Hale o Kapuni

shark view
Vistors watching the sharks in Pelekane Bay.

Submerged just offshore below Mailekini Heiau are the ruins of what is believed to have been another temple, which local lore relates was dedicated to the shark gods. The ancient Hawaiians believed in animal helpers and protectors, half god and half human, who relayed their counsels through the lips of some medium who became for the moment possessed by their spirit. These 'aumakua were served and worshipped by particular families, this duty being passed down through the generations.

Some say that each locality along the coast of the Islands had a "special patron shark whose name, history, place of abode, and appearance were well known to all frequenters of that coast." Shark gods were invoked with specific prayers, and temples were erected for their worship. There were several well-known shark gods worshiped at various places in the Islands. Among these were Uukanipo, two great sharks who were twin brothers, and another called Kaaipai, all of whom lived at Kawaihae. The first two lived at Kamani and were regularly fed. When the king wished to see them, their keeper hung two bowls of 'awa from a forked stick to attract them. Kaaipai was kept by a couple living at Puako in Kawaihae who often went hungry because the taro plant did not grow there. Their shark would capsize boats carrying food and take the cargo to his cave. He would then appear in a dream to the couple and tell them where to find it.

Today, it is impossible to see the temple. Through the construction of the nearby Kawaihae Harbor in the 1950's, as well as tsunamis, the temple is no longer visible. Even though it is impossible to see the temple, the sharks are a popular attraction for many park visitors. In the early morning hours, you can usually see the sharks plying the waters just offshore, near where the temple is believed to be located.

Last updated: April 27, 2023

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Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
62-3601 Kawaihae Road

Kawaihae, HI 96743


808 882-7218

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