The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park is one of the best places to learn about Hawaiian history. It is the most famous and best preserved of Hawaii’s ancient places of refuge. Hundreds of years old, the beautifully restored Puuhonua o Honaunau remains one of Hawaii’s most sacred historic places.
Located on the coast of Honaunau Bay in south Kona, Puuhonua o Honaunau is a popular stop for helicopter tours and will immerse you in the muses of Hawaiian culture.
History of Puuhonua
This 180-acre national historic park dates all the way back to the 18th century and was once the home of royal grounds.
The park was also a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian lawbreakers. In ancient times, Hawaiians lived under strict laws (kapu). During these olden days, those who broke Hawaiian sacred lawswere often subject to death as breaking a kapu was believed to incur the wrath of the gods. Their only chance of survival in such cases was to escape to Puuhonua, the sacred place of refuge.
Once an offender reached Puuhonua, he could be absolved by a kahuna (priest) in a purification ceremony, and would be pardoned and allowed to return to society. Still, gaining entry was quite difficult as a massive, black lava rock shoreline hindered most kapu-breakers from approaching by sea. Defeated warriors could also find refuge here during times of battle.
What You’ll See
this 182-acre site includes the Puuhonua and a complex of archeological sites, including temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks and some coastal village sites.
Hale o Keawe Heiau Temple
On the estate, you’ll find a temple that is essentially a restored replica of the temple that sat there all the way back in the 18th century. The temple once housed the bones of 23 aliis (chiefs).
As a place of refuge, the grounds is protected by a large wall, the Great Wall built around 1550 from thousands of lava rocks and measuring 10 ft high and 17 ft wide. Importantly, the wall separated the chief’s home from the Puuhonua.
Visitors are allowed to tour the area without dedicated guides. This way, you can take your own time to experience the muses of Hawaiian history and set your imagination alight.
You’ll be able to see the Great Wall, fierce kiis (those famous wooden images of gods that guard the sacred temple).
Beyond the Puuhonua
After exploring the temple, visitors have the choice of seeing:
- Keoneele Cove, the royal canoe landing. Here, you’ll encounter canoe builders constructing outrigger canoes the way they were built in ancient times
- Demonstrations of traditional Hawaiian games, including spear throwing!
- The Keoua Stone, the beloved resting place of the great high chief of Kona, Keaoua
- A few royal fishpond
- Sledding track
- Coastal village site
Puuhonua Events and When To Go
Orientation talks are provided several times a day at the park’s amphitheater.
A great time to go is during the last weekend of June when the park holds its annual cultural festival. The great celebration includes Hawaiian traditional games, hula performances, and craft demonstrations.
Puʻuhonua o Honaunau is open 7 a.m. to sunset daily. The Visitor Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
How To Get There
To get to Puuhonua, drive south from Kailua-Kona on Hwy. 11. Turn on Route 160 at the Honaunau Post Office and drive until you see the park sign. An easier way is to go by the Sunset Tour From Kona.
The entrance fee is $5 per vehicle or $3 per individual. Children 15 years old and under are free. Passes are valid for a whole week.
A relaxed place to visit and experience the vibrant nature of Hawaiian culture while discovering intriguing facts about the early Hawaiians’ way of life, Puuhonua is a great site to explore during a cool Hawaiian evening while the sun sets.