By Léo Azambuja

Celebrity Chef Sam Choy, center, along with Chef Lucas Sautter, of Courtyard Marriott, left, will be doing cooking demos at the 20th Annual Coconut Festival at Kapa‘a Beach Park Oct. 1, 2. Courtyard Marriott GM Nick Britner, right, is supporting the event with a special dinner on property Sept. 30. Photo by Léo Azambuja

Celebrity Chef Sam Choy, center, along with Chef Lucas Sautter, of Courtyard Marriott, left, will be doing cooking demos at the 20th Annual Coconut Festival at Kapa‘a Beach Park Oct. 1, 2. Courtyard Marriott GM Nick Britner, right, is supporting the event with a special dinner on property Sept. 30. Photo by Léo Azambuja

The coconut tree was one of the most resourceful plants for early Hawaiians. Almost every part of the tree was used for at least one — and in many instances several — purposes. The tree and its fruit provided food, water and materials used in almost every aspect of old Hawaiian society.

“It’s like the giver of life, this tree,” said Keoni Durant, a native Hawaiian who has been sculpting tikis and Hawaiian gods out of coconut tree stumps for 30 years. With more than 100 carved coconut tree stumps all over Kaua‘i, Durant says his art honors the tree that has given life to someone.

When Capt. James Cook first came to Hawai‘i in 1778, his crew observed a few groves of coconut trees near sea level, but nothing compared to the abundance they had seen in the South Pacific. Hawai‘i’s cool climate and its distance a little too far north of the equator make it less than ideal for coconut trees to thrive here.

Historians believe Polynesian settlers brought coconuts in their voyaging canoes — for food, water and propagation — to Hawai‘i. It is unknown, and debatable, whether coconuts were already here before the first Hawaiians. The layout of Pacific Ocean currents make it difficult for coconuts to float to Hawai‘i, but not completely impossible.

On Kaua‘i, coconut groves were present in Wailua (on a sacred grove belonging to the ali‘i), in Ha‘ena, Hanalei, Nawiliwili, Koloa, Lawa‘i, Waimea, Kekaha and Mana.