Whether you visit the Big Island for a few days, a couple weeks or a few months, you want to make the most of your time in Paradise. With such a wide variety of natural and commercial attractions, it is natural for the visitor to get a little overwhelmed in the “Option Overload” and not be able to make a balanced and informed decision on what they want to do and how best to spend their time.
Choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike or drive can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice. Even more so, finding quality information on the history, culture, geology and natural history of the area can be almost impossible–and much of what you do find is inaccurate, or third-hand retellings that are, well, better stories than histories. Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time and understanding what they are seeing, the culture they are visiting.
This is why Tour Guide Hawaii is so excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod video tour that helps you navigate your trip to Hawaii with hours of informative, location-aware video and information. Although our video guide will lead you to dozens of unusual, untamed and unspoiled spots, as an example of the fabulous coverage our App for iPhone and iPod provides, let’s look at a fascinating historical site in the heart of Old Kailua Town itself, one which you might pass by, uninterested and uninformed, if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App to pique your interest and feed your curiosity.
Ahu’ena Heiau at Kamakahonu Beach
Ancient ruins? Human sacrifice?
If you are the kind of person who enjoys the excitement of archeology, then this next spot on your tour around the island maybe just what you are looking for. Centuries ago the inhabitants of this region built a series of sacred temples, or heiau, which were originally used for the purpose of sacrificing human beings to their war god, Kuka’ilimoku. This particular archeological site is called Ahu’ena Heiau, which in Hawaiian means “Hill of Fire”.
Take a moment to stop here for a look, who knows what you may find. Who knows what spirits you my encounter. In any event, as you take the time to examine the reconstructed grounds of this particular heiau, keep in mind that to this very day these are places of sanctity and solace for many of the native Hawai’ians. As with all such places, remember to respect this setting as well by not removing anything whatsoever from the site. Meanwhile, as you ponder in your minds just what it is you’re looking at, consider a little history…
The heiau rests on an artificial island in Kamakahonu Bay (“Eye of the Turtle”) that at one time ran out past the end of the modern era Kailua Pier, this created a sheltered landing and mooring spot for war canoes. An ancient heiau (sacred temple) has existed on this spot since at least the first millennium, and at the time of Kamehameha’s rise to power was occupied by the ruins of a 15th century heiau luakini, a site of human sacrifice dedicated to the war god Kuka’ilimoku.
In 1812, King Kamehameha I ordered the heiau enlarged and rebuilt; he spent his life from then until his death in 1819 ruling his kingdom from this spot. Kamehameha I had the temple rededicated as Ahu’ena Heiau (“red-hot heap”, or “hill of fire”), a temple of peace and prosperity dedicated to the fertility god Lono. The entire beach and 4 acre adjacent parcel of land was surrounded by a massive, crescent shaped stonewall. In the past, within the precincts of the walled enclosure, in addition to the temple buildings and Kamehameha’s home were also dwellings for priests, storage huts and a great stone warehouse Kamehameha caused to be constructed for storing rum and gunpowder.
It was at this spot, after Kamehameha I’s death in 1819, that his son and heir, Liholiho, sat down with the great queens Ka’ahumanu and Keopuolani and publicly broke the kapu law of men not eating with women, which effectively ended the era of kapu law. This one-time event was called the ‘ai noa, or “free eating”; the open defiance of kapu law by the King and dowager Queens essentially overturned the basis for Hawai’i’s societal structure. After the ‘ai noa, Liholiho (nee Kamehameha II) ordered the Ahu’ena Heiau destroyed.
Kamehameha II moved his court to Honolulu in 1820, leaving James Adams Kuakini in charge as governor. Governor Kuakini resided at Kamakahonu until moving into Hulihe’e Palace in 1838. A large fort, with 14-foot thick walls standing 20 feet high was constructed. The fort was a prominent feature and boasted a battery of 18, thirty-two pound cannon. This fortress was nicknamed “The Rock”, and that appellation is still applied to Hawai’i Island in general by residents today.
The current structures seen at Ahu’ena Heiau were re-built in 1975 under the auspices of the Bishop Museum with financial help from the Hotel King Kamehameha and are constructed to 1/3 the original scale.
On the present grounds of the reconstructed temple, the tallest structure is the ‘anu’u (“oracle tower”) where priests in deep trance would communicate with the gods. There is also the main building, the Hale Mana (“house of spiritual power”), and a wicker alter called a lele. Nearby is a smaller hut thatched with banana leaves called the Hale Nana Mahina (“place from which to watch the farmlands”) where Kamehameha would sit and ponder his plantations up mauka in Holualoa.
Throughout the temple complex are several kia akua (“temple image posts”) that are carved in distinctive Kona style, considered by many to be the finest in Polynesia. In particular, note the carving of the god, Koleamoku, with a golden plover atop his head. It is held in the Hawaiian oral tradition that a golden plover guided the first Polynesians to Hawaii; it is known by modern ornithologists that Golden Plovers annually migrate between French Polynesia and Alaska via the Hawai’ian Islands, so there may perhaps be a muchtruth to this legend. Koleamoku is a god of healing and of navigation.
Unknown to even most long-time local residents, sandwiched in between the Heiau, the King Kamehameha Beach Resort parking lots and the Kona Waste Water Treatment Plant are a series of over-grown freshwater lakes, a rarity in arid Kona. In the early days of Kailua Town, these ponds provided a source of freshwater for drinking as well as abundant fish. Today, for those in the know, they still provide baitfish and crawfish for fishermen. (SHHHH!).
To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
Copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.