South Shore Petroglyphs, Oʻahu

The Big Picture Portfolio, #9Buy the PrintWatch the Film

With all the modern sights to see, it’s easy to buzz right by this spot on the southeastern coast of O’ahu. Yet tucked quietly within wild geologic formations, killer fishing spots, and crashing waves, there is evidence of what people were seeing a long time ago.


Where: O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands
:  Petroglyphs carved into a slab of volcanic tuff within a sea cave
: Ancient Hawaiians
Petroglyphs carved: AD 1100-1810
Last known volcanic activity: 7,000 years ago

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How long will they last? The natural forces of surf, wind, and rain more or less rage on this spot, which no doubt is constantly changing. The petroglyphs themselves are somewhat protected, tucked away in a small sea cave, but they also have the destructive tendencies of modern people to contend with.

You can see what is left of fewer than a half dozen petroglyphs at this spot. It is said that there used to more petroglyphs in the cave, that the panel containing what is left was much larger not so long ago. While much of it may have succumbed to more natural fates, at least one section was chiseled out and carried off quite recently.

Petroglyphs are the personal traces of people that naturally transcend time. There’s a difference between knowing that people were merely around an area in ancient times, and seeing the evidence that someone was there – in an exact spot – with your own two eyes. Plus, petroglyphs are always fun to find, often require a bit of hunting around.

In that spirit, I’ll pin the best parking area from which to set off finding them if you decide to go see for yourself! Just park there, scramble down to the coast, and take a good look around in that bay and you should find them. In any case, a wander along this coast is beautiful (just watch your step, and stay well away from the surf as this is a notorious area for people getting swept off ledges!)


Thanks for reading, and thanks to Bob, Hiroko, and Padraic for a great day out (visiting from American Samoa)!