Six Sacred Sites of Hawaii
Take a tour of the idyllic sites across the many islands where native Hawaiians have longstanding spiritual connections
- By Megan Gambino
- Smithsonian.com, November 16, 2011
(Photo Resource Hawaii / Alamy)
Centuries ago, at a prominent hill in Kaa, a traditional land division in the northern portion of the island of Lanai, native Hawaiians would offer prayers to Kane, a god associated with freshwater and life. In 1400, Kawelo, a priest of the region, began to notice that the health of his people and their animals was deteriorating. Kawelo traced their illnesses to a fire that Lanikaula, another priest, was burning across the Kalohi Channel on the island of Molokai. To ward off Lanikaula’s bad prayers, Kawelo made his own fire. He also went a step further. He fetched some of Lanikaula’s feces from Molokai and burned them in his fire in Lanai. According to Kepa Maly, the executive director of the Lanai Culture and Heritage Center, whose kapuna, or elders, taught him the story, the sorcerous act led to the death of Lanikaula and restored health to Lanai.
Today, Keahiakawelo, which literally translates to “fire made by Kawelo,” is a wind-swept, Mars-like landscape of red rock mounds and pinnacles about seven miles, or a 40-minute drive from small Lanai City. There are only 30 miles of paved road on the rugged island, so a four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to get there. From lookouts, visitors can take in awe-inspiring views of the barren, boulder-speckled terrain.
“When we tell people about going out there, we ask them to be respectful of place, not to remove stones or move things,” says Maly. “Sort of that old adage: Take only pictures and leave only footprints behind.”