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Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)

Photo © Simon J. Hernandez. View all images in our Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave) Photo Gallery.
Photo © Simon J. Hernandez.
Photo © Joe Philipson.

The following article was contributed by Suzie Jones, travel writer for Fodor's Gold Guides.

Kaneana Cave is one of Hawaii's many ancient sacred sites. The gods who roamed the islands are still present in the legends describing the origin of these consecrated locations.


For 150,000 years the island of Hawaii has harbored a secret. Near Makua on Oahu, the volcanic rock was eroded by the sea to form a cave out of a giant lava tube. This is where the local people believe mankind was born, emerging from the womb of the earth goddess. They called the cave Kaneana, after the god of creation, Kane.

Legend has it that the Shark-man Nanaue (also called Kaneana and Makua Charlie) later reigned from this cave. Like all fine myths, the story of the Hawaiian Shark-man includes drama, camaraderie, and a respectable amount of bloody murder.

Born from a Shark father (the shape-shifter Kamohoali’i) and a human mother, it was only when Nanaue first experienced the taste of meat that his carnivorous heritage led to incontrollable bloodlust. He would assume human form to trick his prey, then drag them back to the cave for dinner. Fortunately, he was eventually chopped up by the Hawaiian people. The cave was also home to both a powerful shark goddess and Madame Pele.

Honoring this colorful history, the cave has been the site of magic, ritual and religious ceremonies. The area around the cave has been considered sacred and kapu (taboo) by local communities in recent times.

What to See

Located on the South Western coast of Oahu, the cave can be reached from the Farrington Highway. The coastline surrounding the cave is quite remote and ideal for hiking, fishing, surfing, swimming (when it is completely calm) and having a picnic. Early in the morning, dolphins can be spotted from Kaluakauila stream mouth.

The cave is a hundred feet high and four hundred and fifty feet deep. It is dark and wet (do bring a flashlight and sturdy shoes). At the back of the cave there is a slimy stone where the shark man was said to leave his victims until he was ready to eat them.

Various small tunnels lead from the main cavern – although the cave has been desecrated with graffiti it is not fully explored and is completely unmapped, unmarked and not maintained. It is therefore very dangerous to venture inside the tunnels.

The Sounding or Barking Sands near the cave make an otherworldly humming sound.

Quick Facts on Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)

Site Information
Names:Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)
Faiths:Indigenous; Hawaiian
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Hawaii, USA
Coordinates:21.519657° N, 158.227519° W  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)

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Article Info

Title:Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:06/21/2009
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/usa/oahu-kaneana-cave/usa/oahu-kaneana-cave-photos">Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave)</a>