This is a short list of 55 O‘ahu place names that are shown on the map. No streets, buildings, et cetera, just the names of towns and physical features such as bays, mountains and craters. If you are looking for a place name not shown here you may want to visit my Place Names of Hawai‘i page. The ‘okina and kahakō are not used on the map, but they are used in the place name entries below the map to show the correct Hawaiian spelling. Rollover the map image and click on a highlighted place name to find more information about that name or scroll throught the place name entries.
‘Āhuimanu. place name. Bird cluster. Literally "bird (manu) cluster (‘āhui)." A land division, stream and subdivision. Each street name in the ‘Āhuimanu subdivision used to be named with the word Hui (group or flock) and the name of a manu (bird). Examples include; Hui ‘Akikiki Place (group [of] Kauaʻi honeycreeper), Hui ‘Alalā Street (group [of] Hawaiian crows) and Hui Koloa Place (group [of] Hawaiian ducks). But now, ‘Āhuimanu has street names that do not follow the bird group pattern, such as Ehehene Way (to giggle or laugh merrily) and Uakea Place (white rain).
‘Aiea. place name. Nothocestrum tree. A land section, town and stream. It is commonly stated that ‘Aiea is the only US town or city spelled with only vowels. However that is not true, except for the stripped done Anglicized version of spelling ‘Aiea as Aiea. The name of ‘Aiea in the Hawaiian language is a 5 letter word. Its spelling begins with the letter called an ‘okina. As strange as it may seem the ‘okina, which is represented in writing as an inverted apostrophe, is a full-fledged Hawaiian consonant. You can spell ‘Aiea as Aiea without the ‘okina, but then it becomes an Anglicized version of a Hawaiian word and to that extent it is a legitimate spelling, however it is no longer a correctly spelled Hawaiian word. For the purpose of the US Federal Government, they probably exclude the ‘okina (and kahakō) used in Hawaiian spelling.
‘Āina Haina. place noun. Hind's land. Literally "Hind['s] (transliteration of Hind, Haina) land (‘āina)." A subdivision of Honolulu named for Robert Hind, who started the Hind-Clarke Dairy in 1924. Most of this area was developed after World War II.
Barber's Point. place name. Obviously not a Hawaiian name. Southwest tip of O‘ahu named for Captain Henry Barber, who shipwrecked on a shoal off of Kalaeloa in 1796. The Hawaiian name for Barber's Point is Kalaeloa. Kalaeloa literally means "the (ka) long (loa) point (lae)."
Diamond Head. place name. Obviously not a Hawaiian name. A volcanic tuff cone in Honolulu called Diamond Head because British sailors in the 19th century, mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds. The Hawaiian name of Diamond Head is Lae‘ahi. Lae‘ahi means " ‘ahi (‘ahi tuna fish) brow (lae)." Another name for Diamond Head that has had very limited usage is the name Kaimana Hila, a transliteration of "Diamond Hill."
For more information, see Lae‘ahi.
‘Ewa. place name. Crooked. A town and plain on O‘ahu. According to the refernce book Place Names of Hawaii this ‘Ewa means "crooked." ‘Ewa is a widely used directional term on O‘ahu, generally meaning westward when giving directions or describing something west of a location in Honolulu. Its opposite directional terms are "Diamond Head" and "Koko Head."
For the glossary entry, see ‘ewa.
Hālawa. place name. Curve. A land section, village and valley. The H-3 freeway runs through the valley, Aloha Stadium is located in lower Hālawa and Hālawa Heights is the home of those fine, upstanding citizens who reside at the State Prison called the Hālawa Correctional Facility..
Hale‘iwa. place name. Frigate bird house or House [of the] frigate bird. Literally "frigate bird (‘iwa) house (hale)." The name of a town and a beach park on the north shore of O‘ahu. This is a modern name for the area, formally this area was call Wai‘alua, the name of the town southwest of Hale‘iwa. In 1899, Hawai‘i businessman Benjamin Franklin Dillingham opended a two story, 40 room Hotel and named it after a women's seminary dormitory that was named Hale‘iwa for the ‘iwa (frigate bird) nest or house. The name of the area began to change because it became associated with the Hale‘iwa Hotel and the domitory.
For the glossary entry, see Hale‘iwa.
Hanauma Bay. place name. Curved bay or hand-wrestling bay. Literally "curved" or "hand-wrestling (uma) bay (Hana-)." Hanauma bay is a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District.
Hau‘ula. place name. Red hau (a plant, Hibiscus tiliaceus). Literally "red (‘ula) Hibiscus tiliaceus (hau)." A small town and stream on the windward side of O‘ahu.
For the glossary entry and more information, see Hau‘ula.
Hawai‘i Kai. place name. Sea Hawai‘i. Literally "sea Hawai‘i", but this is a modern, contrived and nonsensical Hawaiian name. Hawai‘i Kai is a mostly residential Honolulu subdivision and marina next to Koko Crater. Hawai‘i Kai was developed by industrialist Henry John Kaiser in the early 1960's, and so the Kai (short for Kaiser) is a play on words more than a meaningful Hawaiian name.
For the glossary entry, see Hawai‘i Kai.
Honolulu. place name. Sheltered bay or protected bay. Literally "sheltered or protected (lulu) bay (Hono-)." The capital of the State of Hawai‘i and the only incorporated city in the state. In 1845, Kamehameha III moved the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom from Lāhainā to Honolulu and purchased a stately house which became the first (royal palace) in Honolulu.
For the glossary entry, see Honolulu.
Ka‘a‘awa. place name. The wrasse (a fish). Literally "the (ka) wrasse (‘a‘awa)." A place name consisting of two words ka (the) and ‘a‘awa. Ka‘a‘awa is a small town (1,324 people, 2000 census) on the windward side of O‘ahu. The pictures above show a wrasse fish and an aerial picture of Ka‘a‘awa valley, most of which is owned by Kualoa Ranch. Not shown and to the right of the picture, Ka‘a‘awa also has a small residential community which in 2000 had a population of 1,324 people. Its "business district" consists of a 7-11, a small eatery and a US post office.
For the glossary entry and more information, see Ka‘a‘awa.
Kahalu‘u. place name. Diving place. Literally "diving (lu‘u) place (kaha)." A village and land division. The picture above shows the Hygienic Store at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and Kahekili Highway in Kahalu‘u. The Hygienic Store is a famous landmark on the windward side of O‘ahu. To learn a little more about the Hygienic Store, read an 2007 article by the Honolulu Magazine.
Kahana Bay. place name. Cutting (noun, not a verb). Literally "cut (kaha) nominalizing suffix (-na)." Kahana is the name of a bay, valley, stream and a State park. Cutting is the definition given by Place Names of Hawaii (PNH), but there seems to be some disagreement about the definition given by PNH. Some people have made the easy assumption that Kahana means "the work" as in "ka (the) hana (work)", but I side with PNH.
Kailua. place name. Two seas. Literally "two (lua) sea[s] (kai)." A town on the windward side of O‘ahu. There are villages called Kailua on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui. The Kailua on the Big Island is usually called Kailua-Kona to differentiate it from the much more populous Kailua on O‘ahu.
For the glossary entry, see Kailua.
Kalihi. place name. The edge. Literally "the (ka) edge (lihi)." A section of Honolulu.
Kāne‘ohe. place name. Literally "bamboo (‘ohe) husband (kāne)." A town on the windward side of O‘ahu. Bamboo husband is the interpretation given in the great reference book Place Names of Hawaii, but others have told me it means "Kāne's (Kāne) bamboo (‘ohe)."
For the glossary entry, see Kāne‘ohe.
Kāne‘ohe Bay. place name. Bamboo husband. For more information, see the Kāne‘ohe entry.
Kapolei. place name. Beloved Kapo. Literally "beloved (lei) Kapo (Kapo)." Kapo was a sister of the volcano goddess, Pele. A town on the ‘Ewa plain being developed as sort of a "second city" as they call it, but so far it is unincorporated.
Keawa‘ula. place name. The red harbor. Literally "the (ka) red (awa) habor (‘ula)." Reputedly called Keawa‘ula because of the countless cuttlefish (mūhe‘e) that would color the water. Also called Yokohama Bay because, back when there was a railroad system, so many Japanese would get off the train to fish there that is got its other name, Yokohama Bay.
Koko Crater. place name. Unknown meaning. Koko often means "blood" and it is speculated that Koko Crater was named for the red earth or for the blood of a man bitten by a shark. The Koko Crater Botanical Garden is located inside of Koko Crater. The Hawaiian name for Koko Crater is Kohelepelepe which means "vagina (kohe) labia minora (lepelepe)."
Koko Head. place name. Unknown meaning. Koko often means "blood" and it is speculated that Koko Head was named for the red earth or for the blood of a man bitten by a shark. Koko Head is a volcanic tuff cone which is smaller that its much large neighbor, Koko Crater.
Ko‘olau Mt. Range. place name. Windward. The mountain range on the windward side of O‘ahu. Ko‘olau means windward and its opposite directional term is kona (leeward).
Kō ‘Olina. place name. Of joy. The Ko Olina Resort & Marina spells this name as Ko Olina and says it means "place of joy." Well, kō means "of" and ‘olina means "joy", but I don't know how they get "place." It is a place or locale, but "place" is not in the name. This is the name given to the resort, and I believe it has no connection to any Hawaiian name for this area.
Lae‘ahi. place name. ‘Ahi brow. Literally " ‘ahi (tuna) (‘ahi) brow (lae)." Lae‘ahi is the Hawaiian name for Diamond Head. It is called Lae‘ahi (‘ahi brow) because Hi‘iaka (a sister of Pele) compared the profile of the mountain to the brow of the ‘ahi fish. Lē‘ahi is a variant spelling of Lae‘ahi and it seems to me that the Lē‘ahi spelling is used more often and is the more popular spelling, but I prefer Lae‘ahi.
For the glossary entry, see Lae‘ahi.
Lā‘ie. place name. ‘Ie leaf. Literally " ‘ie‘ie vine (‘ie) leaf (lā-)." ‘Ie is short for ‘ie‘ie. The ‘ie‘ie is a forest vine. The suffix lā- is short for lau which means leaf. Lā‘ie is a town on the windward side of O‘ahu, between the towns of Kahuku to the north and Hau‘ula to the south.
Lanikai. place name. Sea heaven. Literally "sea (kai) heaven (lani)." Lanikai is a section of Kailua. When the area was first developed in 1924, the name of the area was changed from Ka‘ōhao (the tying) to Lanikai. It seems, the intent was to name the area "heavenly sea", because the area overlooks a very beautiful part of the sea, but they didn't understand that Hawaiian word order is not the same as English word order. For "heavenly sea" the name would have been Kailani.
Mānoa. place name. Vast. A large valley in Honolulu that has a large residential community and is the home to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, the flagship campus of the University of Hawai‘i system.
For the glossary entry, see Mānoa.
Mililani. place name. Beloved [place of] chiefs. Literally "beloved (mili) [place of] chief[s] (lani)." A town in the center of the island.
Mokoli‘i. place name. Little lizard. Literally "little (li‘i) lizard (moko is a rare version of mo‘o)." An islet in Kāne‘ohe bay that is better known by its modern name of Chinaman's Hat. The shape of the small island resembles the shape of the straw hats that were some times worn by Chinese immigrants.
Mt. Ka‘ala. place name. Meaning unknown. At 3,938 feet, Mount Ka‘ala is the highest mountain on O‘ahu. If I had to make up a meaning for Ka‘ala, I would say it means "the (ka) fragrance (‘ala a short version ‘a‘ala)", but why would I know any better? I don't! Every resource I have looked at says the meaning is unknown, so the meaning is unknown as far as I'm concerned.
Nu‘uanu. place name. Cool heights. Literally "cool (anu) heights (nu‘u)." An avenue, a valley and the name of a famous battle in 1795 in which Kamehameha the Great drove the opposition up the Nu‘uanu valley and over the pali (cliff).
For the glossary entry, see Nu‘uanu.
Pearl Harbor. place name. A lagoon harbor. The picture above shows the lagoon harbor called Pearl Harbor. The Hawaiian name for Pearl Harbor is Pu‘uloa which means "long (loa) hill (pu‘u)."
Picture key: A - West Lock; B - Waipi‘o Peninsula; C - Middle Loch; D - Pearl City Peninsula; E - East Lock; F - Ford Island; G - ‘Ewa Plain; H - Māmala Bay; I - Hickam Air Force Base; J - Honolulu International Airport.
Punalu‘u. place name. Coral dived [for]. Literally "coral (puna) dive (lu‘u)." Land section, villiage and stream just north of Kahana Bay. There is a Punalu‘u on the big island and it means "spring dived [for]", but according to Place Names of Hawaii, the Punalu‘u on O‘ahu means "coral dived [for]." A land section and valley. The reference book Place Names of Hawaii says that Hawai‘i has six places in the state called Punalu‘u.
Wahiawā. place name. Place of Noise. Literally "place (wahi) of (a) noise (wā)." A town in the center of O‘ahu, called "place of noise" because it is said that rough seas could be heard from there.
For the glossary entry, see Wahiawā.
Wai‘alua. place name. Two waters. Literally "two (‘alua) water[s] (wai)." A town that was home to the last sugar mill on O‘ahu. The Wai‘alua sugar mill had about a one hundred year history in Wai‘alua until the Waialua Sugar Company closed it in October of 1996.
Wai‘anae Mt. Range. place name. Mullet water. The leeward (kona) mountain range on O‘ahu.
Waimānalo. place name. Potable water. Literally "potable (mānalo) water (wai)." A small town on the southern tip of windward O‘ahu. I have a pet peeve about the pronunciation of the word potable. It is not pronounced pot-a-ble (pot-uh-buhl) like so many people pronounce the word. The correct pronunciation of potable is po-ta-ble (poh-tuh-buhl). Po-ta-ble water is drinkable water and pot-a-ble water is the water in a water pipe and is not drinkable unless you are a doper.
For the glossary entry, see Waimānalo.
Waimea Bay. place name. Reddish water. Literally "reddish (mea) water (wai)." The reference Place Names of Hawaii notes on page 235 that there are 12 places in the Hawaiian Islands with the name Waimea. In fact Captain Cook, who discovered Hawai‘i in January 1778, first made landfall at Waimea on the island of Kaua‘i. The reference book Place Names of Hawaii says that Hawai‘i has twelve places in the state called Waimea.
Waipahū. place name. Bursting water. Literally "bursting (pahū) water (wai)." A town and stream on O‘ahu. According to Place Names of Hawai‘i it was originally spelled with a kahakō as Waipahū. Now spelling it as Waipahu without the kahakō seems to be an accepted Hawaiian spelling according to the PE dictionary on page 301 under the pahu entry. Usually when the ‘okina and/or kahakō is stripped from the spelling of a Hawaiian word it renders the word meaningless, but in this case we still have a meaningful name. Also it is very unusual that the meanings with or without the kahakō are very similar. Waipahu means "pushing (pahu) water" and is said to be named for the water that pushed its way out of the ground at this place.
For the glossary entry, see Waipahū.
Waipi‘o. place name. Curved water. Town, peninsula in Pearl Harbor and a stream. Literally "curved (pi‘o) water (wai)."
For the glossary entry, see Waipi‘o.
Oahu Place Names
English to Hawaiian Directory.
‘ahi brow. See Diamond Head.
bamboo husband. See Kāne‘ohe / Kāne‘ohe Bay
Barber's Point. See Barber's Point.
beloved Kapo. See Kapolei.
beloved [place of] chiefs. See Mililani.
bird cluster. See ‘Āhuimanu.
bulging eye. See Makapu‘u.
bursting water. See Waipahū.
cool height. See Nu‘uanu.
coral dived [for]. See Punalu‘u.
crooked. See ‘Ewa.
curve. See Hālawa.
curved bay. See Hanauma bay.
curved water. See Waipi‘o.
cutting. See Kahana Bay.
Diamond Head. See Diamond Head.
diving place. See Kahalu‘u.
edge, the. See Kalihi.
fierce. See Mākaha.
frigate bird house. See Hale‘iwa.
hand-wrestling bay. See Hanauma bay.
heat, the. See Ka‘ena.
hill beginning. See Makapu‘u.
Hind's land. See ‘Āina Haina.
‘ie leaf. See Lā‘ie.
Kāne's bamboo. See Kāne‘ohe / Kāne‘ohe Bay
Kāne's water. See Waikāne.
isle [of] abundance. See Mokulē‘ia.
little lizard. See Mokoli‘i.
long hill. See Pearl Harbor.
long point, the. See Barber's Point.
look at knee. See Nānākuli.
look deaf. See Nānākuli.
mullet water. See Wai‘anae / Wai‘anae Mt. Range
Nothocestrum tree. See ‘Aiea.
observing eyes. See Makakilo.
of joy. See Kō ‘Olina.
parents. See Mākua.
pebbly. See Mā‘ili.
place of joy. See Kō ‘Olina.
place of Noise. See Wahiawā.
potable water. See Waimānalo.
projection, the. See Kahuku.
protected bay. See Honolulu.
reddish water. See Waimea.
red harbor, the. See Keawa‘ula.
red hau. See Hau‘ula.
sea Hawai‘i. See Hawai‘i Kai.
sea heaven. See Lanikai.
sheltered bay. See Honolulu.
spouting water. See Waikīkī.
taboo district. See Mōkapu.
the edge. See Kalihi.
the heat. See Ka‘ena.
the long point. See Barber's Point.
the projection. See Kahuku.
the red harbor. See Keawa‘ula.
the wrasse. See Ka‘a‘awa.
tuna brow. See Diamond Head.
two seas. See Kailua.
two waters. See Wai‘alua.
vast. See Mānoa.
white shell. See Pūpūkea.
windward. See Ko‘olau.
wrasse, the. See Ka‘a‘awa.