The Best Place for Travel Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau Temple in Kauai


Hanalei is one of the busiest traveled hubs in Kauai. Aside from the beaches, the area is known for specific sites that showcase unique Hawaiian history as well as religion. Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau tops the list. A visit to Hanalei will not be complete without checking out this uniquely Hawaiian temple.

Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau is a native temple that is believed to have been put up for Laka, the Hawaiian goddess of Hula. The temple features an altar, which has been successfully preserved throughout the years. To further boost interest, local Hula dancers regularly perform in and around the altar.

The ancient temple is located along the north shore of this paradise island. It is just a few steps away from the trailhead of the equally popular Na Pali Coast trail, which starts in Haena. Ku Ulu O Laka Heiau is strategically wedged between the vast ocean and cliffs.

Hawaiian Legend

According to native legend, the site of the temple was where a local mortal chief named Lohiau danced and performed for Pele, goddess of fire/volcano. From that meeting, Lohiau and Pele were said to have been passionately enamored with each other. So you thought such mortal–immortal love affairs only happen in Greek mythology?

This is the reason Ku Ulu O Laka Heiau is considered as a hula heiau or temple. Through the years, local hula dancers have made it a goal to dance in the temple to test their hula dancing skills. Hula learners or students are often required to show their reverence and respect to Pele through performing in the temple.

What to expect

The appeal of Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau lies within its old and antique structures. The rocky remains of the temple have apparently endured many years of weathering. However, anyone can still easily feel the power and atmosphere of this unique setting.

The ancient temple hovers midway between the ocean and the island’s mountains. It is also encircled by a jungle. Of course, it is within the edge of modern civilization. According to historians, ancient Hawaiians used to hold night rituals on the site.

The locals were believed to have hurled burning branches from atop the cliffs to facilitate and create natural fireworks display every time they gather in the area. Tourists and other visitors are advised not to enter beyond the boundary in the temple allotted for them.

Cultural importance

The presence of Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau cements the cultural importance of Hanalei to Kauai. The temple is simply known as among the most popular hula platforms in all of Hawaii. Tourists who want to enjoy hula performances as well as trace the roots of the native dance can find the temple as an ideal place to be in.

Along with hula dance, the eclectic Hawaiian native music is also a come-on in the area. More interestingly, the music used in hula dance today features an enticing mix of various musical influences and themes from all across the globe. There is a belief that the current music mix was started by missionaries many years ago.

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