Hawaii has many caves and lava tubes made by Pele (volcano) which are created on land as well as underground. Burial caves were often hūnākele (kept secret) to keep bones from being disturbed.

 

Caves were the perfect hiding place for the deceased, with ideal conditions for preserving bones. Rain water seeping through the cracks of the cave was believed to make it a pure place as depositories for their loved ones. 

Cave was not exclusive to any one social class, age or sex. Sometimes the one cave could be used for many generations as a village or family burial grounds. Caves were considered a favorable hiding place for burials, due to their narrow and concealed entrances.

Often deceiving to the human eye, smaller entrances would open up to expansive caves. Caves with naturally noticeable entrances were cleverly blocked with rock walls or constructed to blend into the natural landscape.

Hawaiians used torches to illuminate their way through caves. Stretchers, kapa cloths, and canoes were all methods that Hawaiians used to transport the bodies into the caves. It was a Hawaiian custom that if one burial was in a cave, the entire cave was considered a burial site and sacred by the people.

The opening of the burial caves is usually very small and hard to get in. So once you get that burial in, the loved ones who have passed on will be saved in that particular place. Hawaiians stored funerary objects along the sides of the natural shelf like grooves within the cave.

For Hawaiians, it was not in their nature to be entering, venturing the depths of a cave, especially if they knew it was a burial cave. These places were kapu (sacred) and feared by Hawaiians. To enter the dark depths or venture through a cave was kapu. It was believed to be the pathway to milu (the underworld of spirits).

Hawai‘i has many caves and lava tubes made by Pele (volcano), which are created on land as well as underground. Caves were considered a favorable hiding place for burials due to their narrow and concealed entrances. Often deceiving to the human eye, smaller entrances would open up to expansive caves. Caves with naturally noticeable entrances were cleverly blocked with rock walls or constructed to blend into the natural landscape.

 

Burial caves were often hūnākele (kept secret) to keep bones from being disturbed. The burials in caves were placed chronologically, with the oldest burials at the far end, and the more recent bodies near the entrance. Hawaiians used torches to illuminate their way through caves. Stretchers, kapa (cloth), and canoes were all methods that Hawaiians used to transport the bodies into the caves. When a body was placed into a cave, often mats were opened, a pillow made of braided pandanus leaves stuffed hard with shredded leaves was placed under the head, and food left to supply the wants of the dead should the dead revive. In the cave, the last ceremony was performed by a near relative, who circled the body with twigs of burning sandalwood to purify the air of the cavern. Chants and prayers were performed over the body. 

The consequences of looking into burial caves, or desecrating a burial, was horrific. It was known that Hawaiians would restrain criminals and club them to death. If the war weapon was not around, then the guardian would find the biggest rock and bash a face in for what a person saw. Hawaiians often took it a step further into the afterlife, placing the mutilated body on an altar, letting it decay and rot as an offering to appease the gods.