Puu Kohola Heiau National Historic Site

Jump on Hawaii Belt Road on the Island of Hawaii and you’re bound to stumble on numerous historical sites of note. One of those sites worth stopping for is the Puu Kohola Heiau, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962. This site preserves the ruins of Hawaii’s last major ancient temple.

Translated as Temple on the Hill of the Whale, Puu Kohola, was constructed entirely by hand as a way of appeasing the god of war, Kūkaʻilimoku. Kamehameha’s brother, Keliʻimaikaʻi, oversaw the large scale project. The massive heiau was completed in 1791.

The red stones that you notice as you make your way to the ancient heiau was transported from Pololu Valley. How? A 14 mile human chain, that’s how. Construction was supervised by Kamehameha’s brother Keliʻimaikaʻi, and involved thousands of people.

1991 marked the 200th anniversary of what has become known as the Slaughter of Kawaihae.

“In the summer of 1791, the massive temple was finished, measuring about 224 by 100 feet. Kamehameha summoned his cousin Keōua Kuahuʻula with the ruse of a peace treaty. It is not clear why Keōua accepted the invitation. Perhaps he was surrendering to fate, discouraged by losing many of his warriors in the Battle of Hilo and subsequent volcanic eruption of 1790. One story told is that Keōua secretly mutilated himself in order to defile the sacrifice. As he stepped ashore, he and his party were captured and killed. With the offering of the bodies the new temple was officially dedicated.”

Kamehameha went on to conquer the islands of Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. In 1810, he made history by unifying the Hawaiian Islands, thereby becoming the first king of a unified Hawaii.

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Puu Kohola Heiau National Historic Site
62-3601 Kawaihae Road
Kawaihae, Island of Hawai’i.

Directions from Kona International Airport:

Take Highway 19 North for 27 miles. Turn left (north) onto Highway 270 (Kawaihae Road) and go 1/2 mile to the Park entrance (on the left side of highway). Turn left off the highway on to the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

Directions from Hilo:

Take Highway 19 North 67 miles. Continue on Highway 270 (Kawaihae Road) to the Park entrance (on the left side of highway). Turn left off the highway on to the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

Directions from North Kohala (Hawi/Kapa’au):

Take Highway 270 South 20 miles to the Park entrance (on the right side of highway). Turn right off the highway on to the park road. The Visitor Center is located down the hill just before Spencer Beach County Park.

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