The Helmeted Warrior Petroglyph

Kohala Coast

Round Trip Mileage: less than a half mile

Elevation Gain: negilgible

Gear: nothing

Weather: NOAA forecast for Kalāhuipua'a

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Overview: Located on the grounds of the Mauna Lani megaresort, Kalāhuipua'a is a fascinating area with petroglyphs, lava tube dwellings, and extensive fishponds from ancient times. This isn't much of a hike -- it's a short walk along paved trails through the Mauna Lani resort near a golf course at times. Kalāhuipua'a means literally 'family of pigs,' but this likely was a saying for 'abundance of food' because the fishponds in the area were stocked with lots of mullet, which were sometimes called 'sea pigs' in ancient times. Kalāhuipua'a fishpond, the largest in the area, is over four acres large and reaches depths of nearly twenty feet. In ancient times, Kalāhuipua'a fishpond and the others in the area stocked fish for the consumption of the ali'i (royalty). These particular ponds once belonged to Kamehameha the Great. Legend says that servants would transport still-wiggling fish to the house of the ali'i in wet seaweed to ensure utmost freshness.

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

Kalāhuipua'a Lava Tube Shelter


Getting to the Trailhead: On Hwy. 19 (Queen K Highway) north of Kailua-Kona and south of Kawaihae, look for the entrance to the Mauna Lani resort between mile markers 73 and 74 (Mauna Lani Drive). Proceed to the public parking area indicated by a sign and just past some shops. You do not need to be a guest of the resort to visit these ancient sites.

The Fisherman Petroglyph

The Hike: From the parking area, walk the paved trail through some rough lava areas and eventually toward the main resort area and the fishponds. The beginning of the trail from the parking area is the Ala Loa, the ancient King's Trail. The new modern paved trail has several kiosks with information about the archaeological sites you are passing. The second stop is a lava tube shelter cave that is fun to crawl into and explore (see photo above). This lave tube sheltered ancient Hawaiians from 1200-1700AD. Be very careful not to hit your head on the sharp roof and watch your step on the loose, large lava. Consider bringing a flashlight. There are interesting skylights in the short lava tube cave (see photo below). Once you're done exploring the lava tube, continue down the paved trail until you're near the intersection of another sidewalk, near the golf course. From here, walk toward the golf course and try to find the famous 'Helmeted Warrior' petroglyph and the 'Fisherman' petroglyph, both pictured on this page. They are next to one another. When you're done petroglyph hunting, continue along the trail and walk around the ancient fishponds, marveling at the amazing architecture that still maintains a salt- and freshwater balance to this day and maintains many fish. Return to your vehicle the way you came. Plan on spending 30-60 minutes exploring the area.