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

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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.

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