Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

14 Aug

(My second favorite stop on my Hawaiian trip.See link to first one below.)

On the Big Island of Hawaii, we visited the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.  This is the site of a Pu’uhonua, a Place of Refuge, as well as Royal Grounds for the rulers of the islands.

I love history and learning about other cultures.  So on this trip, I tried to learn as much as I could about the Hawaiian culture.  As with our visit to the birthing stones, the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is also a scared site that should be treated with respect.  It also met another bucket list item of mine, I am trying to visit a National Park in every state!

In ancient times if a person broke a kapu, or a scared law, they often would be punished with a death sentence.  But there was a chance of survival.  If the person was able to escape and get to a place of refuge, a Pu’uhonua, a priest there could save him/her by absolving him/her of the kapu.  It was not easy to get to a place of refuge.


Looking toward the place of refuge and the lava reef that surrounds it.

At Pu’uhonua O Honaunau the easiest access was from the sea.  However, you had to conquer the waves crashing ashore and a field of tough lava to reach the safety of the priest.  At the same time, you could not step over to the Royal Grounds, or you would be breaking another kapu.

Over the years, most of the refuge sites were destroyed by missionaries who wanted to dissuade these practices or neglect from disuse. Although other sites still exist, nothing remains of the refuge buildings.   In 1961, the National Park Service opened this National Park with a restored place of refuge, as well as the royal grounds that were next to it.


The Royal Ground’s Keone’ele Cove

It is a lovely site with a small, natural cove, Keone’ele Cove, once used by the ali’I, the royal families.   Throughout the site, the lava rocks and flows create beautiful formation.  There are recreations of some of the buildings and wooden images, ki’i, representing the gods.


Stone wall, ki’i and mausoleum

The Great Wall, a long, high wall built of rocks, without any mortar, separates the Royal Grounds from the Pu’uhonua.  The wall is over 400 years old!  My husband thinks that those who were rescued by the priests probably had to help build the walls.  He could be right.

Several times each day, visitors can hear a talk by a park ranger.  That was not available the time we were there. But you can download a guided tour on your smart phone, or just follow the guided tour in the park brochure.  We used the park brochure, following the trails and looking for the items that were numbered. It took about an hour to walk the site.

There is also a little gift shop run by the Park Service.  Children can receive a junior park ranger workbook and fill it out.   When we were there two sisters turned in their booklets and were made official junior park rangers!

The Pu’uhohua is well worth a visit. It takes you back in time and helps to understand the culture that was Hawaii before Western civilization changed it forever.




4 Responses to “Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park”

  1. Amy August 15, 2018 at 8:40 am #


    Is there a national park in every state? OK, I just checked. Nope—the only one in New England is Acadia in Maine In Massachusetts we have the National Seashore, but it is not considered a national park—but if you come to MA, you must see it. I am now sitting two miles away from it. 🙂

    • zicharon August 15, 2018 at 9:04 am #

      I have been to Arcadia. Will try to make it to Massachusetts.

      • Amy August 15, 2018 at 9:32 am #

        Give me advance notice!

      • zicharon August 15, 2018 at 10:19 am #


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: