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Places On Oahu: Pahua Heiau

Basic Information

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Pahua Heiau Narrative

I have been going around and slowly, but surely checking out all the native Hawaiian cultural sites on Oahu.  One of the easiest ones to visit is the Pahua Heiau in Hawaii Kai.  The heiau is located adjacent to a hill in a nice neighborhood in Honolulu suburb:

A heiau is the Hawaiian word for temple.  Heiaus are spread out all over the Hawaiian islands with plenty of them located on Oahu.  Some have notorious histories such as being used for human sacrifices.  However, Pahua Heiau has much more traditional use as being a shrine to agricultural gods.  After the death of Kamehameha I, the first king to unite all the Hawaiian island, his son Liholilo would succeed him in 1819.  Liholilo would end up being a very different ruler than his father.  Only six months after becoming king he ended the system of religious laws that had governed Hawaii for hundreds of years.  He then destroyed all the Hawaiian temples thus ending the human sacrifices that used to occur at some of these heiaus.  Today the tiered lava rock walls of the Pahua Heiau is all that can be seen by visitors:

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Picture from Pahua Heiau

According to the below marker Pahua Heiau was originally restored by members of the Outdoor Circle group:

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Today Pahua Heiau is managed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).  In fact Pahua Heiau was the first cultural site the organization was given to manage back in 1988.  They have a big signs posted warning visitors that is is “kapu” or forbidden to walk inside the temple’s grounds and to watch for falling rocks:

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Instead of putting up big kapu signs it seems to me it would be better if the OHA put up a big signboard explaining the cultural history of the site for visitors like myself to learn more about it.  The OHA though does have a good report published online that explains the history of Pahua Heiau.  Before the building of the Hawaii Kai neighborhood over the past 50 years this area of Oahu was historically a rich farming area called Maunalua.  From its hillside location Pahua Heiau offered a great view of all the farming land which explains why an agricultural shrine was built at the location.  Now the only view that can be seen are the homes below Koko Crater:

Picture from Pahua Heiau

Conclusion

The heiau is very small and I only spent about 15 minutes visiting it because there is not much to see.  However, if visiting Hawaii Kai such as after a hike on the Koko Crater Stairs, I encourage people to stop by and check out this surviving piece of Hawaii’s cultural past.

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