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You might have heard about a popular tourist attraction on Maui called Dragon’s Teeth. Some say the jagged lava rock formation on the island’s northwestern shore resembles the teeth of a dragon. Many travel guides rave about it being one of nature’s wonders, but very few educate visitors on the ancient Hawaiian burial site that exists nearby. It’s estimated that more than a thousand iwi (human remains) are buried here, some from as far back as A.D. 610.
A sign has been placed at the entrance to the peninsula, where both the Dragon’s Teeth and the burial sites are located. But that hasn’t stopped dozens from trampling past everyday. The sign reads: “Makaluapuna is a wahi pana (sacred site) to na kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians). Entry is discouraged except for Hawaiian protocol or cultural practices. Your cooperation and respect are appreciated. Mahalo – Thank you.”
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Resort started construction here in the 1980s but stopped after discovering human remains. A three-year dispute between the resort and some community members resulted in the Ritz-Carlton building farther inland from the sacred location. Thankfully, both sides reached a compromise; not only would this have been disrespectful to the Hawaiian culture but – some say – it’s also a path to bad luck.
Dragon’s Teeth isn’t the only cultural place in Hawaii, and it’s very likely you’ll stumble upon a few others while visiting. Please be respectful and follow the warning signs that may be posted. If you’re not sure, then don’t hesitate to ask a local or to research it beforehand. Otherwise, it’s best not to risk disturbing the site.
DRAGON’S TEETH • Lava rock formation on Maui’s northwestern shore. Ancient Hawaiian burial site also located here.