The Kukaniloko (which means To Anchor the Cry from Within) Birthstones State Monument is located on the north side of the city of Wahiawa at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and Whitmore Avenue in central Oahu. Recognized by the National and Hawaii Registers of Historic Places in 1973 as one of the most significant cultural sites on the island, this half-acre, 180 lava-rock stoned monument is surrounded by Eucalyptus trees, coconut palms, and pineapple fields and was once believed to possess the power to ease the labor pains of childbirth.
Because early Hawaiians believed the geographic piko (navel) of Oahu was Kukaniloko, the monument was symbolically the most powerful birth site for the island’s most famous high chiefs, including Kakuhihewa and Kualii. The Hoʻolonopahu Heiau (Temple) associated with Kukaniloko was subsequently destroyed, as were many others in the area, to make room for commercial sugarcane and pineapple fields. Many key battles between rivals for control of Oahu were also fought on the central plains surrounding Kukaniloko.
Chiefly families lived along the slopes of the nearby Waianae Mountain range overlooking the plateau and along the shores of Waialua to the north. Nearby was Lihue within the lands of Waianae Uka. Lihue was a noted royal center of Oahu from A.D. 1400 to 1500. The chiefs of this area were called Lo chiefs who preserved their chiefly kapu by living in the uplands of Waialua. As a chiefly area, several Heiau were built on the slopes and in the gulches of the Waianae Range facing the Wahiawa Plateau and along the shoreline of Waialua. The numerous streams and the rich agricultural soils of the Wahiawa Plateau supported extensive fields of sweet potato and yam.
Wahiawa (which translates as Place of Rumbling) is where thunderstorms, the voices of the ancestral gods, welcomed an offspring of divine rank. Being the center of Oahu, Kukaniloko is also symbolic of the piko (navel cord) and thus, birth and was originally established in the 12th Century by a Oahu chief for the birth of his son, Kapawa. For seven centuries, this outcrop of more than 180 rounded stones became the hallowed grounds for the birth of the ali’i (chief) of Oahu. Some of the stones were also used to map stars and mark seasonal changes. Lately, because of the wide view of the skies from Kukaniloko, the site is also believed to be a sort of Hawaiian Stonehenge. In April 2000, a team from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy recorded designs and shapes on the stones that could have been used to track the movements of celestial objects by early Hawaiians.
The Kukaniloko Birthstones are considered sacred to the indigenous Hawaiian people therefore it is most disrespectful to move or remove anything from the monument and/or climb or walk on the rock walls and platforms throughout the site.