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Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site

Big Island, Hawai'i

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Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site

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  • Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The visitor center at Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The visitor center has an indoor and outdoor education area.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The two stones on the left are here for visitors to lift to get an idea about the kind of work that was put into creating this heiau.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • A model representing the heiau and the lower bay.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Some of the traditional Hawaiian weapons of war on display inside the visitor center.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Some of the traditional Hawaiian weapons of war on display inside the visitor center.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • King Kamehameha mounted cannons to the smaller and lower Mailekini Heiau.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The walking path leading through the grounds are ADA accessible.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Pu'ukoholā Heiau.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Entrance to Pu'ukoholā Heiau is prohibited; here the crossed sticks symbolize the kapu, or taboo, area.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • These enormous walls were built by hand-placed stones and use no mortar.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Mailekini Heiau sits below Pu'ukoholā Heiau.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Mailekini Heiau and Pu'ukoholā Heiau.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The bay in which the submerged Hale o Kapuni Heiau is located.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • Stairs lead down to the site known as Pelekane, formerly a royal compound.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail leads through this site.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The bay in which the submerged Hale o Kapuni Heiau is located.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The bay in which the submerged Hale o Kapuni Heiau is located.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail leads through this site.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The Stone Leaning Post was originally 6 feet tall.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • The ADA path leading through the grounds.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
  • This end of the trail connects to Spencer Beach Park.- Pu'ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Historic cultural site. Accessible path. Enriching information. Free.
Cons: 
Exposed terrain.
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Region:
Big Island, HI
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
No
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Team

In 1790, King Kamehameha I was at a crossroads in his quest to rule all of the Hawaiian islands. Maui, Lāna'i and Moloka'i had come under his rule, and yet he was unable to consolidate power on his home island; his cousin, Keōua Kūahu'ula, opposed Kamehameha's ascendance. Kamehameha searched for counsel and received a prophecy that the islands would be his if he built a temple on Pu'ukoholā (whale hill) and dedicated it to the war god Kūkā'ilimoku.

The stones that constitute this temple come from Pololu Valley, which these days can be accessed by driving another 26 miles on Highway 270 around the northern tip of Kohala, the northernmost volcano on the Big Island. In 1790, however, another strategy and route was necessary: A 20-mile-long human chain of workers moved the rocks hand to hand to the temple site. Construction was finished by 1791, and Kamehameha invited Keōua Kūahu'ula to visit. When his cousin arrived, Kamehameha killed him; less than 20 years later, King Kamehameha became ruler of all the islands.

In addition to the Pu'ukoholā Heiau, visitors will also have the chance to see Mailekini Heiau, which sits below, is older, and is of unknown origin and purpose. Kamehameha actually mounted cannons on this heiau at one point. Slightly farther down the hill lies the beach area known as Pelekane, which was a royal compound and port. And somewhere out in the bay sits a third heiau, Hale o Kapuni Heiau, which is dedicated to the shark gods.

Any visitor here must remember that this site is very much a sacred area for Hawaiians. Do not touch or climb on the rock structures, and leave everything in place here. Respect the kapu, or the taboo areas, of this site. The National Park Service maintains and administers this site as public land, and if you appreciate the opportunity to enjoy this historic site (for free, no less), be sure to support the National Park Service and efforts to keep public lands public.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(3 within a 30 mile radius)

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(24 within a 30 mile radius)

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