The mo'olelo (history) of Laie begins long before first contact. The name Laie is said to derive from two Hawaiian words: lau meaning "leaf", and ie referring to the Ieie vine of the red-spiked climbing pandanus tree (Freycinetia arborea) which wreaths forest trees of the uplands or mauka regions of the mountains of the Koʻolau Range behind the community of Laie. In Hawaiian mythology, this red-spiked climbing pandanus is sacred to Kane, god of the earth, god of life, and god of the forests, as well as to Laka, the patron goddess of the hula.
The name La'ie becomes more environmentally significant through the Hawaiian oral history (kaao ) entitled Laieikawai. In this history, the term ikawai, which means "in the water," also belongs to the food-producing tree called kalalaikawa. The kalalaikawa tree was planted in a place called Paliula's garden, which is closely associated with the spiritual home, after her birth and relocation of Laieikawai. According to Hawaiian oral traditions, the planting of the kalalaikawa tree in the garden of Paliula is symbolic of the reproductive energy of male and female, which union in turns fills the land with offspring.4 From its close association with nature through its name, and through its oral traditions and history, the community of La'ie takes upon itself a precise identification and a responsibility in perpetuating life and in preserving all life forms. Sometimes the land itself provided sanctuary for the Hawaiian people. La'ie was such a place. The earliest information about La'ie states that it was a small, sparsely populated village with a major distinction: "it was a city of refuge." Within this city of refuge were located at least two heiau traditional Hawaiian temples, of which very little remains today. Moohekili heiau was destroyed, but its remains can be found in taro patches makai (seaward) of the Laie Hawaii Temple. Towards the mountain (mauka), the remains of Nioi heiau can be found on a small ridge. All that is left of Nioi is a coral platform.
Between 1846 and 1848, the traditional Hawaiian feudal ownership of land by the king, the ali'i nui, and his leading chiefs or konohiki was changed through the Great mahele, or major land division. The Ali’i nui at the time was Kauikeouli King Kamehameha III and his konohiki (leading chief) for Laie was Peni Keali’iwaiwaiole (which means The Chief without Riches); the wife to this konohiki descended directly from the Ali’inui of O’ahu named Kakuiewa, making his wife of higher rank than he. The result of the mahele was not in compliance with the original intent of Kamehameha III. The result was that the chiefs received about one-and-a-half million acres, the king kept about one million acres, which were called crown lands, and about one million acres were set aside as government lands.
The interesting thing about the mahele was that the land itself was cut up into parcels, much like the traditional Hawaiian land divisions, centering around the ahupua'a, which followed a fairly uniform pattern. Each parcel was shaped roughly like a piece of pie with the tip in the mountains, the middle section in the foothills and coastal plain, and the broad base along the ocean front and the sea. The size and shape of the ahupua'a varied. However, the purpose of these remained the same. The village of La'ie is located in the ahupua'a of La'ie. As such, La'ie followed the general pattern of life in the ahupua'a, but only the valleys in the foothills had ample water. There were ten streams that flowed through the ahupua'aof La'ie before 1865 (see 1865 map). Their names were: Kahooleinapea, Kaluakauila, Kahawainui, Kaihihi, Kawaipapa, Kawauwai, Wailele, Koloa, Akakii, and Kokololio. There were more streams flowing through the ahupua'a of La'ie than through any of the other surrounding ahupua'a, surrounding ahupua'ainclude Kaipapau and Hauula to the southeast and Malaekahana, Keana, and Kahuku to the northwest.
A new phase of development for Laie began when the plantation of that name was purchased by George Nebeker, the President of the Hawaiian Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Latter-day Saints in Hawaii were then encouraged to move to this location. This purchase occurred in 1865. The sugar plantation was rarely profitable, and through 1879 the church had subsidized its operations with about $40,000.
Soon after the settlement a sugar factory was built. Much of the land was used to grow sugar, but other food crops were also raised. Both schools and church buildings were constructed in the town in the ensuing years.
Samuel E. Woolley, who served as mission president for 24 years, pushed the expansion of the operations at Laie. In 1898 he negotiated a $50,000 loan that allowed for the building of a new pump.
The Hawaiian mission was headquartered in Laie until 1919 when the headquarters were moved to Honolulu, but by then the temple had been built in Laie, so it remained the spiritual center of the Latter-day Saint community in Hawaii.
Lāie is one of the largest communities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the site of the Lāie Hawaii Temple, the fifth oldest Mormon temple in the world. Brigham Young University Hawaii is located in Lāie. The university's Polynesian Cultural Center, the state's largest living museum, draws millions of visitors annually.
Though small, Lāie has had a significant impact on Hawaiian culture, despite many of its residents' tracing their lineages from various Pacific Island countries such as Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand. Fundraisers and feasts on the beach in the late 1940s inspired "The Hukilau Song, written, composed and originally recorded by Jack Owens, The Cruising Crooner, and made famous by Alfred Apaka.
The U.S. postal code for Lāie is 96762.
The coastline is marked by a prominent lithified dune jutting out into the ocean as Lāie Point (also known as Laniloa Point, the elevated land formation with Lāie Pt. at its tip). Two other lithified dunes (Kukuihoolua and Mokuālai) lie just offshore of the point as scenic islets. Lāie Beach Park, popularly known as Pounders Beach for the offshore surf site, is just south of the town. Lāie Beach, also known as Hukilau Beach, is located at the north end of town, at the mouth of Kahawainui Stream.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,585 people, 903 households, and 735 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,601.7 people per square mile (1,393.9/km²). There were 1,010 housing units at an average density of 793.4/sq mi (307.1/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 27.59% White, 0.35% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 9.23% Asian, 36.88% Pacific Islander, 0.65% from other races, and 25.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.12% of the population.
There were 903 households out of which 46.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.2% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.6% were non-families. 9.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.47 and the average family size was 4.75.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 31.8% under the age of 18, 21.8% from 18 to 24, 26.8% from 25 to 44, 14.5% from 45 to 64, and 5.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 24 years. For every 100 females there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.9 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $50,875, and the median income for a family was $59,432. Males had a median income of $40,242 versus $26,750 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $13,785. About 10.7% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.8% of those under the age of 18 and 11.6% of those ages 65 and older.
| publisher = Mutual Publishing
| date = 1998
| location = Honolulu, HI
| pages =
| isbn = 1-56647-211-3}} *