A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Off the Grid
Volume 62 Number 4, July/August 2009
If you want to add some archaeology to your Hawaiian vacation, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Nancy McMahon says you should plan a visit to the site of Pi'ilanihale Heiau on Maui's eastern coast.
The site: Standing almost 50 feet high, Pi'ilanihale Heiau is a stepped lava rock platform the size of two football fields. Archaeologists believe the heiau, or temple, was constructed in four stages, beginning as early as the 12th century. The platform served as a ceremonial site for the Pi'ilani noble family, who ruled Maui until the 19th century. Restored in 1999, the temple is thought to be the biggest in the Polynesia.
Don't Miss: The heiau is on the grounds of the nearly 300-acre Kahanu Gardens, which are overseen by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Garden. The "Canoe Garden" next to the temple features crops, such as taro, sweet potato, and banana, that were introduced to Hawaii by Polynesians settlers. A mile-long trail snakes through the largest collection of breadfruit-tree varieties in the world.
Keep in Mind: Pi'ilanihale Heiau is a living cultural site used by native Hawaiians for ritual purposes. Access to the top of the temple is restricted, so you'll have to enjoy the site from below.Share