What to do in Ulupo Heiau State Monument

This small state monument protects the ruins of Ulupo Heiau, a Hawaiian religious site. The heiau ruins incorporate the stonework and beliefs of the early Hawaiians, both rich in folklore. It is likely that the function of this heiau changed over time. It probably began as a mapele or agricultural heiau with ceremonies and rites conducted to insure the fertility of the crops grown in Kawai Nui. In later times, it may have become a luakini heiau, dedicated to success in war, with structures erected atop this massive stone platform, including an altar, an oracle tower or anu'u, thatched hale, and notches in the terraces to hold the ki'i or wooden images.

Ulupo Heiau measures 140 by 180 feet, with walls up to 30 feet in height. The construction of this massive terraced platform required a large work force under the direction of a powerful ali'i. Several O'ahu chiefs lived at Kailua and probably participated in ceremonies at Ulupo Heiau, including Kakuhihewa in the 1400's and Kuali'i in the late 1600's. By 1795, when Kamehameha I conquered O'ahu, it is believed that Ulupo was abandoned.

In the 1880's, Chinese farmers converted the kalo fields of Kawai Nui to rice. Cattle grazed throughout much of Kawai Nui and a large cattle pen was built atop Ulupo Heiau in the early 1900's. The cattle probably hastened the collapse of the rock faced terraces on the steep faces of the heiau platform.

The marsh began forming around 1920 when the rice fields and fishpond were abondoned and siltation followed. Today, the marsh is a habitat for Hawai'i's endangered waterbirds. The agricultural terraces and fishpond are now covered with silt, grasses and bullrushes.

Visitors will enjoy views of the Kawai Nui Swamp and Kailua Bay from the ruins. An interpretive panel, illustrating one artist's vision of the heiau in use, near the ruins helps visitors understand the use of the site.

Today, Ulupo Heiau remains a sacred site for the Hawaiian people. Show respect as you visit this special place. Please stay on designated trails as rock are loose and unstable.

Visitors can enjoy viewing scenery, bird watching and interpreting Hawaiian history at this site. No facilities are available.

Ulupo Heiau lies on the windward side of O'ahu a short distance inland from Kailua. Visitors can gain access to the site from Kailua Road via Uluoa, Manu-Aloha and Manu-Oo Roads. The site lies behind the Windward YMCA.

The climate is pleasantly mild on O'ahu throughout the year. Temperatures vary annually between 60 and 90 degrees F. Summer temperatures range from 68 to 82 degrees F with the water usually near 80 degrees. Winter temperatures vary from 61 to 80 degrees F with the water temperature close to 77 degrees. More rainfall occurs during the winter than other seasons of the year and most of it falls on the northeastern or windward portion of the island.

P.O. Box 621
1151 Punchbowl Street, 131
Honolulu, HI 96809

Phone: 808-587-0300

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