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.
Even choosing which beach you want to spend time on, or where you want to hike can be an exercise in confusion and conflicting advice. Clearly, visitors to Hawaii could use help making quality decisions about how best to spend their time.
Tour Guide Hawaii is excited and proud to announce the release of their new GPS/WiFi enabled App for iPhone and iPod 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, let’s look at a pair of important historical sights reached via a great hike, or a really good mountain biking trek, that you might have heard about, but might not be able to find from maps and guidebooks and could otherwise miss if you did not have Tour Guide Hawaii’s new App.
Kohala History and the Birthplace of King Kamehameha: Mo’okini Luakini Heiau and Kapakai Kokoiki (Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau) Heiau
Introduction: Have you ever been somewhere stark, impressive, primitive and ancient, that was able to raise the hackles on your neck? Mo’okini Heiau on the windswept northern tip of Hawaii Island is just one such place.
The history of Hawaii as a kingdom starts in the grasslands and jungle canyons of North Kohala at two prominent temples, or heiau, which were the respective foci of the swirl of great events and sweep of history that culminated in Kamehameha the Great’s creation of the Kingdom of Hawaii by conquering and uniting all the islands of Hawaii.
It was here in North Kohala, at Mo’okini Heiau, that a new religion was born. Passionate priests and princes from Tahiti reconstituted and revived the laws and society of Hawaii in the 11 and 12th centuries. New practices of religious worship were introduced and untold thousands of people were sacrificed at Mo’okini to worship a new god, the war god Kuka’ilimoku (also called “Ku”). Born nearby at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau in about the year 1758, Kamehameha the Great was brought to Mo’okini for his birth rituals.
History: During the 11th century, warlike Tahitians arrived in the Hawai’ian Islands, conquering, enslaving, sacrificing and largely displacing the descendants of the original Marquesan settlers. Into this bloody landscape came Pa’ao, the terrible and powerful Tahitian kahuna who was affronted at the lack of respect the Hawai’ian Ali’i commanded and at the apparent weakness of the Hawai’ian gods. He sent back to Tahiti for the warrior chief Pili and together they brought worship of the powerful war god Ku to Hawai’i and strengthened the kapu system of laws and power of the Ali’i.
Worship of Ku demanded human sacrifice, which was performed at luakini heiau throughout the parts of Polynesia where Ku was venerated. Pa’ao caused Mo’okini Heiau (literally meaning “many lineages”) to be raised (it is said to have happened in a single night) by as many as 20,000 men passing stones hand to hand from Pololu Valley, 14 miles distant. During this process, if a stone was dropped it was left where it lay to preserve the rhythm of passing; the scattered line of dropped stones can be followed all the way back to Pololu to this day.
The alter stones were brought by war canoe from Pa’ao’s home heiau of Taputapuatea (lit. sacrifices from abroad), the most powerful and most feared heiau in Polynesia and the center of Ku worship. Boulders for cornerstones brought hundreds of miles across the sea from Taputapuatea were laid with sacrificed humans beneath them. This gave the heiau a formidable power and an air of menace and despair that clings to it to this day.
Outside the heiau walls can be found a large phallic rock and a flat stone with a cup-like depression near the top. Here, on this holehole stone, the baked bodies of human sacrifices were stripped of flesh and the bones saved to be rendered into fishhooks and dagger blades. Not much mention of the fate of the human flesh from these sacrifices is made, but it is universally documented that Polynesians everywhere were cannibals. This is a topic that is sometimes difficult for the modern descendants of these people to come to terms with and one which is best, and most polite, to simply accept and not comment or speculate upon.
There is no counting the tens of thousands of Hawai’ians who were made sacrifice here on this stone at barren, terrible Mo’okini over the centuries, but the sacrificial victims were all gathered by a class of kahuna called the Mu, or “body catcher”; the foundation of the dwelling of the Mu can still be found among the ruins of Mo’okini.
Well preserved, Mo’okini Heiau stands today at the north end of Hawai’i, the first temple of human sacrifice in Hawai’i and the first site in Hawai’i to be preserved as a National Historic Landmark under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. Mo’okini Heiau is now part of Lapakahi State Historic Park. As Mo’okini is an active Heiau, visitors are reminded to stay away if religious observances are being celebrated.
Four tenths of a mile past Mo’okini is the unlikely, lonely and windswept site of fulfillment of a long-standing prophesy amongst the ancient Hawai’ians, Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau, now named Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau. Long-foretold was the coming of a warrior king who would unite all the islands into a single kingdom and who would rule wisely, piously and long. Prophecy and legend held that this Ali’i would be terrible in his fierceness, unstoppable in his strength, just in his laws and faithful in his observances to the gods. The prophecy continued that the ruler would be born along the wild northern coast of Hawai’i, the most sacred of the Hawai’ian islands. This ruler would, according to the prophecy, wield power of proportion unknown to previous Hawai’ian Ali’i, but for all this destined greatness, he was prophesied to live a lonely life.
Into this mythic context was born Kamehameha the Great, whose very name means “The Lonely One” in about the year 1758. The large boulders inside the enclosure at Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau are thought to be the same birthing stones on which Kamehameha’s mother, Chiefess Keku’iapoiwa, gave birth to the future ruler.
Getting There: To reach these impressive sites, turn off Highway 270 onto the Upolu Airport Road near mile 20 (just west of Hawi) and continue 2 miles to the airport. We recommend that you park in the obvious dirt car park by the airport and hike or mountain bike the road 1.6 miles to Mo’okini Heiau, continuing on a further 0.4 miles to Kapakai Kokoiki Heiau. It is possible to drive 4-wheel drive vehicles down this road, but deep ruts, potholes and rocks make it impassable for most passenger vehicles. Also, Kohala is infamous for its ferocious and unpredictable rainstorms which render this road an ordeal in deep oozing mud and slime, unusable to motorized vehicles.
This dirt road goes all the way (about 4 miles) past Mo’okini Heiau and the Kamehameha Birthplace to the old Coast Guard Loran Lookout; this makes a wonderful beginner’s mountain biking trip or day hike, especially considering the amazing historical sites along the way.
Retracing your path to the airport and back up to Highway 270, treat yourself to a visit in real Old Hawaii at the small towns of Hawi and Kapa’a. In these small towns you can find restrooms, many of the island’s best restaurants, interesting shops, fantastic art galleries and grocery stores.
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.