Two centuries ago, Hawaiian rulers worshipped a powerful war god named Ku. King Kamehameha the Great, 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, Kamehameha II, abandoned the religious practices that had ruled Hawai‘i, and ordered destruction of the heiau.
PU‘UKOHOLA, the last religious heiau built in Hawai‘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, the temple has been largely restored.
Pu‘ukohola heiau—which means, “TEMPLE ON THE HILL OF THE WHALE” — is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Admission is free. The park is located a mile south of the harbor at Kawaihae on Highway 270.