Peekauai Ditch

Waimea’s Menehune Ditch - Uniquely Constructed Historic Aqueduct
Local Expert's Rating:
3.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Waimea’s Menehune Ditch is one of many aqueducts and ponds throughout Hawaii that were used to water taro farms. This is the only aqueduct constructed from smoothed basalt stone, however. A historic architectural structure rumored to have been built by the menehune, the ditch is worth a quick roadside stop if you’re passing through.

- The Local Expert Team

Waimea’s Menehune Ditch is a unique built archeological structure without a similar comparison in all of Hawaii. Rumored to have been built by the Menehune, the remains of this historic aqueduct show how advanced the islands’ first civilizations were.

While aqueducts and ponds that used to water taro fields can be found throughout Hawaii, none except Waimea’s Menehune Ditch were constructed of smooth basalt stone. The impervious stone lines the bottom and walls of the ditch, which can both be seen today. It used to also line a footpath along the top of one wall, according to a 1793 account by Captain George Vancouver.

George Vancouver’s account reports that the Menehune Ditch used to be 24 feet high, and archeologists suspect that it was miles long. Unfortunately, much of it was paved over to make a roadway in 1924. You’ll find about 50 feet of the ditch remains today.

The Menehune Ditch’s construction predates the 14th Century Tahitian migrations, but nothing beyond this can be definitively stated. The Marquesan settlers of the 13th Century may have constructed the ditch, or it could’ve been built by the island’s menehune.

According to legend, Chief Kaulunuipaukumokumoku’s son Ola had the ditch constructed by the menehune. Construction supposedly took a single night — the menehune are also rumored to have built the wall for Menehune Fish Pond in one night — using stones that both men and women moved from 7 miles away. The menehune requested one shrimp per person for the work and were paid accordingly once construction was done.

Who these menehune were exactly remains a topic of debate. The group is certainly an ancient race, perhaps the aboriginal inhabitants of Hawaii’s archipelago. Others claim the menehune are still around, acting as mischievous little fae on the island. If true, perhaps you’ll see one in the bushes or on the slopes nearby.

The Menehune Ditch is only a sliver of what it once was, but the aqueduct is still worth stopping at if you’re passing through. A few-minute delay will show how advanced Hawaii’s ancient builders were — whoever they happened to be.

A few of our favorite features at Waimea’s Menehune Ditch include:

Basalt Rocks
Basalt is a dense, lava-formed rock that came from several miles away. It not only shows one of the geological features of the island, but the smoothed stones are also a testament to how these rocks can be used.

Aqueduct Floor
Because basalt is a dense and impervious rock, it made for a good aqueduct liner. Check out how closely and perfectly the stones on the aqueduct’s floor had to be placed, so water wouldn’t drip through the floor’s cracks.

Aqueduct Walls
The aqueduct’s walls used to be 24 feet high and have a footpath on them. They’ve stood the test of time — remaining in place (when not paved over) for at least 8 centuries.

Insider Tip:
Make sure to check out the nearby swinging wooden bridge. Take a walk across the bridge if you dare. It’s still in excellent shape, and the drop into the water is short if a part does collapse.