Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site
Picture of Waikiki

**IMPORTANT PARK NOTICES**

Monitor local surf and weather reports prior to your park visit.

[MAUI] UPDATED 7/12/24 – Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area: Access to the park and cabin is CLOSED until further notice due to the recent Kula wildfire.

[KAUAʻI] UPDATED 7/1/24 – Polihale State Park: Queen's Pond access Road is CLOSED June 17-21 (M-F) for rock placement.  Pedestrian traffic should be aware of heavy equipment traversing through the area.  The park remains open - visitors should access via Cane Top access road and points beyond.

[HAWAI’I] UPDATED 7/1/24 –'Akaka Falls State Park is closed this week for additional repair work. Expected to reopen this weekend 7/6/24.

[KAUAʻI] UPDATED 6/18/24 –Kalalau Trail, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park: Camping permits held back for local residents during summer, see Kalalau Trail site for more information.

[KAUAʻI] UPDATED 6/18/24 – Kōkeʻe State Park: The gate to Puʻu O Kila Lookout will be closed to vehicular traffic due to road repairs beginning 3/19/24. The lookout will still be accessible by pedestrians, parking is available at Kalalau lookout.

[HAWAI'I] UPDATED 6/18/24 -  West Hawaii State Parks to close early on the 4th of July at 5 PM. Parks effected are: Kekaha Kai SP—Mahai’ula section and Manini’owali (Kua Bay) section, Kiholo SPR, Hapuna Beach SRA and Waialea section

Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site

UPDATE: 5/10/23 - Please park in the adjacent YMCA parking lot and walk to the heiau. Park hours are established to correspond with the YMCA hours.

Hours

Mon-Fri = 7:00am to 7:00pm
Sat = 8:00am to 3:00pm
Sun = Closed

Entrance Fee None
Park Brochure

History

It’s 1750. Kailua is the political seat of power for the district of Ko’olaupoko and a favored place of the Oʻahu chiefs for its abundance of fish and good canoe landings. The houses of the ali’i (chiefs), their families, and their attendants surround Kailua Bay. Behind the sand beach is the large, fertile expanse of Kawai Nui which has been converted to a fishpond surrounded by an agricultural fieldsystem. Kawai Nui is a large, 400 acre fishpond with an abundance of mullet, awa, and o’opu. Ka’elepulu and Nu’upia fishponds are nearby. The maka’ainana (commoners) provide support for this chiefly residence. Farmers grow kalo (taro) in the irrigated lo’i (fields) along the streams from Maunawili and along the edges of the fishponds. Crops of dryland kalo, banana, sweet potato, and sugarcane mark the fringes of the marsh. The fishermen harvest fish from the fishponds and the sea. The kahuna (priests) oversee the religious ceremonies and rites at several heiau around Kawai Nui. There is Ulupō Heiau on the east with Pahukini Heiau and Holomakani Heiau on the west side.

Hauwahine, the mo’o or guardian spirit, protects the people of Kawai Nui and assures an abundance of fish. The legendary association of Ulupō Heiau with the menehune suggests the antiquity of this site. The massiveness and quantity of rock carried many miles hint at its cultural importance. Tradition records Kualoa, more than 10 miles away, as one source of these stones.

It is likely that the function of this heiau changed over time. It probably began as a mapele or agricultural heiau with ceremonies and rites conducted to insure the fertility of the crops grown in Kawai Nui. In later times, it may have become a heiau luakini dedicated to success in war with structures erected atop this massive stone platform, including an altar, an oracle tower or anu’u, thatched hale, and notches in the terraces to hold the ki’i or wooden images. The spring off the corner of the heiau was another important feature related to the ceremonial traditions of the site.

Ulupō Heiau measures 140 by 180 feet with walls up to 30 feet in height. The construction of this massive terraced platform required a large work force under the direction of a powerful ali’i. Several Oʻahu chiefs lived at Kailua and probably participated in ceremonies at Ulupō Heiau, including Kakuhihewa in the 1400s and Kuali’i in the late 1600s. Kuali’i fought many battles and he may have rededicated Ulupō Heiau as a heiau luakini. Maui chief Kahekili came to Oʻahu in the 1780s and lived in Kailua after defeating Oʻahu high chief Kahahana for control of the island. Kamehameha I worked at Kawai Nui fishpond and is said to have eaten the edible mud (lepo ai ia) of Kawai Nui when there was a shortage of kalo. But by 1795 when Kamehameha I conquered Oʻahu, it is believed that Ulupō Heiau was already abandoned.

Ulupō Heiau was transferred from the Territorial Board of Agriculture and Forestry to Territorial Parks in 1954. In the early 1960s, through a joint effort of State Parks and Kaneohe Ranch, the stone walkway was placed atop the heiau and the stone paving was laid around the springs. The bronze plaque was installed in 1962 by the Commission on Historical Sites. Ulupō Heiau is listed on the National and Hawaii Registers of Historic Places. At Ulupō Heiau, State Parks seeks to promote preservation of the heiau and heighten public awareness about the cultural history of Kawai Nui.