Ahu'ena Heiau

Malama I Ko Kakou Ho¹olina
Preserving Our Past


Ahu'ena Heiau is situated in the lands traditionally known as Kamakahonu (eye of the turtle) in the ahupua'a of Lanihau at Kailua, Kona on the island of Hawaii.

Kamakahonu has been called one of the most historical sites in all of Hawaii.

It was here that Kamehameha the great spent his last years and here where he died. It was here that a feast was held to mark the overthrow of the kapu system and Hawaii was changed forever. The first missionaries to Hawaii
arrived here in 1820 and sought the favor of Kamehameha II (Liholiho) to land here and begin their mission. It was here that John Adams Kuakini resided as the governor of the island. It was here that the young prince Leleihoku II enjoyed the calm of Kona before his death and it was here that his brother King Kalakaua maintained a residence and made a boathouse of an historic building there.

The Ahu'ena Heiau site dates before 1812 when King Kamehameha the Great took up residence at Kamakahonu. Kamehameha restored the site and maintained it as Ahu'ena until his death in 1819.

John Papa I'i, a member of Kamehameha's court described Ahu'ena as it was used during these years:

"After these houses were built, another heiau house, called Ahu'ena was restored (ho'ala hou). This house stood on the east side of the hale nana mahina'ai, separated from it by a chain's distance (66 feet). The foundation of the Ahu'ena was a little more than a chain from the sandy beach to the westward and from the rocky shore to the eastward. Right in front of it was a well-made pavement of stone which extended its entire length and as far as the place where the waves broke. Beyond Ahu'ena the surf turned right and broke on the pahoehoe as far as Kaliliki.

The east side of Ahu'ena was in line with the row of pahoehoe mounds at the mauka side of Kamakahonu. A trail began there at the mound of pahoehoe a the east corner of the men's house and ran along close to the beach from the southeastern extremity of Kamakahonu for a chain or more, then turned right and went on to the southwest of the mound of pahoehoe in the center. ON the eastern front of Ahu'ena, and close to it, was a canoe entrance, where canoes would come up to the shore right in front of the hale nana mahina'ai. There was also a landing place by the mound of pahoehoe in the center and another by the line of pahoehoe mounds on the mauka side of Kamakahonu. This landing place was between the pahoehoe mound in the center of Kamakahonu and the front of the three houses thatched with dried ti leaves.

Ahu'ena house, which was a heiau, was enclosed with a fence of lama wood and within this fence, toward the front on the west and facing inland, there was an anu'u tower. A row of images stood along its front, as befitted a Hale o Lono. Images stood at the northwest corner of the house, with a stone pavement in front of them that extended as far as the western gate and as far as the fence east of the house. On the west side of the outer entrance was a large image named Koleamoku, on whose helmet perched the figure of a plover.

In the center of the house was a fireplace for cooking bananas. Opposite the door at the back wall of the house, in line with the fireplace and the entrance, was a Kane image. This image was of the nature of an ololupe god, a god who led spirits; and that part of the house was his place. All the bananas cooked there were laid before his kuahu altar, where those who took part in the ceremonies prayed...

A secret council met there to discuss matters pertaining to the government and to loyalty and rebellion. This was a continuation of the practice on Oahu.

Whenever there was a meeting in the Ahu'ena house in the evening, the king instructed his heir carefully as to how to do things, describing the lives of former rulers... Thus Liholiho learned the results of abuse and disregard of the welfare of chiefs and commoners and about farming and things of like nature..."

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