Sacred Spots, Pi’ilanihale Heiau, Hana, Maui Hawaii

Pi'ilanihale Heiau, in the National Tropical B...

Image via Wikipedia

This is Hawaii’s largest, ancient place of worship that is still intact.

It dates back to the 14th century and is associated with Maui’s Pi’ilani dynasty.

The area was overgrown until the 1970’s which kept the site a secret and therefore in excellent condition.

The stone platform is 340 feet by 415 feet. It covers almost three acres!




An aerial view of Kahanu Garden and 13th-century Pi’ilani hale heiau, an ancient native temple not far from the town of Hana, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Hana was not accessible by road until 1927, but centuries ago, the area was a political power center when each of the Hawaiian islands served as their own kingdoms and fought each other. The Hana area has always been abundant in natural resources and easily accessible by boat to the big island of Hawaii.Standing almost 50 feet high, Pi’ilanihale Heiau is a stepped lava rock platform the size of two football fields. Archaeologists believe the heiau, or temple, was constructed in four stages, beginning as early as the 12th century. The platform served as a ceremonial site for the Pi’ilani noble family, who ruled Maui until the 19th century. Restored in 1999, the temple is thought to be the biggest in the Polynesia.

Pi'ilanihale Heiau 1967

Don’t Miss: The heiau is on the grounds of the nearly 300-acre Kahanu Gardens, which are overseen by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Garden. The “Canoe Garden” next to the temple features crops, such as taro, sweet potato, and banana, that were introduced to Hawaii by Polynesians settlers. A mile-long trail snakes through the largest collection of breadfruit-tree varieties in the world.

Keep in Mind: Pi’ilanihale Heiau is a living cultural site used by native Hawaiians for ritual purposes. Access to the top of the temple is restricted, so you’ll have to enjoy the site from below.

Picture: The thick jungle obscured much of the ancient heiau from view for centuries. This photo, taken by the National Park Service as it was reviewing an application for the Pi’ilanihale heiau to be designated a National Historic Landmark, shows the thick vegetation in 1963.


Picture: In this 1963 photo taken by the National Park Service, the Pi’ilanihale heiau is nearly hidden in this isolated part of Hawaii.

Picture: This image depicts likely uses for the Pi’ilanihale heiau as both a residential and spiritual worship center for native Hawaiian chiefs and elite centuries ago. The image is from a research paper by Michael J. Kolb, anthropology professor who studied the site extensively, now at Northern Illinois University.

Pi'ilanihale Heiau

The Pi’ilanihale heiau was built in a unique style with a series of steep terraces. Anthropologists believe it was built in phases over hundreds of years by stonemasons who stacked lava stones carefully without mortar.

The grounds of the amazing Kahanu Gardens are also the site of Pi’ilanihale Heiau, the largest temple in Hawaii, with a stone platform reaching 450ft in length. The history of this astounding heiau is shrouded in mystery, but there’s no doubt that it was an important religious site for Hawaiians.

Archaeologists believe construction began as early as AD 1200 and the heiau was built in sequences. The final grand scale was the work of Pi’ilani (the heiau’s name means House of Pi’ilani), the 14th-century Maui chief who is also credited with the construction of many of the coastal fishponds in the Hana area.


In Hawaii, searching for the secrets of the temple

The author discovers a rich history of Hawaii that few tourists ever get to know — and her family¿s role in a part of it.


How UmiMadeWar On Piilani The King Of Maui.


Fornander collection of Hawaiian antiquities and folk-lore

As soon as the preparations were perfected, the canoes left Waipio and set sail for Maui, landing at Kapueokahi. On this expedition, while the first of the canoes were entering the harbor of Kapueokahi2 the last of the fleet was still in the harbor at Waipio, Hawaii.

When the people of Maui saw the great fleet of canoes coming into the harbor at Kapueokahi they were sore afraid. Shortly after this word was received and passed from place to place that it was Umi and his wife Piikea come to make war on Piilani. Piilani,” however, was dead at this time, but he had a son by the name of Kalaninuikupuapaikalaninui, who was the king of Maui at this time.

When the people of Hana heard that the canoes were on a war expedition they all ran to the top of the Kauiki hill2 and staid there.

Umi said to Piikea, his wife: “Let us not make war on Maui as Piilani is already dead.” The reason why Umi did not wish to make war was because he took pity on the son born of Piilani, for Umi thought that it would be proper for the young man to have charge of the kingdom, and that Piikea and Kihapiilani be the parents,3 but Piikea stubbornly refused to have anything of the kind; she wanted to make war until the son of Piilani was killed, because she reasoned that if this young man was allowed to live there would be more fighting in the future. When Umi saw that it was useless to try to change his wife’s mind, he ordered his three chief officers, Omaokamau, Piimaiwaa and Koi to go and make war on the stronghold of Kauiki.


Kauiki Hill, Hana Maui


Uakea, Hana 

Ka’uiki Hill is located on the right side of Hana Bay. This hill was formed in one of the last lava events on Maui. A volcanic vent sprayed lava up into the air. This gaseous lava was caught by the trade winds coming off the ocean, piling the lava into a hill.

The lava is rich with iron giving the hill and nearby beaches a deep red color. There is a trail that leads along Ka’uiki Hill to a red sand beach pocket. Along this trail is a plaque marking the site where Queen Ka’ahumanu was born in a nearby cave. She was the favorite wife of King Kamehameha I. The point of Ka’uiki Hill stretches into the ocean where a small light beacon is located to warn ships of the shoreline.


This hill is famous, for it is a natural fort and people on it are generally safe from assault, being protected on all sides by steep and inaccessible cliffs. To the top of this hill a ladder was built on one side, a sort of small bridge made so as to entrap those trying to take the hill, that if those from below were to climb up in attack stones would be rolled down on them, thereby injuring them. Furthermore, a large wooden image was hewed out and made to stand at night, and served the purpose of a guard. The image was called Kawalakii, and this great statue kept the warriors below from climbing the hill at night. 

Forbes Cave Artifacts



Umi’s Generals. Relating To Omaokamau.

Omaokamau was the first of Umi’s men who attempted to climb the Kauiki hill. When he came up to the place where the ladder could be seen he saw that a threecornered rock was fastened at its top. When let go the rock would roll directly down, which would kill the person attempting to go up the ladder. Therefore Omaokamau became afraid and gave up the idea of climbing the ladder, so he thought deeply of a plan to accomplish this, but without success. After thinking for some time he decided that a night attempt to ascend the hill would be the best. When it became quite dark Omaokamau rose and went up to the point where he could distinctly see the ladder; when he arrived at the place he looked and saw a very large man, very tall, about eight feet, holding a long, large war club in his hand. The war club was longer and larger than the war club carried by himself. He also saw that the man had a loin

cloth girded around his waist and drawn very tight. The distance between Omaokamau and the man was about 240 feet. When Omaokamau saw the man and the size of his war club fear and doubt entered his breast; he believed that if he was hit by that war club he would be knocked to pieces, so he was afraid to venture any further and decided to return.

When Omaokamau reached the bottom of the hill Umi asked him: “How did you get along with your ascent of the hill?” Omaokamau answered: “Don’t think, O chief, that it will be possible for us to capture that hill. I have seen that man up on the hill; he is of incomparable size. There is no man in Hawaii like him; he is the largest of the largest, the tallest of the tallest, and his war club is the largest I have ever seen; if it should hit any one that person would be smashed to pieces.”

We will here speak of this mistaken idea of Omaokamau. The large man he saw was the wooden image, Kawalakii. The attempt of the king of Maui to frighten away the Hawaii warriors from a night attack was quite successful, for it proved a good watchman at night for the Kauiki hill, to guard against enemies if ascending at night. This hill of Kauiki was quite safe as long as the deception prevailed; but when it was at last discovered the hill was easily captured.


When Umi heard the report of Omaokamau relating to the large man, he sent Koi to see if he could manage to get to the top of Kauiki hill. He made his climb in the day time, but after several attempts he returned and waited for the night.

At the approach of night Koi again made another attempt, but when he got as far as the place where Omaokamau saw the large man he went no further, for he, too, looked and saw the large man standing guard, just as Omaokamau had described to them; so he, too, became afraid and returned. Like Omaokamau, he thought that the man was real, never thinking that it was only an image. Koi therefore returned and when he arrived in the presence of Umi he was asked: “How did you make out when you climbed the hill?” “Say, O chief, don’t think that that man is an ordinary man; he is the tallest man I have ever seen, in size; I have not seen any one since I have been old enough to see a man that will equal him; this is the greatest, and he is terrible to behold; so I decided to come back.”

Hana Maui


Piimaiwaa was the most famous of the soldiers of the whole of Hawaii and even of Maui, for his braveness and strength, and it was said that he never failed to go up to meet his enemy. Because of this he was the favorite of the adopted sons of Umi. We will here see that he was indeed the bravest of the brave and fearless of the enemy, so that we too without doubt will say that such is the fact.

At the close of Koi’s report to


relating to his climb, it was seen that


was sad at heart. After a time he ordered Piimaiwaa to ascend the hill of Kauiki. At the order Piimaiwaa rose and started on his expedition. When he reached the ladder he saw a large body of men there assembled all prepared with their implements of


, such as long spears, short spears, darts,


clubs, slings, pikoi,” stones, sticks, and various other things. He also saw the three-cornered rock called the “moa.” When Piimaiwaa drew near to the men they began to throw stones at him. While the people were throwing stones at him he started to twirl his


club,’ Wahie, warding off the stones; he was not hit once, for he kept on twirling his club. He kept on advancing until he got right under the ladder which hung against the cliff, where the men who were stoning him were stationed.

The ladder was about sixty feet long and it was at the foot of it that Piimaiwaa stood protecting himself with his club. By this stand of Piimaiwaa his enemies continued to hurl stones upon him without his being hit at all, on account of his great bravery and fearlessness. After standing there for some time he turned and ran down the hill at great speed and barely escaped from the many stones thrown at him.

When he arrived in the presence of Umi he was asked: “What about your climb?” Piimaiwaa replied: “Well, I went up as far as the ladder and there I encountered the men of Ohiaokealakona.” By this reply of Piimaiwaa, several men substantiated the statement, for the people from below saw him enter the pass leading to the foot of the ladder, and again when he came back running with great speed. But the people below all thought, when Piimaiwaa entered the pass, that he would be killed, for the place was very narrow and hard to go through; but when they saw Piimaiwaa return running they shouted with joy, for they realized the difficulties of the way and admired his fearlessness, and also because he was the only man who ever accomplished the feat of going as far as he did, for at this place there was stationed, at this time, about eight thousand men. In the performance of this difficult feat the king and the men from Hawaii were greatly pleased.

That night when it became quite dark Piimaiwaa again climbed the hill to watch for the large man as was reported, without the least bit of fear, and with a determination to fight him to the end. When he reached the place where Omaokamau and Koi had stood he looked up and sure enough there was the large man, very tall, very large, and his club was the longest he had ever seen. When Piimaiwaa saw the man he began to study out a course of action for him to follow, and finally he decided to do this: that he would challenge the man to battle by the twirling of his war club, Wahie. This way of challenging was usually used, and the acceptance of the challenge was shown by the opponent by a return twirling of the war club. Piimaiwaa reasoned that in case the man should see him and strike at him he would be far enough away not to be touched by the club. Piimaiwaa then stepped up the ladder with firm feet, twirling his club all the while. After twirling his club on his right for some time he changed and twirled it on the left. After twirling the club on the left for some time, he looked at the man for some time studying what the man was going to do. Failing in seeing the man make any motion, he repeated the sign of the challenge, and still the man failed to make any motion.

the use of the


club, and that he was just holding it to strike at Piimaiwaa when he got near enough, and that the man was not taught to ward off the blow with the use of the club. When he saw this he said to himself: “If that is the case I shall kill you immediately.”

Piimaiwaa then advanced without fear until he reached the end of the man’s club. From this point he advanced further until he reached the middle of the club, then on until he reached the very man. Piimaiwaa then stood and prepared his club to poke at the man. He then tapped the man, a sign to give the man warning; when he did he heard a sound as of wood. He then approached the man and saw that it was only an image, and not a real man. This ended his excitement and fear. He then took the wooden image and threw it down, and rolled it over the cliff of Kapueokahi. Piimaiwaa then called to those below: “Say, you people there down below, here is the image that we have all this time taken for a real man. There is no fighting up here; the men are all asleep; the hill is captured.” 

When Omaokamau and Koi heard the voice of Piimaiwaa calling from the top of the hill, they came and followed him up. Before they arrived on the top of the hill, however, Piimaiwaa had already begun the slaughter of the people and chiefs, and they joined therein. The king of Maui was already dead, and this fact gave Umi the control of the hill of Kauiki. This ended the battle, and Umi became possessed of the island of Maui, which he turned over to Kihapiilani and returned with Piikea his wife, and all his men, to Hawaii.


"House of the Rising Sun" Haleakala Maui


~ by NorCalNews on January 7, 2011.

6 Responses to “Sacred Spots, Pi’ilanihale Heiau, Hana, Maui Hawaii”

  1. Ho Bra… nice artical…
    Malamapono ahuiho



  3. […] this page has more information, including an image of how it may have been used. It seems like it was a […]

  4. Wow, is all I can say. I visited the beautiful garden and was curious re the history. Thanks for this service

  5. We were there Oct 2015 and after getting home noticed an animal in 2 of our pictures but we don’t know what kind of animal it is — is there anywhere we could send the pic so someone could tell us

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