Located near Napoopoo Beach Park at the end of Napoopoo Rd. near Kealakekua Bay, Hikiau Heiau was a luakini, or temple of human sacrifices in ancient times. The heiau is dedicated to the Hawaiian god Lono and is also the place where British explorer Captain Cook was taken when he first visited the Big Island in 1779.
When Captain Cook first sailed into Kealakekua Bay it was during the time of the Makahiki harvest ceremonies when Hawaiians honored their gods with festivals, competitions and celebrations. Cook was brought to Hikiau Heiau which included a huge stone platform measuring about 250 feet (76 m) long by 100 feet (30 m) wide with a height of more than 16 feet (4.9 m).
At the heiau Cook was adorned with sacred kapa barkcloth as chants were offered. Some historians say that Cook was being honored as Lono, one of the four major Hawaiian gods. Others disagree saying the ceremonies for Cook were those used to honor visiting chiefs and royalty.
Numerous other important archaeological sites are also located in this area including secret burial caves in the sheer cliffs of Pali Kapu O Keoua overlooking the Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument along the shoreline where Cook died in an encounter with natives.
Hikiau means “Moving current” and is said to refer to the strong currents offshore here where the sport of surfing took place. The heiau site is now designated as a State Monument and is part of the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park.