Scout Out an 18th-Century War TempleBig Island
Two centuries ago, Hawaiian rulers worshiped a powerful war god called Ku. King Kamehameha I, who fought numerous battles to unify all the Hawaiian islands, sought Ku’s support by building a massive stone temple 400 feet above Kawaihae Harbor in North Kohala.
Construction of the 20-foot-high lava rock temple, or heiau, began in 1790 and was completed a year later. By 1810, Kamehameha had conquered the Islands and established a monarchy. He died in 1819, after which his son abandoned the religious practices that had ruled Hawai‘i and ordered destruction of the heiau.
Pu‘ukohola, the last religious heiau built inHawai‘i, is now a 77-acre National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service. One of the most imposing and dramatic Hawaiian temples in the island chain, it was built with mortarless stone and, when completed, measured 100 by 224 feet. The temple has been largely restored, and a self-guided tour of the grounds begins at the visitor center.
Pu‘ukohola heiau, which means Temple on the Hill of the Whale, is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. The park is located 1 mile south of the harbor at Kawaihae on Highway 270.