For free things to do on Oahu and activities that get you outdoors near Honolulu, experience some Hawaii hiking and Hawaii culture at the Keaiwa Heiau State Park!
With a visit to the Keaiwa Heiau State Park, you’ll get a chance to see a glimpse of Hawaiian culture and history, and you’ll also get a chance to get out for a hike on Hawaii’s trail system! If you’re looking for something to do on Oahu that’s off the beaten path for visitors and tourists, consider this to be an option!
Keaiwa Heiau Ancient Hawaiian Temple
If you’ll be spending more than a few days in Hawaii, consider making it a point to see at least one heiau.
So, what is a heiau?
A heiau is a Hawaiian temple and it represents a piece of Hawaiian history. Native Hawaiians used them as places of worship and sacrifice.
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Keaiwa Heiau history
The Keaiwa Heiau is in an open space. Piles of stone are visible almost immediately upon entering the state park, and that is the heiau. Best estimates are that it was built in the 1500s.
The Keaiwa Heiau is a Hawaiian temple with life-giving powers believed to be a center where the Hawaiian herb doctor practiced the art of healing using herbs grown in nearby gardens. These herbs were compounded and prescribed with prayer.
You can learn more about the Keaiwa Heiau from the State of Hawaii’s Division of State Parks, and here is an excerpt from the state park brochure about this heiau:
“Keaiwa Heiau is a medicinal or healing heiau known as a heiau ho‘ola. At this site, the priest or expert specializing in healing would diagnose and treat various illnesses and injuries. The priest would also train students in the practice of laau lapaau, medicinal healing using plants, fasting, and prayers. Many of the plants and herbs were collected from the neighboring forest while others were planted around the heiau.”
Aiea Loop Hiking Trail
The Aiea Loop Trail is a hiking trail that’s located towards the back of the Keaiwa Heiau State Park. It’s a little less than 5 miles long, and you’ll want to allow 2-3 hours to complete it.
This trail will keep you on your toes with the variable terrain and tree roots along the path that will keep you from getting bored!
There are a few areas of narrow paths with a steep drop off on one side which can look a little scary if you’re afraid of heights!
Many locals consider this trail to be family-friendly, but it could be considered difficult for kids in some parts because of the areas of steep inclines combined with loose gravel and dirt. This is not the majority of the trail at all, but still something you may want to consider.
It’s best not to do this trail after it’s rained, as it could become very muddy. That can make for dangerous conditions as well.
Even if it hasn’t rained recently, there may be muddy parts, so have a spare pair of socks or sandals in your car so you can get out of your muddy footwear! You’ll want to wear proper shoes with traction for the best experience on this trail. Here’s more on what to wear hiking in Hawaii.
To decide if the Aiea Loop Trail is a hiking trail that you want to embark upon, have a look at the Yelp reviews.
Scenes from the hiking trail…
Things to do near Keaiwa Heiau State Park
When you’re trying to fit a lot into your day with little time in Hawaii, the state park is a perfect activity to do after you’ve spent some time at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites! Pearl Harbor is just a short drive away from Keaiwa Heiau State Park and takes about 20 minutes to reach.
Creating a one-day itinerary with Keaiwa Heiau State Park + Pearl Harbor
To comfortably do a visit to Pearl Harbor and the Keaiwa Heiau State Park in a single day, you’ll want to rent a car.
It is possible to get to the state park by bus, as long as you don’t mind a few extra miles of walking and a bit of patience in waiting for the bus! The bus is less frequent in the area of the state park.
You will be passing through a residential area in the lead-up of getting to the park.
If you’re spending a good part of your day at Pearl Harbor, drive over afterwards to the state park to check out the heiau. Stop by a grocery store on your way over and enjoy a picnic in this quiet area surrounded by nature!
Times Supermarket on Aiea Heights Drive is right on the way that makes a perfect stop to pick up your picnic food!
Since the Aiea Loop Trail takes a couple of hours to complete, it’s not ideal to do the hike with a nearly full day at the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites.
But if you’re starting your day early and finish up your Pearl Harbor sightseeing by noon, it can be realistic to have your day’s itinerary include both a visit to Pearl Harbor and a hike of the Aiea Loop Trail. Just be sure that you are plenty prepared with water and snacks! You may also want to stop by Times Supermarket so you can buy food to replenish with a picnic at the park after your hike!
Map of things to do near Keaiwa Heiau State Park
Explore the map of Keaiwa Heiau State Park area for a better visual to find things to do!
When you’re on a cruise to Hawaii with a full day at Honolulu cruise port
Because of its proximity to the Honolulu cruise terminal, Pearl Harbor is one of the top things that’s recommended for those cruising to Honolulu. This means that with a late evening cruise departure from Honolulu, the one-day itinerary that’s laid out above can work out if you are cruising to Hawaii too!
Whether you are cruising or not, the best way to do this itinerary that gives you a taste of different parts of Hawaii is by renting a car. There are car rental locations within walking distance of the Honolulu cruise port.
To end your day, the Keaiwa Heiau State Park is about a 30 minute drive from the cruise port, although you always want to factor in extra time for traffic if you’re looking to create a more precise schedule.
But since most cruises have an 11pm departure, in this case it won’t be a problem! It gets dark in Hawaii way before then, so you will be out of the park way before it’s close to time to get back to the cruise ship!
If you are in Honolulu on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, you can follow up your full day of adventure with a laid back free hula show in Waikiki! It’s not walkable from the cruise port, so you’ll want to keep your car. You’ll also want to keep in mind that parking in Waikiki can be expensive so you’ll want to factor that into your decision to attend the hula show too. But you’ll also get to see the sunset on the beach!
Alternatively, if you are on a Norwegian cruise with a Hawaii cruise that ends at Oahu, this one-day itinerary is good way to pass your time too if you’ve got a late night flight out of the Honolulu airport!
Official Hawaii State Parks information
This park also allows for camping on select days of the week. For more about camping and general park information, see the State of Hawaii Division of State Parks.
HAPPY KEAIWA HEIAU STATE PARK PLANNING!
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