Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaii's Big Island
Name: Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
What: One of the largest and last heiau built in Hawaii
Where: On the Kohala Coast, one mile south of Kawaihae Harbor
- More Info: (808) 882-7218, http://www.nps.gov/puhe/index.htm
The majestic, stone Puukohola Heiau can be seen off the road, just north of the resorts of the Kohala Coast. This National Historic Site is home to one of the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii and is part of the National Park System. Heiau were sacred places of worship for Native Hawaiians, and Puukohola Heiau was a site built to fulfill a historic prophecy.
North Kohala born Kamehameha the Great was advised by his kahuna (priest) to build and dedicate Puukohola Heiau to the war god Kukailimoku to help in his efforts to unite the Hawaiian Islands. The fortress-like heiau was constructed overlooking the Kohala coast between 1790 and 1791. King Kamehameha ultimately fulfilled the kahuna’s prophecy when he united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810.
This massive stone temple was built without the use of mortar. It is also believed that the lava rocks used to build the structure were passed hand-by-hand in a human chain all the way from Pololu Valley, some 40 kilometres away. The 68 by 130 metre structure is surrounded by 5-6 metre high walls and has been carefully preserved and restored. It is believed to be one of the last sacred structures built in the Hawaiian Islands before western influence. A new Visitor Centre features videos, fascinating exhibits and a small museum. Puukohola, which means “hill of the whale” in Hawaiian, is also a scenic spot to look for humpback whales off the Kohala Coast during the winter and spring months.
Take a walking tour of the park to discover even more historic places within this site. You’ll find the ruins of Mailekeini Heiau (built in the 1500s), Hale o Kapuni (a submerged heiau dedicated to the shark gods) and the homestead of John Young, a stranded British sailor who became a valuable aid to King Kamehameha I, which is also part of the grounds. Take a visit to Puukohola Heiau and step back in time on Hawaii’s Big Island.