Kamanawa was born about 1785. He was son Alii Kepookalani and Alapa'iwahine. He was a grandson of one of the five Kona chiefs who supported Kamehameha the Great in his uprising against Kiwalao, Kame'eiamoku also know as one of the royal twins on the Coat of Arms of Hawaii. His half-brother was Aikanaka. He was name after his great uncle Kamanawa the twin of his grandfather Kame’eiamoku. His family was relatively of high rank and reputation until it was tarnished in 1840 when he murdered his wife. He had two son Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaakea by Kamokuiki and Joel Hulu Mahoe by Aulani.
Kamanawa died twelve day after the Hawaiian Constitution was signed. He had divorced his wife Kamokuiki previously in 1840, but the law stated that he could not remarry while his former wife lived. He and an accomplice, Lonoapuakau, captain of the Hawaiian vessel Hooikaika, poisoned her to avoid punishment for adultery. Strong punishment was imposed for adultery including banishment to the barren island of Kahoolawe. The trial, Oct. 3, 1840, was presided over by Governor Kekuanaoa of Oahu and a jury of twelve "intelligent Hawaiians. Kamanawa was found guilty of murder and adultery.
On October 20, 1840 he and Lonopuakau were hanged for their crime on the scaffold at Honolulu Fort in presence of a crowd of 10,000 people His grandson Kalakaua was six years old still attending Royal School, when the Cookes sent him to see his grandfather hanged. Had the Cookes not been indifferent as to whom the boy was, this would never have happened. But Juliette Cooke wrote almost casually in her journal. “A man is to be hanged and wants to see David." David was sent to the gallows in the plain of Honolulu to witness the hanging of Kamanawa. There ws no evidence of why Kamanawa wished to see his grandson, but one can certainly surmise that it was not to praise the missionaries for their strict laws against adultery that had been incorporated into the Hawaiian justice system. It was also whispered amongst the other children that it was a punishment put upon David for not being a Kamehameha. To see a man hanged was a traumatic experience for a six year old child, and to know it as his own grandfather did not lessen the experience. Kalakaua, coming from the tradition of ohana-- close family relationships --had known his grandfather. Rumor later had it that he saved a piece of the rope to remind him of the atrocity. But it seems unlikely that a six year old would have been given a piece of hanging rope no matter how indifferent the executioners were.