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Things to Do on Big Island

Pu’ukohola Heiau – History and Hiking (Ok, Not Much Hiking!)

Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
62-3601 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
(808) 882-7218
Daily Hours – 7:45 AM – 4:45 PM

Pu’ukohala Heiau is one of the most famous temples in the Hawaiian Islands. This heiau was an important part of Hawaiian tradition which encompassed social, political and religious life.

Pu’ukohala Heiau is a national historical site managed by the National Park Service. I was happily surprised that there was no entry fee. I was unhappily surprised that short trail to the Heiau was closed. I did come across this sign with an explanation.

Building the Heiau

The kahuna or priest told Kamehameha that if a heiau was built, at Pu’ukohala, and dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku, (along with a human sacrifice) he would conquer all of the Hawaiian Islands. Keoua Ku’ahu’ula, Kamehameha’s rival, was slain and sacrificed on the alter to fulfill the kahuna’s prophecy.

Pu’ukohala Heiau was constructed between 1790 and 1791 by Kamehameha. Thousands and thousands of men toiled for almost a year to completed the heiau. Tradition says that the lava rocks used were brought from the Pololo Valley, over the Kohala Mountains, by a 25 mile long human chain of workers.

Nana Stone

The Nana Stone was a sacred stone that tested the leadership potential for those of the royal line. Whoever could move the 5000 pound stone contained the necessary “mana” or spiritual power to rule the land. Though Kamehameha was not of the Nana chiefly line, he was determined to put this belief to the test.

A large procession of  ali’i (royalty) and common folk followed Kamehameha’s procession to the Nana Stone. As he gripped the stone, Kamehameha said, “You are naha, and the chief who frees your kapu is naha. I am nī‘aupi‘o, a smoke arching in the wilderness.” With this, Kamehameha not only moved the Nana Stone but turned it over. The sacred stone now resides in front of the Hilo library.

As close as I could get and still fit the entire heiau in my camera frame.

Favorite Places to Run – Ironman Marathon Route

Photo by Chris McCormack / CC BY

On our vacation to the Big Island, I was stoked (excited) about where the fam (family) and I were staying. Ali’i Drive (dramatic pause). Yes, Ali’i Drive. The same road that is part of the marathon course for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

The first morning, I was out the door at 6am. Unfortunately, I didn’t research the marathon route and ran in the wrong direction! After a mile, there was this huge hill that I died trying to climb. Actually, I made it to the top but had to slow to a walk a couple of times (or a few times).

This is hill I died on!

Now, I did see a few runners/walkers and encountered many cyclists so at least I wasn’t alone in my agony! Later on, I finally did google the marathon course so I was ready to go the next morning. At the break of dawn, I was back out there. This time I was running in the right direction.

There are some great beaches and ocean views on Ali’i Drive. There were lots of runners (and lots of hotels and resorts) that gave me inspiration and some inner competition (racing against another runner without them knowing it).

Bike lanes for runner & cyclists!

The road is very safe with bike lanes on both sides of the street. There will be some cyclists so stay focused on the road ahead of you. If you run far enough north, you will run into Historic Kailua Village which will be crowded with restaurants, shops, cars and people.

You can run around 5 1/2 miles, on Ali’i Drive, from the Kona Coast Resort (where I stayed) to the end of the road. You can’t really run on Ka’ahumanu Highway though I did see some cyclists, on the highway, outside of Kona and past the airport. So…if you want to run the entire marathon course, it is possible. On to the photos!!!

Kahalu’u Beach Park…duh!

La’aloa (very sacred) Bay Beach Park!

Beautiful view of the coastline!

Lots of vacation homes around here!

Roadside shrine!

Passing some resorts!

Another Beach Park!

A very small church and the southern turnaround point of the Ironman marathon!

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park – Hawaii Island

You are running down the hillside with sweat streaming down your face. The shouts of those in pursuit urge you on…faster, faster. The ocean ahead beckons, sea salt filling your nostrils. If you can just make it to the water and swim across the cove, you will be safe…you will eventually be forgiven.

Pu’uhonua, a place of refuge (Captain Cook, HI) was a place of protection and ultimately forgiveness, by a kahuna, for defeated warriors or those who violated the kapu system. Some examples of breaking kapu were:

  • men and women eating together
  • a wife entering the house while her husband was eating
  • women eating pork, bananas, and coconuts
  • a commoner’s shadow falling upon an ali’i (royalty)

This heiau (above) possessed great mana as it was a royal mausoleum containing the bones of 23 ali’i including King Kamehameha’s great-grandfather Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku (c.1665-c.1725) King of Hawaii Island. The two ki’i images (below) stand before the heiau, a forewarning of the great mana within.

The Great Wall (above) stands up 12 feet tall and 18 feet in width, this wall stretches over 950 feet in length. Be mindful that this wall was constructed over 400 years ago without the use of mortar. The fact that the wall still stands is pretty incredible.

The Ale’ale’a heiau (above) was around long before Hale o Keawe. There is a platform that was built with seven stages. Oral tradition says that after this heiau was replaced, it was used by the ali’i for relaxation and watching hula dancing.

A long, long time ago, another Heiau was built at the above location. All that remains is rubble after centuries of crashing waves. The first heiau, in the park, was possibly built at this site.

Local tradition says that this stone (left) was a favorite resting area of Keoua “The Rain Cloud”, a high chief. Legend has it that Queen Ka’ahumanu, a favorite wife of Kamehameha I, swam to Pu’uhonua after a row with her husband. She hid under this very rock (right). Protection Status