Pu’u O Mahuka (“hill of escape”) heiau is the largest heiau (temple complex) on the island of O’ahu. It covers roughly two acres of land and sits on the northern hillside of the Waimea valley, overlooking Waimea Bay.
It was declared National Historic Landmark as early as 1962, due to its importance to Hawaiian culture and history.
During the pre-contact period, Waimea valley was heavily populated. Not only was the bay and the valley used for fishing, taro and sweet potato cultivation, it also offered good canoe landing sites in the bay and high visibility for signal fire even between different islands from the hilltops. At a strategic location, at the valley mouth, overlooking the bay, are two large heiau, the Pu’u O Mahuka on the northern hills, and the Kupopole on the southern ones.
Constructed in the early 17th century, Pu’u O Mahuka was remodelled several times to adapt to the needs of the changing high chiefs (ali’i nui). At first the upper (mauka) enclosure was built with a paved floor of basalt and coral boulders, then a paving of smaller stones (‘ili ‘ili) was laid over the boulders. The upper enclosure represented a typical luakini heiau, dedicated to the war god Kukailimoku, with an oracle tower, ki’i figures, a lele altar, drum tower, and hale buildings which housed sacred water and artefacts needed for ceremonies.
Later a second and third enclosure were added which provided for domestic activities and suggest a prolonged stay of the royal court in the heiau (cf. Kolb 1999 who excavated heiau on Maui and demonstrated diverse usage periods and reorganisation of the heiau investigated).
At around 1819 the heiau was abondend and the site used for agricultural purposes. The larger middle enclosure was probably used for cultivation. Smallish stone mounds around the outside of the heiau walls probably originated from clearance activities to make space for crops.
Up to the 1960s pineapple was grown around the heiau.
site coordinates: 21.641727,-158.058694
Kolb, M 1999. Monumental grandeur and political florescence in pre-contact Hawai’i: Excavatons at Pi’ilanihale Heiau, Maui, Arch. Oceania 34, 71-82.