Tsunami and 19th-century road building have demolished parts of the original stone platform, but, in 1779, Hikiau Heiau stood prominently at the head of Kealakekua Bay. As ruling chief Kalaniopuu’s luakini, or state heiau, it was a significant site. It was on these very stones that the priests of Lono brought Capt. James Cook for religious ceremonies after his arrival. A monument commemorating the first Christian burial in Hawaii stands in front of the heiau today.
According to noted Hawaiian scholar John Stokes, Hikiau Heiau was part of a much larger religious complex that included a sacred enclosure surrounded by stone walls, a sacred pool located inland from the beach, a house for kahuna and tiny Helehelekalani Heiau. When Stokes visited the site in 1906, modern structures, such as a prison and a bullock pen had encroached on the property.
Although it seems impossible to imagine today, Napoopoo used to be a favorite cattle shipping beach frequently used by local ranchers from 1880 until 1928. Plus, as a spot for swimming, Napoopoo was perfect until 20th-century storms transformed the sandy beach into the rock-strewn bank that is seen today.
Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.