Big Island Sacred Sight

Mo'okini Luakini Heiau

Mo'okini Luakini Heiau was the first temple ever built in the islands around 480 AD. According to family chants of the Mo'okini family, High Priest Kuamoo Mookini built the temple which originally had walls six feet tall.

The chant says that some of the stones used to construct the heiau were carried hand to hand all the way from Pololu Valley nine miles away. Around 1,000 A.D. the Tahitians arrived and took over the islands. A very powerful priest by the name of Pa'ao arrived and ordered the walls to be raised; today some stand nearly 30 feet tall. The large slab of lava outside the heiau is called the hole hole stone, another addition by Pa'ao. Because the heiau was dedicated to the war god Ku, human sacrifices were demanded. Many people were killed in the name of Ku on that stone. This may be the reason many people sense an unusual, even creepy, vibe when they are on the grounds - it's the kind of place that gives you chicken skin (goosebumps). The care of the area was placed in the hands of the descendants of the priest, Kuamoo Mookini, and they still care for it today. In 1963, the site was made a National Historic Landmark.

A little farther down the road from Mo'okini is the birthplace of King Kamehameha, Kamehameha Akahi Aina Hanau Heiau. One way to reach Mo'okini Heiau is by taking the Upolu Airport Road makai at the 20-mile marker until you reach the airport. If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you may continue left along the unpaved portion of the road for 1.5 miles until you reach Mo'okini Heiau. However, be advised that the potholes can be large, especially toward the end of the road, and puddles linger for a long time. An alternate route to the temple is to turn makai at the Old Coast Guard Road just before the 19-mile marker. Take a right onto a red cinder road which has two cattle gates. The only catch is you must call ahead of time to schedule someone to open the gates for you. Hiking out to the heiau's often proves to be the safest route.

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Victoria Derrick
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