Mo’okini Heiau is located in Kohala Historical Sites State Monument near the town of Hawi on the Island of Hawai’i. It is one of the oldest and most sacred heiau (places of worship) in the Hawaiian Islands and is one of the first luakini heiau in the islands. Today, Mo’okini Heiau is considered a living spiritual temple and a sacred site to Native Hawaiians.
Ancient Hawaiians had many types of heiau, each with their own distinct function and use by particular segments of society. Heiau ranged in size from single upright stones to massive and complex structures. Larger heiau were built by ali’i (chiefs), but the largest and most complex, the luakini heiau (sacrificial temple), could only be constructed and dedicated by an ali’i ‘ai moku. Luakini heiau were reserved for rituals involving human or animal sacrifice and were generally dedicated to the war god Ku. Rituals performed at a luakini heiau highlighted the ali’i ‘ai moku’s spiritual, economic, political, and social control over his lands and his authority over the life and death of his people.
Approximately 2,000 feet to the south of Mo’okini Heiau, is the Kamehameha I Birthsite (Kapakai Royal Housing Complex). It was typical for an ali’i ‘ai moku’s housing complex to be near and associated with a luakini heiau and this is one of the few places in the Hawaiian Islands where historians know the exact location of a housing complex and its associated heiau. Over the centuries Kapakai served as the residence of ali’i ‘ai moku when ceremonies were conducted in Mo’okini Heiau. Religious ceremonies lasted several days and nights and during this time, ali’i ‘ai moku and high priests would leave the heiau for short periods to return to Kapakai. Kamehameha I was born in the Kapakai Royal Housing Complex and later stayed there while conducting ceremonies in Mo’okini Heiau.
(From National Park Service)