Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area
UPDATE: 9/10/20 - Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area is OPEN! Please help reduce the spread of Covid-19 by practicing social distancing and making responsible decisions. Stay safe and have fun! Aloha, State Parks
Daily 7:00am to 6:45pm
By Permit Only, Friday through Wednesday
Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area is a 384-acre park located approximately 12 miles from Waikiki. Keaïwa Heiau is located at the park entry. Continue along the paved park road to the campgrounds, picnic areas, and trailhead for the ‘Aiea Loop Trail.
Groves of Norfolk pines and eucalyptus trees create a forest recreation environment on the hills above the town of ‘Aiea and Pearl Harbor. A resident caretaker near the front gate should be contacted in the event of emergencies.
There are 10 campsites available for tent camping from Friday through Wednesday. Camping permits may be obtained from the State Parks office in Honolulu (587-0300). Camping fees start at $12 per campsite per night. Several picnic areas with tables are found along the paved roadway in the park. Some include covered pavilions with barbeque grills and restrooms nearby.
The ‘Aiea Loop Trail is 4.8-mile trail that begins and ends in the park. This trail runs along the ridge on the west side of Halawa Valley and offers views from Pearl Harbor (Pu’uloa) and the Wai’anae Range to Honolulu and Diamond Head (Le’ahi).
This hike is not strenuous but involves some gradual uphill climbs with a steep switchback and stream crossing at the end of the trail. The trail may be muddy with sections of exposed tree roots. Give yourself about 2.5 to 3 hours for the hike and enjoy the plants and the sound of birds around you.
Keaiwa Heiau is a medicinal or healing heiau (temple) known as a heiau ho’ola. At this site, the kahuna (priest, expert) specializing in healing would diagnose and treat various illnesses and injuries. The kahuna would also train haumana (students) in the practice of la’au lapa’au, medicinal healing using plants, fasting, and prayers. Many of the plants and herbs were collected from the neighboring forest while others were planted around the heiau.
Much of this area was replanted by foresters in the late 1920s. The lemon eucalyptus trees give the air a light citrus fragrance. Stands of Norfolk Island pine trees mark the lower end of the trail. Look for the native koa and ohi’a trees as you reach Pu’u Uau, the high point about midway along the length of the trail. You might also see remnants of a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944.
The name Keaiwa has been translated as mysterious or incomprehensible. Perhaps, this name refers to the fact that one could not explain the powers of the kahuna and the herbs used in healing.
It is unknown when this heiau was built but one source suggests that it was constructed in the 16th Century by Kakuhihewa, an ali’i (chief) of Oʻahu, and his kahuna Keaiwa. The 4-foot high stacked rock wall encloses the sacred area that measures 100 by 160 feet. Within the enclosure was a halau (large thatched structure) built for the master kahuna to store the medicinal implements and train the students. Other features might include hale (small thatched structure) and a puholoholo (steam bath).