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Places On Oahu: Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site

Basic Information

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Google Earth Map for Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau

Puu O Mahaka Heiau Google Map

Narrative

My family and I recently took some time to go and visit another one of Oahu’s state historic sites. The next one we visited was the Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site outside of the town of Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore.  The park is accessed by making the turn onto Pupukea Road at the Foodland supermarket.  The road switchbacks up a high cliff where eventually the sign for the state park entrance can be seen:

Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau is one of many heiaus (temple) on Oahu.  What makes this one different is its size which encompasses over two acres:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau was the major religious center on Oahu for about 250 years:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

The heiau is located on a cliff 300 feet above Waimea Valley.  Waimea Valley has rich agricultural lands with an abundance of fresh water from the Waimea River.  You can read about my prior visit to Waimea Valley at the below link:

The Waimea River ends at Waimea Bay where its beautiful beach is located where Hawaiians would collect seafood as well as surf for fun.  This resource rich area made it an ideal location to sustain a large population since the 1100’s.  However, the Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau is not believed to have been constructed until the 1600’s.  Like many other ancient Hawaiian temples this one was used for human sacrifices.  For example in 1792 British Captain George Vancouver visited Waimea and three of his men were killed in a skirmish and possibly give as an offering at Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

After checking out the markers at the front of the heiau my family and I next followed a trail around the heiau:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

As we walked down the trail we were able to get a good look at the lava rock walls of the heiau that had to be carried by hand up the cliff from the valley below.  These rock walls used to be three to six feet high:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

The trail eventually descends into the surrounding foliage:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

After a short walk we came to a fork in the trail where we took a right that led to an overlook of Waimea Bay down below:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

From the overlook we also saw the town of Pupukea down below:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

After checking out the view we returned to the trail and took the other fork around the temple:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

As we walked through the foliage we passed the southern section of the heiau’s perimeter wall:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

We eventually came to another lookout which was much better than the other one since it had no power lines to obscure the view:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Here is a closer look at beautiful Waimea Beach which was packed with people:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

At the beach there is a large rock which is popular for beach goes to jump off of:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

We could also see the bridge that crosses the Waimea River down below:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Here is a panorama picture of the view:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

After we finished checking out the view we headed further down the trail and eventually exited the foliage and found ourselves on the back side of the temple:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

From there we followed the trail around the heiau back to the parking lot:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

As we neared the top of the heiau we passed around this large rock that I assume must have some kind of religious significance:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

We then walked around to the head of the temple where we could see some food offerings left on the wall of the heiau:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Here is the view looking south down the temple’s grounds with what appeared to be the main altar in front of us:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

The Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau remained active until 1819 when King Kamehameha II banned the practice of the traditional Hawaiian religion and destroyed all the heiaus in Hawaii leaving just their rock wall remains:

Picture from Puu O Mahaka Heiau

Conclusion

Overall we spent about an hour at the Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site.  We learned a bit about ancient Hawaiian history and saw some incredible views during our visit.  If visiting Oahu’s North Shore it is well worth the short detour off the main highway to stop and see this interesting piece of Hawaiian history.

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