Puukohola is the largest heiau (sacred place of worship) in Hawaii measuring 224 feet (68 m) long and 100 feet (30 m) high. Now part of the Puukohola National Historic Site, the heiau is a luakini which is a place where human sacrifices were performed.
Puukohola Heiau is located on a bluff overlooking the sea in Kawaihae and was built using lava rocks that are said to have been passed hand-to-hand in a human chain all the way from Pololu Valley twenty-five miles away. The stones were laid without mortar.
Puukohola Heiau was built by the rising warrior who would later become King Kamehameha. He built the heiau upon the advice of a prophet who said the completion of the structure was necessary for Kamehameha to honor his war god Kukailimoku if he was to be victorious in uniting all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule.
Upon the completion of the Puukohola, Kamehameha invited his rival chief Keouakuahuula saying his presence was important if there was to be peace between the rivals. Keouakuahuula was killed when he arrived at Kawaihae and his body was sacrificed on the altar atop the hill at Puukohola and Kamehameha went on to rule all of the Islands.
Nearby to Puukohola Heiau is another heiau known as Mailekini which is thought to have been built in the 1500s. Yet another heiau, Hale o Kapuni, is submerged just offshore and is dedicated to the shark gods.
Puukohola Heiau is located about 30 miles (48 km) north of Kailua-Kona and 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Kawaihae on the Akoni Pule Hwy. (Hwy. 270). A visitor center at the site provides information about the three heiau.