Keaïwa Heiau State Recreation Area is a 384-acre
park located approximately 12 miles from Waikïkï.
Follow H-1 to Moanalua Highway (Hwy. 78). Take
the ‘Aiea cutoff to the third traffic light, make a right
turn at ‘Aiea Heights Drive and follow it about 3 miles
up to the end of the road. Keaïwa Heiau is located at
the park entry. Continue along the paved park road
to the campgrounds, picnic areas, and trailhead for
the ‘Aiea Loop Trail.
The groves of Norfolk pines and eucalyptus trees
create a forest recreation environment on the hills
above the town of ‘Aiea and Pearl Harbor. A resident
caretaker near the front gate should be contacted in
the event of emergencies.
CAMPING & PICNICKING
There are 4 campsites available for tent camping
from Friday through Wednesday. Camping is by
permit only. Camping permits may be obtained
from the State Parks office in Honolulu (587-0300) or
online at www.hawaiistateparks.org. There is a fee
per campsite per night. Please check the State Parks
website for rates and availability.
Several picnic areas with tables are found along
the paved roadway in the park. Some include pavilions
with barbeque grills and restrooms nearby.
Keaïwa Heiau is a medicinal or healing heiau
known as a heiau ho‘ola. At this site, the kahuna (priest,
expert) specializing in healing would diagnose and
treat various illnesses and injuries. The kahuna would
also train haumana (students) in the practice of la‘au
lapa‘au, medicinal healing using plants, fasting, and
prayers. Many of the plants and herbs were collected
from the neighboring forest while others were planted
around the heiau.
The name Keaïwa has been translated as
mysterious or incomprehensible. Perhaps, this name
refers to the fact that one could not explain the powers
of the kahuna and the herbs used in healing.
It is unknown when this heiau was built but one
source suggests that it was constructed in the 16th
Century by Kakuhihewa, an ali‘i (chief) of O‘ahu,
and his kahuna Keaïwa. The 4-foot high stacked rock
wall encloses the sacred area that measures 100 by 160
feet. Within the enclosure was a hälau (large thatched
structure) built for the master kahuna to store the
medicinal implements and train the students. Other
features might include hale (small thatched structure)
and a puholoholo (steam bath).
STATE RECREATION AREA
The ‘Aiea Loop Trail is 4.8-mile trail that begins
and ends in the park. This trail runs along the ridge
on the west side of Hälawa Valley and offers views
from Pearl Harbor (Pu‘uloa) and the Wai‘anae Range
to Honolulu and Diamond Head (Lë‘ahi).
Much of this area was replanted by foresters in
the late 1920s. The lemon eucalyptus trees give the
air a light lemony fragrance. Stands of Norfolk Island
pine trees mark the lower end of the trail. Look for
the native koa and ‘öhi‘a trees as you reach Pu‘u Uau,
the high point about midway along the length of the
trail. You might also see remnants of a B-24 bomber
that crashed in 1944.
This hike is not strenuous but involves some
gradual uphill climbs with a steep switchback and
stream crossing at the end of the trail. The trail may
be muddy with sections of exposed tree roots. Give
yourself about 2.5 to 3 hours for the hike and enjoy
the plants and the sound of birds around you. Bring
water and wear good walking shoes. Be prepared for
light passing rain showers. Stay on the designated
trail and avoid side trails and short-cuts.
The kahuna and haumana lived and worked under
strict kapu (restrictions). Women were not allowed
in the heiau but could receive training outside the
An apprentice learned the art of diagnosis by
practicing on pebbles which a kahuna laid out on a mat
in the form of the human body. Pupils learned in this
way how to feel out with their fingers the symptoms
of the various illnesses. It might take 15 years for a
student to become fully trained in the art of healing.
The heiau was badly damaged during World
War II when soldiers camping nearby took many
stones from the heiau to build a road. The heiau was
“rededicated” in 1951 and an effort was made to
re-establish the historical setting with plantings of
As you visit the heiau, please show respect and
do not move, remove or wrap the rocks. We ask that
you not leave coins, incense, candles or other such
items as they are not traditional offerings and may
cause long-term damage to the site.
April 1 to Labor Day:
7:00am to 7:45pm
After Labor Day to March 31:
7:00am to 6:45pm
For further information or permits contact:
Department of Land & Natural Resources
Division of State Parks
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 310
Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813
Phone: (808) 587-0300
(Drawing by Joseph Feher, in Ka Po‘e Kahiko
by S.M. Kamakau)
Visit our website at: