Mānoa Heritage Center is a 3.5-acre living classroom dedicated to promoting an understanding of Hawaiʻi’s cultural and natural heritage.
Founded in 1996 by Sam and Mary Cooke, Mānoa Heritage Center is a non-profit organization that reflects the Cooke family legacy of stewardship and preservation and is guided by a shared vision of inspiring people to be thoughtful stewards of their communities. Mānoa Heritage Center stewards Kūka‘ō‘ō Heiau, the only intact and restored heiau (ancient temple) in the greater ahupuaʻa (land division) of Waikīkī, Native Hawaiian gardens and Kūali‘i, the Cookeʻs 1911 Tudor-style home. Kūaliʻi is presently the Cooke family private residence and will open to the public in the future. Both Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau and Kūaliʻi are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 1998, Mānoa Heritage Center has offered school tours of Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau and the adjacent gardens. Built hundreds of years ago and sitting high above the valley floor, Kūkaʻōʻō would have once watched over a patchwork of wetland taro fields (loʻi kalo). In the center of what was once an agricultural region, Kūkaʻōʻō is considered a māpele heiau, dedicated to Lono, god of agriculture, rain and fertility.
Paired with the history associated with Kūkaʻōʻō, Mānoa Heritage Center’s gardens of Native Hawaiian (some of them rare and endangered) and Polynesian-introduced plants provide school groups a glimpse into a time when inhabitants had a very close connection to the land. In addition to fresh water, plants were of utmost importance to Hawaiians providing food, medicine, clothing, cordage, fishing implements, wood for homes, canoes, tools, weapons, religious figures, instruments and objects for recreation. Everything was utilized and nothing was wasted.
In Spring 2018, Mānoa Heritage Center expanded its campus to include a 4,125 sf, LEED-certified Visitor Education Hale, a Hawaiian star compass driveway for wayfinding and celestial navigation, and additional landscaping of Native Hawaiian plants. The culmination of a $5 million capital campaign, the education facility increases Mānoa Heritage Center’s ability to engage audiences on many different levels with a particular emphasis on school groups.
Mānoa Heritage Center is guided by the following strategic goals: