You can find a large number of about 1,200 petroglyphs in the public section of the Puakō Petroglyph preserve. The whole preserve hosts over 3,000 designs, including paddlers, sails, marchers, dancers, and family groups, as well as dog, chicken, turtle, and deity symbols.
The Puakō petroglyph preserve is one of the two petroglyph fields north of Kailua-Kona, in the South Kohala district. You can find the Waikoloa Petroglyph field relatively close-by, and the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph field inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
What are Petroglyphs?
Petroglyphs offer a unique view into the history of Hawaii – some petroglyphs date back to the 16th century – only one century after Columbus first landed on American soil! The word “Petroglyph” comes from the Greek words, “petros” for rock, and “glyphein” to carve, Hawaiians call this form of rock art “k’i’i pohaku“, or images in stone.
Some of the petroglyph images are clustered near historic land boundaries or along foot “highways” through lava fields, but the full reasons for their location and creation remain a mystery. Sadly, development has destroyed many of these treasures: ancient images that escaped destruction by earthquake or lava flow were destroyed during the construction of resorts and golf courses and only few remain.
Malama ‘Aina – Take care of the land
Some of the fields however, have been preserved and are accessible by the public. They are a must-see for those interested in the history and culture of Hawaii. When you go, be respectful and stay on designated viewing platforms and paths. Do not touch the rock images or attempt to make rubbings of them–human actions like this destroy works that have endured for centuries. If you are looking for good photo’s, try the early morning of late afternoon, when the slanting shadows offer extra depth and highlight to the petroglyphs.
See our map of Kona for the location of the Puakō Petroglyph field.
Directions to the Puakō Petroglyphs:
The 1 1/2-mile “Malama Trail” starts north of Mauna Lani Resort. Take Highway 19 to the Mauna Lani resort turnoff and drive toward the coast on North Kaniku Drive, which ends at a parking lot. The trail head is marked by a sign and interpretive kiosk.
Go in the early morning or late afternoon, when the temperature is cooler. Make sure to wear sun screen and bring water. There is no shade and it’s usually hot out on the lava.