Not far from the coast, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is Pu‘u Loa petroglyphs trail. It’s only a mile and a half round trip, but visits a place with a huge number of petroglyphs. A raised boardwalk circles part of this area, giving a good view of the petroglyphs without adversely impacting them.
One of the main features of this area and its petroglyph field is explained on a display seen in the second photo. It reads, ‘The name Pu‘uloa (large hill) carries a kaona (hidden meaning)—hill of long life. Families with genealogical ties to these lands come here to place the piko (umbilical cord) of their child. Their hope is that the mana (spiritual guiding energy) of Pu‘uloa would bless that child with a long and prosperous life, and root them to their ancestral lands. Each puka (hole) is created to house a single child’s piko. Of over 23,000 petroglyphs found at Pu‘uloa, 16,000 are piko-related carvings—a testament to the importance of both Pu‘uloa and ‘ohana (family).’
Petroglyphs can be found at many places around the Big Island. The most extensive display is the Pu’u Loa field at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve also has numerous examples. More than 2,000 petroglyphs, dating back hundreds of years, have been identified. Not all are visible from the area where visitors can go.
Somewhat weirdly, the field is found on the north edge of Mauna Lani resort. This means that in order to see these examples of ancient Hawaiian history and culture, it’s necessary to drive through a swathe of condos and golf courses.
The bulk of the petroglyphs are found at the end of a hot, half-mile trail, bordered by kiawe trees, which are notorious for their long, sturdy, footwear-penetrating thorns. It’s an easy hike and well worth a visit if you have any sort of interest in the history of the island.