Temple Visiting #1
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Friday, March 2
Not far north from Hapuna Beach Park, we came upon a significant site in old Hawai'i's history - Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. We had so far neglected to see much of Hawai'i's cultural history, and this seemed like an interesting place to begin rectifying that.
Pu'ukohola is one of the best preserved temple sites in Hawai'i. Sitting on the dry side of the Big Island and on a high hill facing the ocean, Pu'ukohola Heiau (Heiau is the Hawaiian word for temple) was a large temple built by the first king - Kamehameha I - of a unified Hawai'i. It was the last major ancient Hawaiian temple built, and was the site of several significant historical events in Hawai'i's history.
We parked in the parking lot at the very nice, new visitor center. Tastefully architected and decorated, it blends well into the arid landscape and with the historic nature of the site. We took a brief look around before beginning the short walk around the grounds of the park.
The heiau itself was immediately visible as we walked along the park's paved access path. It was relatively simple: a large terraced stone structure with trapezoidal sides. There would have been wooden structures on it in past times; all that was left today were the stones. It is entirely built by hand and without mortar. It had a commanding position atop a high rounded knoll - known as whale hill - above the ocean.
We walked up a side path to the base of the Pu'ukohola heiau, but unfortunately a gate and sign blocked further progress. Apparently, regular park visitors are not allowed onto the temple itself: for preservation and cultural reasons, access is not unlimited.
We continued along the park's walking circuit, soon coming to another older temple constructed closer to the water. This one we were able to walk right up to.
The third temple in the park was perhaps the most intriguing, although there was nothing really to see. This temple was known as the Shark Temple, and is supposedly situated underwater just few feet offshore in the shallow waters of a small cove. According to accounts, the temple was built by a chief whose family revered sharks (the small cove is often visited by black tipped reef sharks, even to this day). Unfortunately, we did not see any as we walked along the path next to the shore.
We continued our easy and pleasant walk along the park's paved walking circuit, enjoying the views of the ocean, the native vegetation, and the various angles across at the rusty-colored walls of the park's two main temples. Soon we arrived back at the visitor center, completing our visit.
This park isn't a large or main destination in itself, but the grounds are pretty and give a nice glimpse into the area's pre-western history.