Kealakekua Bay is located on the Kona coast of the island of Hawaiʻi about 12 miles (19 km) south of Kailua-Kona. Settled over a thousand years ago, the surrounding area contains many archeological and historical sites such as religious temples, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places listings on the island of Hawaii in 1973 as the Kealakekua Bay Historical District. The bay is a marine life conservation district, a popular destination for kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling.
Ancient history Settlement on Kealakekua Bay has a long history. Hikiau Heiau was a luakini temple of Ancient Hawaii at the south end of the bay, at coordinates 19°28’31N 155°55’9W, associated with funeral rites. The large platform of volcanic rock was originally over 16 feet (4.9 m) high, 250 feet (76 m) long, and 100 feet (30 m) wide. The sheer cliff face called Pali Kapu O Keoua overlooking the bay was the burial place of Hawaiian royalty. The name means “forbidden cliffs of Keoua ” in honor of Keoua Nui, sometimes known as the “father of kings” since many rulers were his descendants. The difficulty in accessing the cliff kept the exact burial places secret. The village of Kaʻawaloa was at the north end of the bay in ancient times, where the Puhina O Lono Heiau was built, along with some royal residences. The name of the village means “the distant Kava”, from the medicinal plant used in religious rituals. The name of the bay comes from ke ala ke kua in the Hawaiian Language which means “the god’s pathway” because this area was the focus of extensive Makahiki celebrations in honor of the god Lono. Another name for the area north of the bay was hale kiʻi, due to the large number of wood carvings, better known today as “tiki”.