Kua’ena o Ka Lae O Ka Manu Heiau (The Sacred Heart of the Pacific) is a Hawaiian religious site and tourist attraction on the eastern side of the island of Kauai, in the United States. The site contains an ancient heiau (sacred place), known as “the temple”, which was built by the original inhabitants of the island. It is believed to have been constructed around 1000 CE, making it one of the oldest structures in Hawaii.
Visitors can enter the structure for a fee, but are not charged admission to the park itself. There are no set hours of operation; however the facility is closed during the winter months due to dangerous conditions from wind and rain. Because of its age, there has been significant deterioration in parts of the structure; however, much of the building still stands tall and proud after hundreds of years of exposure to the elements. This sacred spot is where the founders of Kahiki resort got their start. They began construction of their hotel atop this ancient foundation in 1950, before later adding a second story in 1954.
In 1976, the property was purchased by Queen’s Hospitality Corporation who operated it as the Kua’ena o Ka Lae O Ka Manu Heiau (“Sacred Heart of the Pacific”) until 1997 when they transferred ownership to the state. Since that time, it has been managed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources through its parks division under the name ‘Kua’ena o Ka Lae O Ka Manu Heiau State Historic Park. A small trail leads up to what remains of the temple. On December 5, 2006, heavy rains caused severe damage to the historic landmark.
According to early reports, at least one stone pillar had fallen apart and large sections of the roof were destroyed. Although some areas of the temple grounds remained standing, much of the complex was extensively damaged. After several weeks, officials reported that only two pillars were left intact. By March 2007, volunteers led by local historian Edith Kanter had reconstructed most of the ruins using materials salvaged from the site. Some structural repairs were also completed. However, further restoration work was needed and demolition of the existing structures would take place first. Demolition of the main structure was scheduled to begin in October 2008 and be finished within nine months. Once complete, the site will be fenced off and accessible only by permit. No public access sign will be posted. Any historical artifacts found on-site will be cataloged and made available for research.
The following state parks are within 30 miles (48km) of Kua’ena o Ka Lae O Ka Manu Heiau State Historic Park:
- Keawaula Beach
- Makena beach
- Waimea Bay beach
- Poppasquash campground
- lhain campground
- Halawa campground
- Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
- Niihau Island Historical Preserve
- Na Pali coast State Park
- Mahaiula Bay State Park
Amenities include picnic tables and grills, parking areas with showers, restrooms, and a few cabins. The park is open seven days per week year round, with extended hours during the summer. The Na Pali Coast Mountain Bike Route is located inside the park. Access is via the Kamokila Highway (Route 50). The park includes the whole length of the highway all the way to the end of the road at Mile Marker 272. From there, it is 1 mile (1.6km) down hill to the park entrance. The park is very popular with tourists, especially European visitors. Tourists use the park as a base to explore the entire coastline of the island, hike to Mount Waialeale or simply enjoy the beauty of the park. The park provides many opportunities for birding enthusiasts, as well.
Numerous reef fish species abound in the warm waters along the shoreline. Fish eggs, larvae, and juvenile fish are common sights throughout the year. Eelgrass beds, anemone, sponges, crabs, octopuses, cuttlefish, seabirds, and other marine organisms are commonly sighted, as well. The park features a paved multi-use path leading to the remnants of the ancient temple. Construction of the path started in May 2009. The path is designed primarily for hikers/bikers although people of all ages and abilities may use it. At each stage along the route, signs point out plants and creatures. Native Hawaiians traditionally used this path to reach the summit of Mt.Waialeale (which appears over the curve of the earth from nearly every location on the island). The path begins at the Keawaula beach parking lot. It heads north past the old temple site, turns west at Holoholok, then south again at Kohelo. Next comes a short stretch east across the mouth of the Hanalei River, then back west toward the town of Kaa’ena.
Along the way, various cultural history facts are provided, including information about the kingdom of Kahiki, the supposed builders of the temple. The western portion of the path passes by the Na Pali Coast Mountain Bike Route. The mountain bike route is maintained by the non-profit organization Friends of Haleakal. The path ends near the Kamokila Highway (Rte.50) intersection. The Kamokila Highway (Rte.50) is designated as the Don J. Tyler International Scenic Byway. The park offers numerous trails of varying degrees of difficulty. For example, the ‘Ohe’okeo Trail is considered difficult, while the Makalawena Trail is considered easy. All trails pass by the remnants of the ancient temple.
The park has five marked trails. Two of these lead to the top of Mount Waialeale, the highest peak in the vicinity at 1,680 feet above sea level. The longest trail, the ‘Iao Trail’, is 7.5 miles long and goes all the way around the perimeter of the lake. The shortest trail, the ‘Makaala Trail’ is .75 miles long and loops around the upper rim of the caldera. The ‘Auli’ulepu Trail’ is 2.0 miles long and runs from the visitor center to the tip of Puu Kuili (the lava cliff). The ‘Hinahina Trail’ is 1.25 miles long and connects the ‘Auli’ulepu Trail’ and the ‘Puu Kuili Trail’. The ‘Puu Kuili Trail’ is 3.75 miles long and leads to the summit of Mount Waialeale. The park has three additional unmarked trails. These go beyond the boundaries of the park and into adjacent private land. One of these enters the Niihau Forest Reserve.
- scuba diving
- mountain biking
Among the larger animals areL
- humpback whales
- bottlenose dolphins
Bird life varies depending upon season, but wading birds may be seen any time of year such as:
- black skimmers
- double-crested cormorants alcids
Mammals observed at the park include:
- deer mice
- cottontail rabbits
- wild turkeys