Ahuena Heiau is a sacred place of worship dating to ancient times and is located on the north end of Kailua Bay in Kailua-Kona.
The heiau (sacred place) of Ahuena was reconstructed by the renowned King Kamehameha I, and from 1812 until he passed away in 1819 the Hawaiian warrior and ruler lived nearby at his residence called Kamakahonu (“The turtle eye”). Kamehameha frequently met with his council of advisers at Ahuena Heiau for ritual prayers.
After King Kamehameha died his son Liholiho, who had been instructed in the ways of government at Ahuena Heiau, assumed the throne as King Kamehameha II. With the urging of his mother, Queen Keopuolani and the power Queen Kaahumanu, King Kamehameha II ate food in public with the dowager queens breaking the prohibition (kapu) against women and men eating together.
This was defiant act against the Hawaiians’ traditional beliefs and when there was no retribution from the gods, eating together was no longer prohibited among the Hawaiian people. This began the overturning of the traditional kapu system and Hawaiian religious beliefs.
Today Ahuena Heiau features a thatched structure that represents how the sacred site may have appeared in ancient times. Standing watch over the site are carved statues of sacred images known as ki’i. Ahuena was dedicated to Lono, the Hawaiian god of agriculture, peace and prosperity, and nearby were fishponds and gardens.
Ahuena Heiau is located at 75-5660 Palani Road behind the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. The hotel lobby features cultural exhibits including portraits, musical instruments and artifacts from Hawaii’s past.