Bishop Museum Press Releases History of Coconut Island

Moku o Lo‘e: A History of Coconut Island by P. Christiaan Klieger, with contributions from Philip Helfrich and Jo-Ann C. Leong, will be released in November by Bishop Museum Press according to Director Ron Cox. Produced with support from the Edwin W. Pauley Foundation, the book has 288 pages, and is available in both softcover at $24.95, and hardcover at $39.95. Shop Pacifica at Bishop Museum will have stocks available beginning November 15th and is currently taking orders. The book will also be available at bookstores throughout Hawai‘i and on the Mainland. Mail orders are available online at

Moku o Lo`e, or Coconut Island as it is more commonly known, is a secluded emerald isle in a field of blue turquoise—a vision of paradise of which many dream. Set in the middle of Kāne‘ ohe Bay on the windward side of O‘ahu, with the majestic Ko‘ olau Mountains as its backdrop, this little island has a rich history. In this latest book from Bishop Museum Press, author P. Christiaan Klieger weaves together the story of Moku o Lo‘e—an engaging chronicle of the island’s past, present, and bright future.

Native Hawaiian fishermen used Moku o Lo‘e as a fishing station, landing upon its shores to rest and repair their canoes or to sight large schools of fish. Under the reign of the Kamehameha dynasty, the island was a part of He‘eia ahupua‘a. This area of O‘ahu teamed with abundance, from fields of taro, sweet potato, and banana to large man-made ponds full of fish, edible seaweed, and shellfish. The ahupua‘a of He‘eia passed through the hands of many ali‘i, including Abner Pākï and his daughter, Bernice Pauahi Bishop. As land tenure changed with the coming years and under ever-increasing Western influence, He‘eia, and little Moku o Lo‘e, also changed.

In the 1930s, Christian Holmes II, heir to the Fleischmann Company fortune, turned the 12-acre rock into a 28-acre island paradise. This pleasure dome consisted of seven main structures, including Holmes’ very own shooting gallery, bowling alley, and lagoon swimming pool. In addition, extensive vegetable gardens and fruit trees were planted, animal pens were built for livestock, and numerous aquaculture beds dotted the island, making Moku o Lo‘e nearly self-sufficient. With almost unlimited wealth and a network of Hollywood friends, Christian Holmes entertained a host of celebrities, from Amelia Earhart and Shirley Temple to John Wayne and Errol Flynn.

By the 1950s, Edwin W. Pauley and his family began spending his summers there. An independent oil magnate and strong Democrat, Pauley was also an extraordinary humanitarian. His deep interest in the promotion of science, education, and the arts helped to bring about the next chapter in Coconut Island ’s story—the development of a world-class scientific establishment.

With the ideal facilities for a marine laboratory developed by Holmes and the necessary resources and support provided by Pauley, the Hawai‘i Institute for Marine Biology (HIMB) came into existence in the 1940s. Over the years, this small island laboratory has grown and expanded to become a renowned research and learning institution. Surrounded by 64 acres of coral reef and pristine ocean, Coconut Island is a prime location for marine research. Here scientists and students explore the behavior of dolphins and whales, investigate the nature of sharks, and delve into the world of coral reefs.

Over the years, this small island in Kāne‘ ohe Bay has evolved from a place of utility for Native Hawaiian fisherman to a multifaceted “ Coconut Island ,” a place of grand lū‘au and elaborate parties, peaceful family retreats, informal political summits, and now to the disciplined study of marine biology. Moku o Lo`e has seen much.

Bishop Museum Press is the fourth largest regional publisher in Hawai‘i. To date, the Press has published more than 1,300 titles, and distributed more than 1 million books in 72 countries. The Press currently receives more than a hundred submissions a year for consideration and selects three or four manuscripts to publish each year. Recently new Director Ron Cox has created new and exciting publications that complement the museum’s scholarly ideals and pursuit of education. For more information, contact Ron Cox at (808) 848-4135, or email


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