Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site
Picture of Waikiki

Covid-19 Protocols: Please wear a mask when indoors and in groups, maintain social distancing, and be respectful of others. Aloha, Hawaii State Parks

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PARK UPDATES: 10/22/21 - [OAHU] - Diamond Head State Monument will be CLOSED for demolition of a structure at the summit on the following days: October 28-29, November 1-5 and a partial closure of the summit will take place November 6-19, 2021.

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10/12/21 - [KAUAI] - Sections of the Waimea Canyon Lookout are currently CLOSED while repairs are done to the middle viewing deck. This project does not affect other lookouts in Waimea Canyon State Park and Kokee State Park.

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10/1/21 - [OAHU] - The gates at the Keawaula Section of Kaena Point State Park will remain CLOSED until further notice due to lack of staffing and available contracted services.

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4/19/21 - [ALL ISLANDS] - Entrance AND parking fees are now required for non-residents at several parks across the islands including: [KAUAI] Haena, Kokee, Waimea Canyon, [OAHU] Diamond Head, Nuuanu Pali, [MAUI] Iao Valley, Makena, Waianapanapa, and [HAWAII] Akaka Falls, Hapuna Beach.  Non-resident visitors will be required to pay for both entry and parking.

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3/29/21 - [KAUAI] - The Kalalau Trail reservation system is open again. Reservations are available 30-days in-advance. Park Entry and Parking reservations for morning and midday are available. Sunset-time reservations are currently not available.

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3/1/21 - [MAUI] - Waianapanapa State Park - Entry and Parking Reservations are now required for all non-residents. For reservations go to www.gowaianapanapa.com

Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site

UPDATE: 6/10/21 - 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.