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Kapu means something is sacred, holy, forbidden or not to be touched or made public. If something was kapu, it is not to be known or used in an average day to day way. It is reserved for future generations to take care for the burial, and it is special to the families.

In the Hawaiian custom the inheritance of the family burial caves and secret burial places was handed down by birthright from their ancestors. The burial customs were upheld by the Hawaiian people. It was customary that even if the rule of the chiefs and their land representatives might change, burial rights of the families survived on their lands without desecration. Burials in Hawai‘i were seen as very sacred, permanent and spiritual.


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I hope this book helps create a better understanding of Hawaiian burial traditions and acknowledges a closer connection with our ancestors. Burials are very sacred and taken seriously by the Hawaiian people.


These wahipana, (sacred places) are not to be sought after for viewing, for study, or to be put on display. Exposing our burials is the highest form of desecration. As Hawaiians, we need to continue to Mālama iwi kūpuna and ‘onipa‘a “Take care of the bones of our ancestors and stand firm” to keep them KAPU.

This book is dedicated to my mom, who lovingly supported me with the research of my family genealogy and my Hawaiian heritage. She stood by my side for many years, helping me to protect our Hawaiian burial cave from being destroyed by a developer.


Her mana (strength) taught me to believe in myself and to uphold justice and truth. She has taught me to be proud of my Hawaiian heritage, because for generations, our ancestors have passed on a culture of Aloha; to be loving, and to give respect to the living and the dead.

Through my family’s example, I continue to keep native Hawaiian burials kapu (sacred.) love you very much mom, for this special gift of passing on our knowledge to mālama (take care) and aloha our ancestors burials mahalo nui loa.

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