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Where To Find The Best Indigenous Landmarks in Oahu

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Hawaii’s history is often sugarcoated or even wholly erased when discussed, which is unfortunate. The islands have an immense account of their religion, culture, monarchy, and civilization. If you find yourself in Oahu anytime soon, check out these spots to learn more about Hawaii’s people. We’re not talking about Joe, who moved to Oahu in the 50s. We mean real Kānaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) who have direct ties to the islands before colonization. It’s okay if you’ve never heard of these places before, but use this list to explore Hawaii’s rich and beautiful history. We think it’ll make for a better vacation next time you’re in town!

Indigenous Landmark in Hawaii, birthing stones

Heʻeia Fishpond

Constructed in He’eia Uli, Ko’olaupoko, sometime between 1200 and 1400, the He’eia Fishpond was made more than 820 years ago by indigenous Hawaiians as a way to modernize fishing. There are rumors that King Kamehameha I helped with the pond maintenance, which has been in service since its creation. Today visitors can volunteer or take 1-hour guided pond tours to learn more about its history. Ancient Hawaiians practiced sustainability as part of their daily lives. By learning about these landmarks, we can hope to copy their actions. 

Heʻeia Fishpond with hut over the water

Waimea Valley

The Waimea Valley is a historical part of Oahu’s past. It was said to be first inhabited before the 1700s, but much of its history is unknown. Native Hawaiians used the valley for farming communities, building temples and as an ‘ili kūpono, a place resided by high priests. Today visitors can explore the historical living site and take a free botanical tour that takes you around the valley to learn bout native plants and flowers. There’s even an area where you can learn how to play historical games that test your skill and level of strategy.   

Waimea Valley road going into the woods

Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site

The Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site is a place of beauty and stories. Legend has it that Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, leaped over this part of Oahu to Molokaʻi, making this sacred area the “hill of escape.” Built during the 16th and 17th centuries, it was used as a sacrificial temple called a luakini heiau. Today it’s a great place to explore what’s left of the walls of the temples built there, as well as the mountain range. 

Pu'u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site with rocks forming a rectangle

Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau

Kūka‘ō‘ō Heiau is an interesting site nested between beautiful mountains. The site used to be an ancient temple devoted to Menehune, which were mythical dwarves that lived deep in the forest away from humans. Over the years, different groups have tried to restore the site. Still, the agriculture fields that once supplied entire communities have reduced to just four walls. Visiting the site helps preserve this areas history as one of Oahu’s most important agrigultural areas.

Heiau (a place of worship), rocks stacked up in a square pattern

Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout

“Pali” means cliff in Hawaiian, and this is where the battle of Nuʻuanu happened in 1795. This victory gave King Kamehameha I the ability to unite all of Oahu. It’s also been said that scores of soldiers during that time fell to their deaths on the cliff. If you make it here, you’ll get incredible views of the other Koʻolau cliffs and the Windward Coast.

Nu‘uanu Pali Lookout, tourists taking pictures of the mountains in the distance

Kukaniloko Birth Stones State Monument 

These Hawaiian stones are over 900 years old! When they were still being used, 35 chiefs from different areas would come to these stones, usually surrounded by ceremonial drums, to witness the birth of a new leader. Once born, the baby would be taken to a temple to read its genealogy. What’s fascinating about this site is that we know what happened there, unlike other historical mysteries like Stonehenge. It’s probably one of Hawaii’s most important indigenous landmarks.

Ancient historical Kukaniloko Birthstones where royal women gave birth to Hawaiian chiefs.

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