This is a smoke-, alcohol- and drug-free facility and program.
  • We only accept pre-arranged hosted visits; please do not simply “drop by” as we are not prepared to receive unannounced visitors.
  • We require a signed release form/waiver of liability, with parent/guardian signatures for minors to participate in this program.


No children under age 14
Visitor groups not to exceed 25 persons
Walking involved
Windshield portion of visit by van for visit #1

Cancellation Policy

All fees must be paid 15 business days in advance of scheduled hosted visits. You may cancel hosted visit eleven (11) or more business days prior to the hosted visit at no charge. If cancellation occurs ten (10) to five (5) business days prior to the hosted visit dates, you will incur a cancellation fee equal to 50%. You are responsible for paying 100% of the fee if you cancel five (4) business days or less prior to scheduled hosted visit.

He Mau Ki‘i Photos

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Request an Invite

We would like to hear from you! Please fill out this form and we will get in touch with you as soon as we can.
  • When would you like to visit with us?
  • How many people will you be bringing with you? Please specify the number of adults and children (if applicable).
  • Which activities are you interested in participating in?
  • Tell us a little about why you would like to visit us. What would you like to learn? What do you hope to take with you from your visit?
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


If you have any questions, please join us in the comments below. Have you visited with us before? Please share your stories and experiences.

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