After meeting the strict environmental criteria and requirements of the Audubon International Signature Program, Kohanaiki has been designated as the first Certified Signature Sanctuary in the state of Hawaii.

“The entire Kohanaiki team is proud to have reached this benchmark and shares the commitment of taking care of the land with Audubon International,” said Joe Root, president and CEO of Kohanaiki in Kailua-Kona.

To become certified, Signature Program members must implement and follow a site-specific Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) that addresses wildlife conservation and habitat enhancement, water quality monitoring and management, integrated pest management, water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction and management, and green building products and procedures. Receiving designation as a Certified Signature Sanctuary is contingent upon the quality and completeness of the NRMP and its implementation.

“The completion of this golf course has been a while in coming, but it is certainly worth the wait,” said Nancy Richardson, signature program director. “Kohanaiki is representative of a sustainable approach to development with a special focus on water quality protection, wildlife habitat, historical and cultural preservation. It will serve as a model for other projects not only in Hawaii but the world as well. ”

Kohanaiki, a 450-acre private residential community on Hawaii’s Big Island, is located two miles south of Kona International Airport and five miles north of Kailua-Kona. It is home to a Rees Jones-designed 18-hole golf course, 9-acre practice facility, clubhouse, multiple restaurants and other amenities. Stretching along a mile and a half of coastline on the island’s leeward side, with room for 500 homes, Kohanaiki is dotted with more than 200 anchialine pools that range from the size of a fist to a swimming pool and lie mostly between the golf course and the sea.These pools were historically utilized by Hawaiians to raise fish and shrimp and the waters used for cooking, drinking and bathing. There are also 13 Ahu (rock shrines) running parallel to the anchialine pools, and an existing historic trail (Mamalahoa Trail) crosses through the property. The Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park borders the property to the south and the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean forms the western edge.

Kohanaiki takes its name from its traditional land division, the Kohanaiki ahupuaa, which stretches from the sea to the mountain. These lands sustained a thriving village up until the early 19th century, where islanders harvested fish from the sea and fishponds, and cultivated gourds, coconuts and taro on upland slopes. Kohanaiki’s name means “small bareness” and refers to the lava flows that cover its lower slopes, disgorged by Mount Hualālai 3,000-5,000 years ago.

Environmental highlights of the project include:

  • Drainage – Drainage water from the golf course is routed to dry wells that contain charcoal to filter out pollutants. This also provides protection for the holes near the ocean and anchialine pools.
  • Water monitoring – To ensure that the anchialine pools and Pacific Ocean are not degraded from construction or long-term use of the property, a water quality-monitoring program was implemented and continues into the operational and long-term management phase of the project.
  • Vegetative Buffers – Tall native grasses along the edge of the numerous water bodies help to filter the water and prevent erosion. A 25-foot “no spray zone” ensures that pesticides will be absorbed before they reach any water body.
  • Landscaping – Xeriscaping, the use of drought-tolerant plants to reduce or eliminate additional watering, has been implemented throughout the property to promote efficient irrigation practices and reduce maintenance.
  • Waste Management Program – A property-wide waste management program is in place to ensure the sustainable use and reuse of almost all products and to enable the creation of soil from landscape materials.
  • Endangered Species – The Hawaiian Stilt, federally and state listed as endangered, nests on site. The Hawaiian Monk Seal, one of the rarest mammals in the world, and the Nene, the world’s rarest goose, can also be spotted around the property.