Magical Ancient Sites in Hawaii that Will Leave You Mystified

As the year draws to an end, Hawaiian Islands beckon with their breathtaking sunsets, colorful rainbows, and powerful surfs. Your Hawaiian trip could be a symbol of new beginnings as you usher in the coming year. 


For fairytale travelers, the islands are ripped straight from a storybook.  It’s a land of the gods, ghosts, and legends. Here are a few ancient sites in Hawaii you could tour for an otherworldly and unforgettable experience. 


Tiki in Hawaii


You’ll be Fascinated When You Visit These Ancient Sites in Hawaii 


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


The Hawaii Volcanoes national park hosts some of the world’s most active volcanoes. At this site, awe-inspiring nature abounds.  The two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, have left behind evidence of the cycle of creation and destruction. For Kilauea, lava eruption is a daily occurrence, a sight you wouldn’t want to miss.  


This land, with its diverse ecosystem, is fabled to be the habitat of Pele, the Hawaiian Fire goddess. That could be the reason why the Kilauea produces 650,000 cubic yards of lava every day.  According to Hawaiian lore, Pele resides on the Halema’uma’u Crater, from where she unleashes fire, lava, and heat with her power. 


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Ancient sites in hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


Another creepy tale of the park is that you might be cursed if you take a rock from the palace. And the only way to break the hex is by returning it. Better keep those rocks out of your pocket!


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Quick Facts


  • The park extends 333,308 acres from the sea to the summit of Maunaloa 


  • This park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987


  • Close to 59 endangered species live in this park including the Hawaiian goose and the hoary Hawaiian bat


  • There are more than 1000 plants species within the park’s borders


Hikaru Heiau


This ancient Hawaiian temple is located at Napo’opo’o Beach. Its name translates to “human sacrifice.” The Heiau is said to have been built by King Kalani’opu’u. Captain James Cook visited this site in 1778–1779. Upon seeing his vessel from a distance, the natives thought that he was the god of agriculture and prosperity returning to their land. 


The Makahiki festivities were underway at that time, typical with games, feasting, and offerings. Did they offer sacrifices to Cook? No, but he was treated as a divine guest nonetheless. The captain later performed a Christian ceremony at this site, a funeral service for a crew member of his ship. 


Kealakekua Bay, Ancient sites in Hawaii

Kealakekua Bay Photo Source


What happened to Cook afterward is that he got killed by the Hawaiians later on. Shortly after he had left the island, he was forced to return due to a broken ship mast. But does a god return to land just because of a broken ship mast?


The natives grew suspicious and realized that he was only mortal. An altercation between Cook and their chief, later on, led to his death. 


Nearby is also the Nap’opo’o beach. Its waters are calm and clear, perfect for snorkeling. Underneath the waters thrives marine life, including green sea turtles.  This beach is also an ideal spot for barbecues and picnics.


Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site


The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site is a compelling site, especially if you are up for some walking exercise. Within the park, you will discover several historic places that together make the site a time travel portal to the past. These include the Hale o Kapuni, which is a submerged temple for the shark gods, and the Mailekini Heiau, a 1500 temple turned fort for King Kamehameha.   


The stone Puukohola Heiau itself stands in glory, visible from as far as the resorts in the Kohala Coast. Legend has it that the site was built to fulfill an ancient prophecy. A priest directed King Kamehameha to build this temple and dedicate it to the war god Kukailimoku to be able to unite the islands.


Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Ancient sites in hawaii

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site Photo Source


The prophecy came true. After the construction of the temple between 1790 and 1791, the  King was finally able to join the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. For you the traveler, this site is a chance to write your own enticing vacation story: 


  • This site overlooks a whale spot man the sea  creature come out in massive numbers during winter


  • You can take a living history tour of the place


  • This site also hosts the annual Hawaiian cultural festival


Kaneana Cave


Oahu is the touristy of all the Hawaiian Islands, but most visitors head straight to Honolulu, the capital.  If you are into cave explorations, consider heading off to the Kaneana Cave on the Leeward Coast.


This cave is older than most of your ancestors, as it is estimated to be more than 150,000 years old. Hawaiian legends even hypothesize that this is the spot where mankind was born from the womb of the earth goddess.  


The name of the cave stems from the anonym Kane, which means the god of creation. This cave is dark, wet, and slippery. There are strange humming sounds too that will make your hair stand up straight. The source of these sounds is the Barking Sands, experts believe. Better bring a flashlight and wear boots as well.


Kaneana Cave, ancient sites in Hawaii

Kaneana Cave Photo Source


Nearby Kaneana cave is the fabulous Makua Beach, an ideal spot for relaxation after your explorations. It is a secluded beach, and being less populous makes it pristine and quiet. 


You can spend your afternoon cozied up in the white sands, watching the rolling waves. It’s also a good thing that there are many trees around to provide shade when the sun gets too hot. 




If you’re looking for ancient sites in Hawaii that come with fantastic folklore then you’ll want to check out the Fires of Kawelo. This ancient site is located on the island of Lanai and features lunar topography populated with rock towers and boulders. Lore has it that at this site, two priests once held a contest symbolic of the battle between good and evil.  


A priest named Kawelo had noticed his livestock and people getting sick. He investigated the cause and came up to a sorcerous fire started by a priest from the neighboring island. According to the story, Kawelo sought his rival’s excrement with which he started a fire that killed the villainous priest and his people survived.  


Keahiakawelo, ancient sites in Hawaii

Keahiakawelo Photo Source


Keahiakawelo is one of those idyllic places for watching the Hawaiian sunset.  The rock formation, towers, and spires look enchanting at dusk.


The orange sun casts a warm glow on the rocks, bringing out their reds and purples in a mystic-like vista. On top of this high elevation, you will get mind-blowing panoramic views of the islands of Molokai and Oahu. 


Things to Remember About Visiting Keahiakawelo


  • This area is only accessible by a four-wheel drive


  • Keahiakawelo is exceptionally windy so hold onto your hat 


  • Get to a high point to enjoy the sweeping panoramas of Molokai and Oahu as well


  • Don’t move or stack any stones.


Kohala Coast 


If you’re looking for ancient sites in Hawaii that offer diverse terrain then you’ll love the Kohala Coast. It has everything from great desserts to bleached sandy beaches, fuzzy green hills, and thick jungles.


The wind is strong, and the sun shines supreme. If you have only one weekend to explore Hawaii, why not enjoy a spectacular view from above, Big Island Helicopter Tours offers Kohala waterfalls tours that are sure to take your breath away. That way, you get to sample the beauty that the Kohala Coast has to offer from beaches to sacred temples, ancient valleys, and waterfalls.


The Puako Petroglyphs: This place is on the coast near Holoholokai Beach Park.  Here there are more than 3,000 ancient Hawaiian rock carvings that will excite the historian in you. These carvings include deity symbols, humans, and animals.



Hapuna Beach: This beach is a picturesque site comprising of a mile-long stretch of white powder sand and clear waters.  The waves are calm enough for swimming, diving, and snorkeling during the summer. You can even surf here in the winter.


Kohala waterfalls: This is a rainforest adventure that involves following the Kohala Ditch Trail through many private waterfalls. You can dive in for a cooling dip if you happen to be here in the afternoon. You can also take a guided trip deeper into the rainforest to feel close to nature and appreciate the spirit of aloha. 


Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park  


Of all the ancient sites in Hawaii, this is surely one of the more famous. This coastal park details the history of the ancient Hawaiian settlers who survived on the Kona coast.


You can hike to the top of the four mountains for a sweeping view of the park and the sea or explore the sacred temples and petroglyphs around. This park also flourishes with native birds while its waters swarm with green turtles and the Hawaiian monk seals.


Hawaii Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park  

Kaloko Honokohau National Historical Park Photo Source


It is believed that one of the caves in this park is the burial place of King Kamehameha and Maui’s King Kahekili. In ancient Hawaii, the burial rites for the kings and chiefs were always secret and sacred. 


Their burial sites were hidden by those entrusted with the task of sending them off to the afterlife. To this day, no one in Hawaii knows where the bones of Kamehameha were buried. 


Why Were Kings Buried in Secret?


  • To ensure that the kings’  bones remained sacrosanct 


  • For a successful transition of  their spirits into the world of the gods


  • To guard their chiefly mana (souls) against inadvertently absorbing into strangers who would then be forced to become leaders 


The ancient sites of Hawaii are just small highlights in a land of stories, myths, and legends that fire up the adventurous spirits in many travelers. For Hawaiians, their everyday life was tethered to nature and over 4,000 gods. It’s no wonder vacationers often find it hard to resist the allure of these islands. 

About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. She started traveling the world in 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

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