Scout out an 18th-Cen­tury War Tem­ple

101 Things to Do (Big Island) - - TOURING -

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 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is free. The park is lo­cated one mile south of the har­bor at Kawai­hae on High­way 270.

PHOTO: HAWAII TOURISM AUTHOR­ITY (HTA) / KIRK LEE AEDER

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