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What is Puukohola Heiau on the Big Island?

Ask the Big Kahuna

“Answering the most common visitor questions”


What is Puukohola Heiau on the Big Island? I understand it has some special importance in Hawaiian history.


Kelvin S.
Oakland, CA


Aloha Kelvin,

You are right about Puukohola Heiau. King Kamehameha the Great had the heiau (pre-Christian place of worship) built around 1790 to please the war god Kukailimoku. Kamehameha, a fierce and brutal warrior, started the dynasty that ruled Hawaii for about a century.

After years of civil war battling other chiefs, Kamehameha was told by a kahuna (a different one) on Kauai that if he built the massive temple he could conquer all of Hawaii. At the dedication, to help things along, a rival was sacrificed. Apparently the war god was pretty happy because Kamehameha won several subsequent battles. (Kamehameha’s use of Western military strategy and weapons might have had just a little something to do with his success.)

Puukohala Heiau is a National Historic Site located in Kawaihae on the Big Island. The park is on the northwestern shore in the district of south Kohala near the intersection of Route 270 and Highway 19.

Well Kelvin, now you know.

Mahalo for writing,

Big Kahuna