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Places on Oahu: The Pohakukaluahine Stone

Basic Information

  • Name: Pohakukaluahine Stone
  • Where: Kamananui Valley Trail
  • Distance: 3 mile hike
  • More Information: Ancient Sites of Oahu

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

Narrative

The Moanalua Valley is one of my favorite places on Oahu.  It is a nice neighborhood below the Tripler Army Medical Center that I often use for a morning jog.  At the very end of the valley is the Kamananui Valley Trail which provides incredibly easy access into the heart of the Ko’olau Mountains:

This easy access was almost a curse when the valley was slated to house the construction of the H-3 Freeway.  However, one rock called Pohakukaluahine ended up thwarting the plans to cut the highway through the Moanalua Valley.  It was this rock that I planned to go and see on my hike.  The Kamananui Valley Trail begins at the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

There is a small parking lot inside of the park, but plenty of street parking can be found in the neighborhood if the lot is filled.  As always please be respectful of the locals that live in the neighborhood when parking.  The trailhead for the Kamananui Valley Trail can easily be found at the back of the park:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

Just look for the gate and this official Na Ala Hele trailhead sign:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

From the trailhead it is an easy 1.5 mile walk to the Pohakukaluahine Stone on a well defined dirt road:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

Moanalua is said to be named for two encampments of taro patches where travelers rested near a spring.  The kalo leaves grown there were huge and kept for the chiefs.  The region known as a “ahupua’a” was rich,with five fishponds, four temples known as heiaus, and many acres of lo’i in the lowland areas of Moanalua Stream.  Research done by the Bishop Museum discovered evidence that even the upper portions of the valley were populated at one time due to the discovery of agricultural terraces.  It is believed that the ravages of disease and warfare on Oahu in the early 1800’s caused the population in the valley to decline and eventually abandon their farms.

A man by the name of Douglas Damon eventually came into possession of the valley and built a house and the carriage road that still exists to this day.  Incredibly even the carriage bridges are still visible and usable after all these years:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

Of interest is that the Damon family is the one that the movie “The Descendants” is loosely based off of.  The Damon family to this day continues to battle over nearly $1 billion in assets. Hopefully this legal battle doesn’t affect access to the Kamananui Valley which is managed by the Moanalua Gardens Foundation, a non-profit started by the Damon family:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

At 1.5 miles into the valley I reached the sign describing the history of the Pohakukaluahine Stone:

Picture from the Kamananui Valley

The stone with its famous petroglyphs lies across the Moanalua Stream from the signboard:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

Pohakukaluahine means “stone of the old woman”.  This name is believed to come from an old tale about a local child who cried during consecration of a heiau.  Any noise during a consecration is considered “kapu” or forbidden and punishable by the death.  To avoid the killing of the child, the boy’s grandmother ran up the Kamananui Valley with him and hid behind this rock.  Warriors searching for the woman and the boy could not find them.  After a few days the kapu of silence for the heiau ended and the woman was free to walk back to the village with the boy.

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

A short trail from the signboard leads over to the stone to allow hikers to have an up close look at the petroglyphs:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

The petroglyphs are extremely eroded and very difficult to see, but I could make out the shape of this human carved on the stone:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

There are plenty of other shapes carved on the stone as well that can just barely be seen:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

The petroglyphs on this stone are considered highly unusual for Hawaii.  One carving supposedly shows a man with a whip that has never been seen in a Hawaiian carving before.  Also some of the figures appear to be of bird men.  The only other place in the Pacific that had bird men petroglyphs similar to what was found in the Kamananui Valley was on the island of Rapa Nui also known as Easter Island.  On Rapa Nui they followed a bird man cult.

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

The oddity of these petroglyphs makes me wonder if they were carved by Hawaii’s earliest inhabitants from the Marquesas?  These early inhabitants were eventually over run by migrating Tahitians which forced them into hiding deep in the islands’ mountain valleys.  They became known as “menehunes” and took on a mythological character similar to Ireland’s Leprechauns.  This rock is located in a deep valley perfect for someone trying to hide and has nothing better to do, but carve figures into a rock:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

In total this rock has 22 petroglyph figures and even 90 dots from a strategy game called Konane that was developed by early Polynesians:

Picture of the Pohakukaluahine

Conclusion

Overall a walk in the Kamananui Valley is always makes for nice day out in the beautiful Ko’olau Mountains.  The historical background of this valley only adds to the experience.  The Pohakukaluahine Stone is the most significant historical treasure to be found in this valley considering it had the power to stop the construction of the H-3 Freeway.  Because of this lone stone with its mysterious petroglyphs, this wonderful valley continues to be one of the best hiking experiences in all of Oahu.

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