Heiau - Hawaiian Temples

Heiau in front of King Kam Hotel, Kailua

Heiau in front of King Kam Hotel, Kailua

Heiau near Spencer Beach

Heiau near Spencer Beach

Heiau Temple

Heiau Temple

Heiau perched on the hill side

Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

Heiau (Ancient Hawaiian temples) were places of worship that were central to Hawaiian religious beliefs. From the heiau, the kahuna (priest) communicated with the gods and advised the ali’i (chief). Pu’ukohola Heiau was constructed for ceremonies related to war.

Many heiau once existed throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but their use ceased with the destruction of the kapu (taboo) system in 1819.  You will find many preserved and reconstructed Heiau on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The most prominent one is at the Pu’ukohala Heiau National Historic Site adjacent to  Spencer Beach in Kohala.  Other notable Heiaus and Hawaiian ruins can be seen at Kamakahonu Beach, Kukio Beach, and Honaunau Place of Refuge.

Heiaus, Big Island HawaiiBuilt between 1790-91 by Kamehameha I, Pu’ukohola Heiau displays the skill of chiefs, men, women, and children under the astute leadership of Kamehameha I.  This temple is thought to be one of the ast sacred structures built before Westerners altered the traditional Hawaiian value system.  With the assistance of two stranded European sailors, John Young and Isaac Davis, Kamehameha I extended his reign over all Hawaiian Islands. The remains of John Young’s homestead may be toured at the site.  Check out the National Park Service website.

Pu’ukohola Heiau is situated on a hill facing the Kawaihae Harbor.  The temple was constructed to incur the favor of the war god Kuka’ilimoku.  An interpretive trail begins at the visitor center and leads to the ruins of Pu’ukoholā.

On Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00-11:00 AM, the rangers at the Pu’ukohola Heiau offer humpback whale watching (in the winter months).  They have a ranger on duty with with binoculars and a telescope so visitors can look for whales December through March).  The humpback whales can be seen around 500 meters from shore.  The ranger can also point out the black-tip reef shark fins that are often visible during the day right at the bottom of the hill!

The access road to the visitor center is located at 62-3601 Kawaihae Road, off of Route 270, one quarter mile (.4km) north of the Highway 19 intersection.  The park is open daily, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. all year.  Phone: (808) 882-7218.  View map of Heiau National Historic Site.

Pu’uhonau o Honaunau Place of Refuge
Honaunau, Place of Refuge - Temple and MausoleumThis is a sanctuary of Hawaii’s past where traditional Hawaiian lifestyle, ancient temples, and ki’i (wooden images) are preserved.  Today, the park continues as a sanctuary for visitors seeking a peaceful place and as a safe haven for all of the native wildlife living here.  At the Place of Refuge, there is a lot to see including the preserved ancient Hawaiian village, the Heiau, and the 1871 Trail.  Visit our Honaunau page.

Ahuena Heiau
Kamakahonu HeiauNext to Kailua Pier is Ahuena Heiau, a Hawaiian temple built in 800 AD.  This fully-restored temple, directly behind the King Kamehameha Hotel, is possibly the best example of a Hawaiian place of sacrifice.  The thatched building was the King’s
retreat, its doorway concealed by a small guardhouse where King Kamehameha could keep watch over Kailua Bay.  This sacred ground is also where he died on May 8, 1819.  The heiau consists of a stone wall, some other stones and a few modest grass buildings.  Considered a Hawaiian holy site, no one can enter the building.

Lapakahi State Historical Park
Ancient Hawaiian Hut at LapakahiThis State Park is located north of Kawaihae, and was once an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.  This fine historical Park offers lessons in Hawaiian history and archaeology as well as a fine marine preserve to explore. In addition to a scenic beach and snorkeling, Lapakahi State Historical Park offers a glimpse of replicas of native Hawaiian cultural items, such as old huts and ruins of building foundations-possibly of temples (heiaus.  Open daily 0800-1600.  Visit our Lapakahi page.


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