ala wai canal 1920 to 1928

Cunhas is named after one of the early 1900s estates in Waikiki. Emanuel Sylvester Cunha's large two-story home was located at the intersection of Kapahulu and Kalakaua Avenues. The house was fronted by a seawall. Surf hitting the wall would splash up on the lanai There were stairs in the wall to reach the beach below. Although the Cunha home was torn down after World War II, the site is still known as Cunha's. It is one of the few surf sites in Hawai‘i where paipo boards are still ridden.


(fom interview of May Cunda Ross by John Clark 2006)

Still spry and articulate at 95, May Cunha Ross now lives in Nuuanu with her son, Peter Ross '61. However, her family home was originally in Waikiki at the corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues. "My cousin Cecily was a great swimmer and surfer. She rode the old wooden boards and surfed right in front of the house. Lots of other people surfed there, too. That's the surf spot that's still called Cunha's. Our name is actually pronounced 'Cun-ya' with a tilde over the 'n', but no one in Hawaii has ever said it that way." May's Waikiki home was eventually torn down, but the Cunha Estate still owns the property under the Park Shore Waikiki Hotel and the Queen Kapiolani Hotel.

May attended Punahou from 1918 to 1923, from second to seventh grade. "My dad drove us to school from Waikiki," she said, "but we used to catch the trolley home. It was an electric trolley and the tracks stopped at Punahou. The Ala Wai Canal wasn't built yet, so the trolley crossed the one bridge over the swampland behind Waikiki. Before the canal we used to have severe flooding around our home, and the water would be two or three feet deep. All of the houses in Waikiki were built up off the ground."