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The History of Koa Wood of the Hawaiian Islands


Koa (acacia koa) is native only to the Hawaiian Islands. This particular wood is known for the varied deep three dimensional figure and vibrant red, gold and chocolate colors. Having an honorary heritage in Hawaii, Koa is much revered and is considered sacred.

Delving deeper into the history of Koa, it is found the meaning of the Hawaiian word “koa” is “warrior”. As an ancient Hawaiian symbol of strength and wisdom, the prized wood was used for deadly fighting weapons and war canoes to make war on the kingdoms of neighboring islands.

The monarchs of the Hawaiian island regarded koa as a possession of royalty, and not fit for the ownership of the commoners. Koa has had many and varied uses such as bowl, plates and eating utensils as well as war canoes, tools of battle and beautiful jewelry worn only by the rulers of the people. Even the first surfboards were made from Koa wood.

In 1778 English explorer Captain James Cook and his crew discovered the beautiful lush island of Hawaii. It wasn’t until the 1820s when the first missionaries arrived on the islands and settlers from America began building sugar cane plantations that koa lost its dignity and was logged for building of ships, homes as well as pallets and crates for shipping. In 1972 the State government of Hawaii put a halt to all cutting of live koa trees. The only koa wood that is currently legal to harvest is blow-downs and diseased trees.