Hawaiian Sacred Sites Preserve Ancient Stories and Traditions
The sheltered crystal lagoon of Ke’e Beach sits on the edge of the Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, protected by a wide, fringing coral reef.
A lifeguarded beach, Ke’e provides a nice swimming and snorkeling area when the water is calm, which is most of the time during the summer months.
This area is also rich with cultural history and legend as the site where the Kauai chief Lohiau’s body was placed within a cave in the seacliffs. Lohiau died due to his love for Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes. Then Wahineomao (Green woman) and Pele’s younger sister, the goddess Hi’iaka, climbed the cliffs and used herbs and chants to bring Lohiau back to life.
When this occurred three beautiful rainbows appeared, arcing across the north shore sky. Visitors to Ke’e Beach today are very familiar with the frequent, enchanting rainbows that color the north shore sky.
Perhaps less known is the importance of the cultural sites that are located just above this beach. The two heiau (ancient sacred places) in this area are off limits to the public – please only enjoy a distant appreciation as you gaze upward from the beach below.
The two heiau above Ke’e Beach are dedicated to the sacred art of hula and sit beneath the mountain peak of Makana, which means “Gift.” Visitors often call this mountain Bali Hai, its name in the 1957 film South Pacific in which it represented a distant, mythical island.
The ancient names of the two hula heiau at Ke’e are Kaulu Paoa (The inspiration of Paoa) and Kaulu-o-Laka (The inspiration of Laka).
According to Hawaiian tradition, Paoa was a friend of Lohiau and also trained beneath the lava cliffs in the sacred art of hula, which included the philosophy as well as the dance movements. The hula goddess Laka began her hula at this site, and this is also where the volcano goddess Pele and Lohiau first fell in love.
These sacred sites above Ke’e Beach are revered in Hawaiian culture for their place in ancient history as well as their continued mana, or spiritual power. Chanters and hula dancers are said to have journeyed to this location from throughout the archipelago to train with a kumu hula (hula master) in the arts of hula as well as mele (chanting).
Archaeological remains at Kaulu Paoa include the stones that outline the foundation of the heiau, and this was the site of a halau where hula was performed on the upper stone terrace above Ke’e Beach.
Near the shoreline at Ke’e there is an ancient stone of basalt with deep grooves. This stone was known as Kilioe and was used as a pohaku piko, the place where parent’s would put a newborn’s umbilical cord (piko), in order to ensure that the child will have a long and prosperous life.
The name of this large grooved stone at Ke’e near Kaulu-o-Laka was Kilioe in honor of a mo’o (lizard) goddess.
Remember to respect and not disturb sensitive Hawaiian cultural areas that are off limits to the public. As you relax on the pristine and scenic Ke’e Beach you will know you are in a very important place that has a rich history with a great importance in the Hawaiian culture.