Curious people want to know, where is Mark Zuckerberg’s property on the island of Kauai? And what is going on with the wall and the lawsuits?
In September 2014, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg bought two adjacent properties on Kauai’s North Shore. Zuckerberg paid $49.6 million for 350 acres that includes Pila’a Beach. Zuckerberg also purchased the 357 acre Kahu’aina Plantation, a former sugar plantation, for $66 million.
Zuckerberg commented on the purchase in a Facebook post on December 28th, 2016:
“A few years ago, Priscilla and I visited Kauai and fell in love with the community and the cloudy green mountains. We kept coming back with family and friends, and eventually decided to plant roots and join the community ourselves. We bought land and we’re dedicated to preserving its natural beauty. It’s filled with wildlife like pigs, turtles, rare birds and seals, and local farmers use it to grow fruits and spices. I love taking Max to explore and see all the animals.”
Initially, Zuckerberg was greeted warmly, along with more than a few requests for donations to local groups. But soon after the purchase, Zuckerberg had a lava rock wall built along a portion of his property line on Koolau Road, and some local people were not too happy about it. In the politically charged public discourse about “walls,” Zuckerberg’s wall became a point of contention. Some people complained the wall blocked both views and ocean breezes. In late 2017 we took a video of the wall (below). In our opinion, the wall is generally satisfactory. Except for the portion near Kuhio Highway, the wall is short enough to see over. It is built in the traditional style of Hawaiian rock walls. There are many walls and fences on Kauai and Zuckerberg shouldn’t be singled out solely for the wall.
In late 2016 Zuckerberg filed lawsuits against hundreds of Hawaiians who may have Kuleana claims to small pieces of land on his property. The Kuleana Act of 1850 granted property rights to Native Hawaiians for lands they cultivated, with the ownership automatically being passed down to descendants. There are thirteen small parcels of land, mostly on the Pila’a property, involved in the lawsuits, with hundreds of descendants who may have a claim.
Zuckerberg claimed he was only attempting to find and pay the partial owners for their fair share, some of whom didn’t even know they had a claim. But the “land grab,” as many in the local community called it, didn’t go over well. Some organized protests and lawyers were called. In January 2017 Zuckerberg withdrew the lawsuits, promising to have a professor of native Hawaiian studies look into the issue for an amicable resolution.
Zuckerberg defended the lawsuits in a January 28, 2017 Facebook post:
“There have been some misleading stories going around today about our plans in Hawaii, so I want to clear this up.
I posted last month about how Priscilla and I bought some land in Hawaii. We want to create a home on the island, and help preserve the wildlife and natural beauty. You can read about it here: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103370750850071
The land is made up of a few properties. In each case, we worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a deal they thought was fair and wanted to make on their own.
As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too.
In Hawaii, this is where it gets more complicated. As part of Hawaiian history, in the mid-1800s, small parcels were granted to families, which after generations might now be split among hundreds of descendants. There aren’t always clear records, and in many cases descendants who own 1/4% or 1% of a property don’t even know they are entitled to anything.
To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a “quiet title” action. For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land.
We are working with a professor of native Hawaiian studies and long time member of this community, who is participating in this quiet title process with us. It is important to us that we respect Hawaiian history and traditions.
We love Hawaii and we want to be good members of the community and preserve the environment. We look forward to working closely with the community for years to come.”
Zuckerberg engaged people who commented on his post, and sent this reply to one Facebook user:
“Remember this land was about to be purchased by a corporate developer and sub-divided into ~100 commercial units when we stepped in to acquire it and preserve the land instead. And we do help Hawaiians use the land, including for farming.”
Zuckerberg Kauai Property Map
Zuckerberg’s property in Kauai is on the island’s North Shore, between Moloa’a Bay and Kahili (Rock Quarry) Beach. Two beaches front the property, Pila’a Beach and a portion of Larsen’s Beach. (All beaches in Hawaii, including Pila’a and Larsen’s, are public access.) The property is near the intersection of Kuhio Highway and Koolau Road. (Location at Google Maps.)
Here at Kauai Surf Clothing, we understand Zuckerberg’s love for this most precious island. And we do not believe that Zuckerberg had inherent ill intent when he filed the lawsuits. The case, however, underscores the continued age-old conflict of native Hawaiians against non-natives concerning Hawaiian lands, pitting traditional Hawaiian community land stewardship against American and European style individual property rights.
Some people have criticized Zuckerberg’s large tract of land (700 acres) and why one man would need so much all to himself. Perhaps that is part of the bigger issue involving what can be expected of property rights protected by the U.S. Government and community properties as developed by traditional Hawaiian culture. Zuckerberg certainly has a right to buy property on Kauai, as does everyone else on the island. All native Hawaiians with property exercise those rights for their homes and lands throughout the islands. And, there are many landowners throughout the islands, and on Kauai, who own large tracts that they basically keep all to themselves.
But there are other large landowners on Kauai who employ the more traditional native Hawaiian principle of Aloha ʻĀina which emphasizes the connection of the land to the people. An example is the Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea which includes mini-golf, skate park, hiking trails, fish lagoons, waterfall park, botanical gardens, sustainable farms and much more for the community to enjoy. We believe this concept is a better utilization of Kauai’s precious land, and a concept that all should adhere to when owning land on the island. Unfortunately, there are more than a few large landowners on Kauai that have restricted access to the public to some very beautiful lands.
As for the Kuleana situation, we hope to see one of the world’s richest people reach a satisfactory settlement with the property stakeholders.
Zuckerberg Kauai Property Photos
Above: Construction appears to be underway on the property.
The wall along Mark Zuckerberg’s Kauai property is relatively short for most of the length.