1871 Trail to Ki’ilae Village

The 1871 Trail follows the path of an ancient trail. It is part of a system of trails that encircled the island to serve as trade routes. This portion of the trail was last improved in 1871, hence the name 1871 Trail. The trail is part of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and it begins behind the park's visitor center. Walking the trail, you will be led through Hawaiian history and natural resources until you reach the abandoned village of Ki'ilae.


Stop #1 – At the Beginning

The noni tree is a native of Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific. The noni was probably brought to Hawaii by the ancient Polynesians. The fruit and the leaves of this plant were used for medicinal purposes. The roots and the bark were used to make dyes.

In ancient times, the mountain side of the trail was open land. The redtop ground cover is abundant today, but in the past, the native pili grass grew here. Pili grass is planted near the visitor center today.

Noni Tree

Noni (Indian mulberry) is not native to the Hawaiian islands. It was brought to Hawaii by the ancient Polynesians who used the fruits and leaves for medicinal purposes. Noni became a part of the culture of the people who lived in Honaunau. They too used the leaves and fruits to make potent medicines, and they also used the bark and roots to make dyes.

The ripe fruit of the noni plant smells and tastes like good medicine!


Stop #2 – A Shady Place

A coconut grove grows along the 1871 Trail. Today, the trees provide shade for visitors traveling along the trail, but they had many more uses in the past. On either side of the trail you can see the remains of stone walls. These walls were built by stacking stones without mortar. Friction holds the stones in place. The walls were used to divide property and serve as boundary markers.

Oma'o Heiau was once a temple, but all that remains of it today is a natural prayer tower and some stone rubble.

Coconut Grove

Migrating Hawaiians brought coconuts to various places on the island. They planted large groves and used the different parts of the tree for food, medicine, cordage, fish spears, baskets, crab catching, games, and brooms.

Stone Walls

These stone walls were built without mortar or any kind of binding. The stones were stacked and are held together only by friction.

The stone walls were used to divide land between adjacent ahupua'a, districts. The walls served as boundary markers beteween separate districts, or also as fences.

The stonewalls seen from the 1871 Trail are believed to have enclosed garden plots or served as animal pens.

Oma’o Heiau

The stone rubble around the natural prayer tower are all that are left of what used to be a heiau (temple).


Stop #3 – The Keokea Holua

The Hawaiians developed a sport called holua. The word holua means slide. This sport was played only by royalty according to Hawaiian tradition. To make a holua track, the ground was paved with stones and grass, and a special sled was built. A person would go to the top of a hill with the sled and get a running start before jumping on the sled and coasting down the holua track as far as 300 yards. Along with the Keokea Holua, there are a couple of other tracks at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP.


The holua was a long course created on a steep hillside. The course began at the top of the hill, and extended onto the level plain below. Rocks were laid on the track and soil was beaten over them to create a smooth surface. Then the whole track was covered with grass.

The holua sleds were built specially for this sport. The runners were built from mamane or uhiuhi wood. The forward end of each runner was turned up, so as not to dig into the ground, and the bottom edges were smoothed for good sliding.


Stop #4 – Alahaka Heiau and Keanae'e Cliffs

The stone platform in the panorama below is what is left of Alahaka Heiau. There used to be a great temple at this site.

Behind the heiau, you can see the Keanae'e cliffs. Many many years ago, lava flowed over the cliffs and broke off at the top. At one time long ago, there was a curtain of lava in front of the cliffs. People were able to take shelter under the cliffs and in empty lava tubes.


Stop #5 – Alahaka Ramp and the Waiu-o-Hina Lava Tube

Alahaka ramp, on the left in the panorama below, was built after horses were introduced into Hawaii. People could climb up and down steep cliffs, but horses could not. Alahaka ramp, and others like it were built so that horses could be used to transport people and goods. Near the base of Alahaka ramp is the entrance to the Waiu-0-Hina lava tube. The far end of the lava tube opens many feet above the ocean. If you choose to enter the lava tube, bring a flashlight, and be careful!

Alahaka Ramp

Alahaka ramp was built to allow horses to continue on the trail. The 1871 Trail was used as part of a trade route in Hawaii. Having horses meant that people were able to transport more goods to trade, so it was very important that horses could navigate the whole trail. Ramps were built in other places too where the trail was too steep for horses.

Near the middle of the ramp is the entrance to the Waiu-o-Hina lava tube.

Waiu-o-Hina Lava Tube

Once, long ago, molten lava flowed through this tube from Mauna Loa to the sea. When the eruption stopped, all of the lava was emptied into the ocean or drained back into the volcano, and the hollow tube was left. Click on the image titles below to explore the Waiu-o-Hina lava tube at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP.

Entrance to the lava tube

Enter the Waiu-o-Hina lava tube from the Alahaka ramp. Watch your head because the ceiling is low and jagged. Also, bring a flashlight because it's very dark inside the lava tube!

Inside the lava tube

The colors on the walls and ceilings of the lava tube are from minerals in the hardened lava.


The drips on the ceiling of the lava tube were created by the interactions of hardened lava and sea water. The surface of each drip is smooth, and the points are rounded from water action.

Offering to Pele

The cultural traditions of Hawaii are still rich and very strong in some communities. It is not unusual for local people to visit the Waiu-o-Hina lava tube and leave offerings to Pele, the goddess of fire.

Lava tube exit

Looking out of the lava tube exit, you can see the ocean below.

Place of Refuge in the distance

Looking out of the lava tube exit, you can see the Place of Refuge at Honaunau in the distance. By now, you are about a mile from the Place of Refuge.


Stop #6 – Ahinahina Point

At one time, the Red House Complex was located here at Ahinahina Point. This site is a valueable cultural resource, because many artifacts have been found here. These can tell us much about life in the transition between ancient and modern Hawaiian life. Now, all that remains of the complex is the house platform, a cistern, and a modern crypt.


Stop #7 – Ki'ilae Village

Ki'ilae is not believed to be an ancient village. It is more likely a transition between ancient and modern times in Hawaii. These conclusions were drawn based on the archaeological excavations in the area of artifacts, house types, and grave sites. The history of Ki'ilae could extend as far back as the late 1700s. Over time, the local economy and the lives of the people changed. On this part of the coast, the lack of a ready water supply, transportation difficulties, problems raising garden products, and the lack of shipping and trading locations combined to drastically slow development. The majority of the paying jobs were upland, so people left the coastal villages, such as Ki'ilae, in search of work.

Today, archaeologists look for clues to what life was like in the village hundreds of years ago. They learn about building materials, types of houses, and cultural practices from their excavations. The Pu'uhonua and the coconut grove can be seen in the distance from Ki'ilae village.

Ki’ilae Village

Ki'ilae village today is overgrown with trees and vines, and the coast is daily beaten by ocean waves. But in the past, only a few hundred years ago, there were homes here, and people carried out their daily lives. In Ki'ilae, a comfortable home could be built from twine, rocks, ohia sticks and pili grass.

Building materials for Ki'ilae homes

Many homes traded the traditional thatched roof for corrugated iron, because it allowed them to catch rainwater and store it.

Ki’ilae Village

Looking across the bay and to the north, you can see the pu'uhonua and the coconut grove. Many other plants grew here too, including hala trees, kou, loulu, plumeria, pakalana, crown flowers, pili grass, pineapple, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, tamarind, ti, and others.


Stop #8 – Konane Papamu

Along the trail returing to the pu'uhonua, you can see a konane (Hawaiian checkers) stone game board on the side of the trail. The stone is called a papamu.

The papamu was created by carving small shallow holes in square on a flat rock. Players would use white shells or coral and dark lava rocks as the game pieces. Konane was played as a recreational game, but it was also played by Hawaiian chiefs to decide outcomes of wars.


Stop #9 – Chief Keawe's Housesite

Once, this place was the home of Chief Keawe. He is the chief that the temple Hale o Keawe in the Pu'uhonua is named for. All that remains now at his housesite are the stones that created the platform of his house.

Also near the housesite is a former animal pen. This was used to keep goats and other animals.


Stop #10 – Concrete salt vats

These modern concrete pans were used to produce salt. People would fill them up with seawater, and natural evaporation would take place, leaving behind a layer of salt in the bottom of each pan.


Stop #11 – Paumoa Beach

You have almost reached the end of the trail. Here, stop, relax, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.


Stop #12 – Coconut Grove

Finish your walk at the picnic tables near the coconut grove south of the Pu'uhonua. This is a wonderful place to catch a tropical sunset and cool your feet in a tidal pool.




About the Park

Royal Grounds


1871 Trail (Current location)


Views of the National Parks