In 1848, yielding to pressure of Western ways, the lands of Hawaiʻi were divided in the Great Mahele. The ahupuaʻa of Kapāpala officially became the property of Kamehameha III and after his death in 1854 was passed to his heir, Kamehameha IV. In 1860 it was leased to W.H. Reed and C. Richardson for 17 years.
Cattle had arrived in 1793 with Captain Vancouver and left to multiply. When Reed and Richardson acquired Kapāpala there were a reported 20,000 cattle on the island with only 8,000 considered domestic. A market for butter, cream, meat and hides was thriving in Hilo and Honolulu.
In 1883, Julian Monsarrat became manager of the ranch for the Hawaiian Agricultural Company who had Kapapala for the next 99 years. Next, Parker Ranch held the lease for a short time. In 1975 it was leased to Gordon Cran and is currently run by his daughter Lani Cran Petrie and her husband Bill Petrie.
Kapalapa is situated on the major circle island trail. There remains today a trail through Kapāpala to the summit of Mauna Loa. Reports from as early as 1794 tell of travelers gathering supplies and the help of Hawaiian natives to attempt to hike to the summit of the mountain. In 1834 Dr. David Douglas with a party totaling 14 to carry food and supplies, led by a bird catcher familiar with the mountain trecks to the summit.
In her book Six Months in the Sandwich Islands, Isabella Bird tells of visiting Kapapala and staying at 'Āinapō at 4,200ʻ.