Pu’u Kilea, also known as Olowalu Petroglyphs, is one of the easily accessible petroglyph sites on Maui. Access is a quarter-mile-long dirt trail. The petroglyphs are located along a basalt cliff in West Maui and feature human and animal figures as well as sails.
The images at this site were chiseled into the rock hundreds of years ago. Ancient Hawaiians called them ki’i pohaku, or images in stone. Though the exact meanings of the carvings are unknown, the images are thought to represent legends or stories of the early Hawaiians.
The Lahaina Restoration Foundation worked to make the site accessible so that visitors could learn about the island’s rich history. In the 1960s, they built a wooden stairway and viewing platform that led right up to the petroglyphs, but after multiple incidents of vandalism to the ancient art, the platform was demolished. Today, a trail leads to approximately 50 feet below the rock art.
Olowalu is also known as the site of a bloody massacre, which happened in 1790. The captain of the American ship Eleanora (Captain Simon Metcalf) became upset because of a stolen boat and opened fire on Hawaiian canoes, killing more than 100 men and wounding more than 200 near the ancient Olowalu landing site. This massacre led Big Island Chief Kame’eiamoku to attack the next Western ship that arrived, which was the Fair American, captained by Metcalf’s son. The entire crew was attacked and killed, except for one person, Isaac Davis, who later became an advisor to the Hawaiian king Kamehameha the Great.