Hikiau Heiau

Hikiau Heiau, Big Island

Located at Napo'opo'o Beach (Kealakekua Bay), the Hikiau Heiau is an ancient Hawaiian temple site that was built by King Kalani'opu'u. It is a luakini (human sacrifice) heiau.

The original heiau used to be more than 250 feet (76 m) long and 100 feet (30 m) wide. A smaller stone platform is built on top of the main platform and is believed to have been the location of the lele (altar).

Hikiau Heiau was visited by Captain James Cook in 1778-1779. When the natives first saw his huge ship sail into Kealakekua Bay, they thought he was the returning god Lono, the god of agriculture and prosperity. The time when Cook arrived was during the months of the makahiki, which was a festival honoring the god Lono with hula performances, competitive games, feasting and special offerings.

Cook was treated as a divine guest by the Hawaiians. He attended a special ceremony at another nearby heiau that was held in his honor. And at Hikiau Heiau, he performed the first Christian ceremony in Hawaii, a funeral service for one of his crew members.

Shortly after Cook left Hawaii, he was forced to return due to a broken ship mast. By then the makahiki festivities had ended and the natives’ attitude toward Cook and his crew had changed. If they were truly divine, why would they have to return to land just because of a broken mast? This is what a mere mortal would do, not a god. Not to mention that one of the crew members had died a few days earlier.

Cook was killed in a conflict at Kealakekua Bay shortly after returning to land. Cook had tried to take the chief hostage in return for a small rowboat that a few natives had stolen from his ship.

Hikiau Heiau Overview

  • Luakini (human sacrifice) heiau at Kealakekua Bay
  • Accessible via a trail located behind the beach
  • Captain Cook visited this heiau in 1778-1779

Napo'opo'o Road, Captain Cook HI 96704
Directions: From Kailua-Kona, take Highway 11 south. At Captain Cook (near Kealakekua Bay), turn right onto State Highway 160 (Napo'opo'o Road) and follow it to the end.

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Reviews and Comments:
We checked this place out while looking for a snorkeling spot. While there is a concrete structure that you can get in and out of the water safely, do not attempt beach entry. It is rocky and when the swell is right it builds a very dangerous shore break on lava stones. The bay is beautiful. Didn't see dolphins but the ruins of the Hawaiian temple at the end of the road was very interesting. Parking could be a problem but most of the cars are in and out sight seeing drive-by. Gave 4 stars because it really isn't a good beach. Too many stones.
Steve Lohr, Tue Mar 15, 2016