'Ili'ili'opae Heiau is Moloka'i's biggest and best-known heiau, and is thought to be the second largest in Hawaii. It also might possibly be the oldest religious site in the state. The dimensions are astonishing: over 300ft long and 100ft wide, and about 22ft high on the eastern side, and 11ft high at the other end. The main platform is strikingly level. Historians believe the original heiau may have been three times its current size, reaching out beyond Mapulehu Stream.
Like the fishponds along this part of the island's coast, this heiau represents an extraordinary amount of labor by people with no real tools at their disposal.
Once a luakini (temple of human sacrifice), ʻIliʻiliʻopae is today silent except for the singing of birds. African tulip and mango trees line the trail to the site, a peaceful place filled with mana (spiritual essence), whose stones still seem to emanate vibrations of a mystical past. Remember: it's disrespectful to walk across the top of the heiau.
Visiting this heiau is a little tricky, since it's on private property. Call the owner, the delightful Pearl Hodgins (808-336-0378), for permission. Park on the highway (to avoid upsetting the neighbors) or, better yet, up the road near Manaʻe Goods & Grindz and walk back west (about half a mile).
The trail is on the mauka (inland) side of the highway, just over half a mile past mile marker 15, immediately after Mapulehu Bridge. Look for the gated dirt track into the trees and a fire hydrant.
Walk up this dirt track, pass the roundabout around a patch of trees and continue up the rocky road. Soon after, you'll see a trail on the left-hand side, opposite a house, that will take you across a streambed. Head to the steps on the northern side of the heiau.