Puu Loa Petroglyph Trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Petroglyphs at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you’ll find an astonishing number of images carved in 400 to 500 year old pahoehoe lava flow stone. If these Hawaiian petroglyphs could talk, what a story they could share, as there are more than 20,000 petroglyphs in Pu’u Loa.

The vast majority of the petroglyphs are small dot-like holes that are approximately two inches in diameter. Hawaiian historians explain that these holes are called puka. When a child was born a puka would be carved in the lava stone at Puu Loa. The new baby’s piko (umbilical cord) would be placed in the puka to wish blessings upon the child for a long and prosperous life.

Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs

I enjoy the challenge of finding petroglyphs in Hawaii. Each petroglyph has a story and I always wonder what the storyteller was trying to say. In all my visits to Hawaii, my visit to the Pu’u Loa petroglyphs was the most fruitful. I believe this is the largest petroglyph site in the state. It’s definitely the most I’ve ever seen in one place.

The 1.5-mile loop trail to the Pu’u Loa petroglyphs is relatively easy walk with essentially no challenging elevation changes. The walking surface is very uneven as it leads though ancient lava flows, so wear sturdy shoes. (See this photo of the actual trail to better visualize the terrain.) You’ll want to bring a hat and wear sunscreen as there is no shade in this exposed petroglyph field. I recommend you bring water as well.

You’ll find the trail head off the Chain of Craters Road, approximately 16 to 17 miles from the intersection with Crater Rim Drive. There’s a small parking area at the trail head. See the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s page on the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs.

Please be careful that you do not touch or walk on the petroglyphs. Stay on the trail and boardwalk at all times. If you go off trail, it would be very easy to loose your bearings and become lost..

For more information on the culture and history of  these petroglyphs, see this link. Also, check out my tips for visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

See our collection of photos from the Pu’u Loa Trail.

Have you visited the Pu’u Loa petroglyph field? How was your visit?

  1. I never heard the puka hole history before. I will have to take this hike soon. Thanks for the information and the wonderful photographs.

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