Ahuena Heiau: The Personal Home of King Kamehemeha the Great and His Place of Death

Ahuena Heiau sits in Kamakahonu Bay in the historic Kailua Village on the Big Island. Michelle and I recently had the chance to visit this temple that served Kamehameha the Great when he returned to the Big Island in 1812. According to the official Ahuena Heiau website, three significant events occurred here. First, in 1910, Native Hawaiian’s mourned the loss of their King, as Kamehameha The Great died inside of the heiau. Second, it was here that Liholiho (Kamehameha II) broke the ancient kapu system (taboos that provided the framework for traditional Hawaiian government). Third, the first Christian missionaries traveled from New England and came ashore here in 1820.

Beachgoers relax, as they sunbathe near Ahuena Heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Beachgoers relax, as they sunbathe near Ahuena Heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Respect Our Land. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Respect Our Land. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A side view of the heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A side view of the heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A view from the front of the Heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A view from the front of the Heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Kapu. It is taboo to enter the heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Kapu. It is taboo to enter the heiau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The heiau was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and restoration of Ahuena Heiau began in the 1970’s. You would think that such a historic landmark would be tucked away somewhere, and very difficult to find. This is hardly the case with Ahuena Heiau. The heiau is located just off of the shore adjacent to the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. In fact, visitors who stay at this hotel have the luxury of stepping out a few feet to the beach on Kamakahonu Bay to marvel at this landmark. When we visited, people were swimming and stand-up paddle boarding.

Below, you’ll find a few works of art depicting the historic landmark. The first two are paintings by famed artist, Herb Kane. You can purchase prints by Herb Kane here. The last image is a watercolor painting from the 1800’s of the heiau by Robert C. Barnfield.

Ahuena Heaiu. Painting by Herb Kawainui Kane.

Ahuena Heaiu. Painting by Herb Kawainui Kane.

A painting of the transition of power from Kamehameha I to his son, Prince Liholiho, at Kamakahonu Beach. The king’s temple, Ahu’ena Heiau, is depicted in the background across the bay. Painting by Herb Kawainui Kane.

A painting of the transition of power from Kamehameha I to his son, Prince Liholiho, at Kamakahonu Beach. The king’s temple, Ahu’ena Heiau, is depicted in the background across the bay. Painting by Herb Kawainui Kane.

Original watercolor by Robert C. Barnfield (1855-1893), after Louis Choris (1795-1828) of the Kotzebue voyage of 1816-1817. Via the Hawaii State Archives.

Original watercolor by Robert C. Barnfield (1855-1893), after Louis Choris (1795-1828) of the Kotzebue voyage of 1816-1817. Via the Hawaii State Archives.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Michelle Sagucio.

Directions to Ahuena Heiau: If you want to visit Ahuena Heiau and the small beach that fronts it, your best bet is to find parking somewhere along Kailua Kona’s famous Alii Drive. A friend of mine referred to Alii Drive as the Big Island’s mini Waikiki. Sure, Alii Drive has its similarities to Kalakaua Avenue, but is much smaller in scale. Once you’ve found parking on Alii Drive (or one of the adjacent streets), you’ll want to make your way back to the start of Alii Drive. The landmark that you’ll want to look for is the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. The heiau is just next to the pier across the street from the hotel. As reference, the address to King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is: 75-5660 Palani Road.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.