Puako Petroglyph Trail
Ki'i pohaku (images in stone) is the Hawaiian name for petroglyph, and the 233-acre Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District has the largest concentration of them in the Pacific. We did not view all 233 acres. Instead, the Puako Petroglyph Trail is a flat 1.5 mile hike.
According to the guidebooks, you can see over 3,000 petroglyphs on the trail. There's a bit of a learning curve to discern petroglyph from pockmark, but once you do, you'll see them everywhere. Look for circles of rocks that enclose single petroglyphs. Polarized sunglasses also help. And no matter how enticing a shortcut it may be, especially when it's hot, do not walk on the petroglyphs.
The trail is easily accessible from the Mauna Lani Resort or the Fairmont Orchid. It's best to go in the morning, or the afternoon because walking through lava fields at mid-day is mercilessly hot. Wear shoes because lava fields and keawe trees are spiky. I wore slippers and shouldn't have.
Pu'ukohola (whale hill in Hawaiian) was built by Kamehameha I around 1790. According to a prophecy, Kamehameha would conquer the entire Hawaiian islands if he built a heiau at Pu'ukohola. The National Parks brochure notes that Kamehameha formed a human chain 20 miles long to get the lava rocks to construct Pu'ukohola. They built the heiau literally stone-by-stone.
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer scale. 100 x 224 feet, with walls at least 10 feet tall. Each stone is at least the size of a small microwave and many times heavier. Hundreds of thousands were used. Moreover, all the walls and platforms were constructed without nails or mortar. In terms of architecture, it is one of the last examples of pure native Hawaiian architecture.
Pu'ukohola is a sacred site and is still used for ceremonies today. Stay on the path and don't take rocks as a souvenir. Their gift shop is well-stocked the the guides are very knowledgeable and friendly. Go this route.
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