Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site

Temple in Sunset Beach to Haleʻiwa

Image by Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen Shutterstock

A cinematic coastal panorama and a stroll around the grounds of Oʻahu's largest ancient temple reward those who venture up to this national historic landmark, perched on a bluff above Waimea Bay. It's a dramatically windswept and lonely site. Though the ruined walls leave a lot to be imagined, it's worth the drive for the commanding views, especially at sunset.

Puʻu o Mahuka means 'Hill of Escape' – but this was a luakini heiau (temple dedicated to war god Ku), where human sacrifices took place. Likely dating from the 17th century, the temple's stacked-stone construction is attributed to the legendary menehune (the 'little people' who, according to legend, built many of Hawaii's fishponds, heiau and other stonework), who are said to have completed their work in just one night.

To get here, turn mauka (inland) onto Pupukea Rd by the Foodland supermarket; the monument turnoff is about half a mile uphill, from where it's another roughshod half-mile to the heiau.