Did you know that not all Hawaiian heiau (temple) were used for human sacrifice?
It is a common misconception that often goes unaddressed; take Keaiwa Heiau, for instance. At the summit of an Oahu neighborhood in Aiea, the heiau had been used for healing and medicine. Hawaiian priests would diagnose and treat various illnesses and injuries at this very site. They would also train students on medicinal practices using plants, prayer and fasting.
Today, it is preserved as a state park. Legend points to an Oahu chief who built Keaiwa during the 16th century. He and his men constructed a four-foot-high rock wall that encloses the sacred area. A variety of trees and plants used for its medicinal benefits surround the site as well.
I remember the very first time I discovered this heiau. My friends and I were on our way to hike the nearby Aiea Loop Trail, but somehow got lost. When we came upon the heiau ruins by accident, I got this eerie feeling like we were in a special place. You can really feel the power.
The public is welcomed to visit the heiau from 7 am to 7:45 pm (April 1 to Labor Day) and 7 a.m. to 6;45 p.m. (After Labor Day to March 31). There are camping, picnic, shower and restroom facilities.
• Aiea, Hawaii