Sightseeing in Makaha, O‘ahu

Sightseeing in Makahu includes a little bit of history, both outdoor and underground adventure, and some truly beautiful views. A few sights are deeply sacred in nature, so keep that in mind while you’re exploring.

Way up the leeward side of Oahu is a restored pre-contact heiau, or Hawaiian temple.
Way up the leeward side of Oahu, within a private, gated community, is a restored pre-contact heiau, or Hawaiian temple. Photo © Brian Burger, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Kane‘aki Heiau

Located deep in Makaha Valley is one of the best preserved heiau on O‘ahu, the Kane‘aki Heiau. Begun in 1545, the final structure was only completed by 1812, during the reign of King Kamehameha. Two restoration phases of construction occurred to preserve the physical, spiritual, and historic aspects of the heiau. Originally dedicated to Lono, the Hawaiian god of harvest and fertility, it was later converted to a luakini heiau for human sacrifice. The thatched huts used as prayer and meditation chambers, along with a spirit tower and carved images, have all been replicated. Because the heiau is within a private gated community, access is limited to 10am-2pm Tuesday through Sunday. It may be closed even during those times when it’s too rainy or muddy. Stop at the guardhouse and let them know where you’re heading. They will ask to see your identification and car registration or car rental agreement before they sign you in.

Kaneana Cave

Spelunkers rejoice, just off Farrington Highway on the edge of Makua Valley is the Kaneana Cave, a sacred ancient Hawaiian site. At 100 feet high and about 450 feet deep, this cave, ana, is spoken of in Hawaiian legend as the womb of the earth, where mankind emerged and spread throughout the Wai‘anae coast. It is named after Kane, the god of creation. In Hawaiian lore it is also thought to be the home of Nanaue, the shark man. The cave is dark and often slippery, so bring a flashlight. It is also unmaintained, and there are several side tunnels off the main cavern that should be avoided for your own safety. Look for the painted cement road barrier that marks the entrance.

Ka‘ena Point State Park

Ka‘ena Point State Park is the most scenic, raw, and naturally breathtaking area on the leeward side. It is also an embodiment of all things found on the leeward coast. Located at the end of Farrington Highway and stretching all the way out to the western tip of O‘ahu, Ka‘ena Point State Park provides outdoor and ocean recreational activities, wildlife viewing, native plantlife, verdant valleys, a secluded white sand beach with turquoise water, and a dramatic volcanic coast all under the hot west side sun. It is truly about as far removed from Honolulu and Waikiki as you can get on O‘ahu.

As you round the last bend in the road with a slight elevation, the gentle arcing white sand of Yokohama Bay, also known as Keawa‘ula Bay, stretches out in front of you to the west. Pristine and uncrowded, it begs for you to pull the car over and take in the serenity. Look back into the valley to catch a glimpse of the unspoiled, verdant mountains of the Wai‘anae Range. As you come to the end of the paved road, a rutted, rocky dirt track completes the way to Ka‘ena Point. You can walk or mountain bike out to the western tip of the island, where you’ll find the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve. This is prime territory for wildlife viewing. Look for spinner dolphins and green sea turtles in the water; on the beach you’ll probably see Hawaiian monk seals basking in the sun; and the sand dunes are a protected site for nesting seabirds.

Soul’s Leap

Ka‘ena Point is a sacred place, and not just for its natural beauty. Ancient Hawaiians thought Ka‘ena Point to be a jumping-off point for the spirits of the dead to enter the afterlife. Legend has it that humankind emerged from the depths of Kaneana Cave, the womb of the Earth goddess, and spread across the Wai‘anae coast. The souls of the deceased would find their way to Ka‘ena Point by following the sun past the sunset, to the eternal night. Their leap would take them to Po, the realm of ancestral spirits, a spiritual place akin to heaven and described as being a sea of eternity. Once in Po, the soul is thought to have completed the cycle of life.

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