Big Island Ancient Sites

Several of the hikes on this website allow you to visit ancient sites that are sacred to the Hawaiian people. There are several kinds of ancient sites on the Big Island: Heiau (temples), Pōhaku (sacred stones), Ki'i Pōhaku (rock art, or petroglyphs), Caves (lava tubes), and Fishponds (man-made brackish fish storage facilities).

If you'd like to learn more about Hawaiian Ancient Sites on the Big Island, I highly recommend Van James' Ancient Sites of Hawai'i: Archaeological Places of Interest on the Big Island. You can purchase this excellent resource by clicking the link below to 

Heiau (temples)

Ancient hawaiian temples are typically found with only partial rock walls left unless they have been rebuilt for historical preservation and education. Scattered all over the island, you can find heiau from over 12,000 feet on Mauna Kea to sea level.


Pōhaku (sacred stones)

Ancient Hawaiians accorded great spiritual significance to distinctive rocks of all sizes.


Ki'i Pōhaku (petroglyphs)

Rock art is located all over the Big Island. Hawaiians carved petroglyphs (from the Greek petro meaning stone and glyph meaning writing) from the ancient times until after western contact in the 1800s. Petroglyphs are usually carved into smoother pāhoehoe lava. Rock art is best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun in lower on the horizon. Never touch or try to reproduce rock art in any way except for photography.


Caves (lava tubes)

These caves were used by the ancient Hawaiians for many purposes, from dwellings to burial grounds. If you encounter artifacts of any kind in a lava tube, do not touch them. None of the lava tubes featured on this website take you to artifacts or remains, but you might encounter them off the beaten path in parts of the Big Island.



These architectural feats usually combined freshwater and saltwater storage for all kinds of freshwater and seawater fish species. Since fish were a staple of the ancient Hawaiians, these fishponds had great significance to them.