The Royal Mausoleum, the sacred resting place of Hawaii's Alii

Published: Jul. 22, 2009 at 8:08 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2009 at 12:18 AM HST
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By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

NUUANU (KHNL) - Did you know that there's a place where the Kingdom of Hawaii still legally exists? It's on Oahu, and it's home to the spirits of Hawaii's two most prominent royal families.

Tucked peacefully away in the hills of Nuuanu and guarded by gates bearing the royal seal is one of the most sacred burial grounds in Hawaii.

Only the sound of royal palm trees dancing hula lingers, each one stands for the 57 noble Alii who rest at the fragrant hills of Mauna Ala. Of all the tombs, only one remains open.

"Here at the Kalakaua crypt, we still have access because there are still members of the Kawananakoa family whose grandparents are interred in the Kalakaua crypt," said Bill Kaiheekai Maioho, the curator of the Royal Mausoleum.

For that reason, Maioho says there've been no talks of one day sealing the crypt. Eight chain-linked crowns surround it, representing the eight island chain.

It is so sacred, our photojournalist Ed Matthews was not allowed underground. He had to stay behind and film from the top of the stairs. And only Maioho and a member of the Kawananakoa family have the key.

"It weighs eight pounds, again like the eight Hawaiian islands," Maioho said, as he unlocked the final resting place of King Kalakaua, his wife Queen Kapiolani, and their relatives, who took the royal throne after the males in the Kamehameha Dynasty, died out.

"The Kamehameha tomb was completed in November of 1887," said Maioho.

And it was sealed in 1915.

"Similar to the Kalakaua crypt, there was a stairway that went underground," said Maioho.

Mauna Ala is the only sovereign Hawaiian land. It is the only place in the United States where the flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom is legally allowed to fly alone, without the American flag.

The Royal Mausoleum is removed from public domain, to honor this sacred land where the spirits of six of the eight Hawaiian monarchs live on.

Maioho happens to be a descendant of one of the high chiefs who hid the bones of Kamehameha the Great.