Did you know that you can visit the actual place where ancient Hawaiian chiefs were born?
Located in Oahu’s Waialua district, Kukaniloko Birthstones is one of the most significant cultural sites on the island. During ancient times, Kukaniloko was religiously sanctioned and symbolically marked as a place of chiefly power, according to Hawaii State Parks. Births at Kukaniloko assured a child high-ranking status and maintained purity of the royal lineages. It’s actually one of two royal birthing sites in Hawaii, with the second one on Kauai.
A view of Kukaniloko from the entrance.
During a royal birth, more than three dozen chiefs would be present, with the child immediately taken to a nearby heiau for the cutting of the umbilical cord. About 40 dozen more chiefs oversaw this procedure. The mother (also of royalty) would rest during a week of purification, while there would be great care taken in disposing of the sacred naval cord.
As for the stones – usually a birth site consisted of two rows of 18 stones (for the 36 chiefs). There was also a stone in which the mother leaned against during childbirth, which – at this site – was named Kukaniloko. And in ancient times, it was more than a place of birth. The surrounding uplands were a place where chiefs lived and where key battles were fought.
Today, the site is marked by 180 stones and can be found right off of Kamehameha Highway. The heiau, however, no longer exists. I remember going on school field trips to Kukaniloko and each time being just in awe of the place. You can just feel the mana (spiritual power) as soon as you enter and get “chicken skin” from hearing the ancient stories. As with any cultural site, please remember to be respectful when visiting. Take in everything around you but never take anything home with you. Mahalo!
KŪKANILOKO BIRTHSTONES STATE MONUMENT • Intersection of Kamehameha Hwy. and Whitmore Ave. (north side of Wahiawa) • Open daily during daylight hours
Source: Hawaii State Parks Website