Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Puukohola Heiau

Puukohola Heiau

Photo by Anna Pacheco

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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
When: The visitor center is open from 8 a.m.- 4:45 p.m. daily. The parking lot exit gate closes at 5 p.m. daily
More Info: (808) 882-7218, NPS WEBSITE
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 25 miles away. The 224 by 100-foot structure is surrounded by 16- to 20-foot 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 center 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 the island of Hawaii. The park trail is 1/2 mile long and takes 20-30 minutes to walk.