Kukui‘ula comes from two words: kukui, or candlenut, and ‘ula, red glow. The kukui is never far away here – Kukui‘ula greeter Teva wears his kukui nut lei almost every day – and a smile that lights up the club. In ancient Hawai‘i, kukui was a measure of time. The nuts were used to produce light – their seeds have a high oil content that burns brightly and reliably. Kukui would be lined up on a coconut frond, and as one burned another would be lit – every 15 minutes or so. The nut was also burned in coconut shells or a lava stone oil lamp to guide fisherman home from the sea. Light is but one use of the kukui.
So essential was the nut in the Hawai‘i of old – as ink, varnish, medicine, dye and wood for canoes – that today it is Hawai‘i’s state tree. An urn that held kukui oil still stands at Kukui‘ula. In a protected sacred area called a heiau, it is thought that at one time, ceremonial urns – one to the south of present-day Kukui‘ula and one north of the property in Kalaheo – were lit to guide voyageurs returning from Tahiti. The glow of homecoming touches all who come to Kukui‘ula.