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Mo’okini Heiau, Big Island

Heiaus are pre-Christian places of worship that dot the Islands of Hawaii. The Mo’okini Heiau, located on the northwestern tip of the Big Island in Kohala is a hidden place with a dramatic history. An ancient priest named Paao arrived in the 11th or 12th century from Tahiti to find Hawaiian society in a state of anarchy. He did a nice job of restructuring society, but unfortunately, he brought a gruesome tradition with him—human sacrifice. In front of the heiau, there is a large lava slab with a dip in it that was the place where people were put to death to feed Paao’s hungry gods. This is not a place where one would necessarily want to commune with the spirits, but it’s a Hawaiian temple with a unique history. Some people who visit this heiau claim that an eerie atmosphere pervades the area unlike anywhere else.

To cheer you up after visiting Mo’okini, while you’re on that corner of the Big Island, try some snorkeling in the exceptionally clear waters of Kapaa Beach (just north of the 16-mile marker on Highway 270). The fish are abundant and sometimes very large. This water is great for underwater photography. As an added bonus, you get a nice view of Maui.

There is much beauty in the culture and people of Hawaii and plenty of historical landmarks have more cheerful pasts than Mo’okini Heiau, but few are as unusual.

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