top of page

Exploring Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park: A Sacred Sanctuary in Hawaii

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park entrance sign

Nestled along the rugged Kona coast of Hawaii's Big Island lies Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, a captivating sanctuary that transports visitors back in time to the ancient Hawaiian civilization. 

Just under a 10 minute drive from our Captain Cook vacation rental, this remarkable site, once a place of refuge for those who had broken sacred laws, offers a unique glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and spiritual traditions of the Hawaiian people.

As you enter the park, you are immediately struck by the serene atmosphere and the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds you. The black lava rock shoreline contrasts beautifully with the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, creating a stunning backdrop for the historic structures and cultural sites within the park.

The Pu'uhonua: A Place of Refuge

At the heart of the park lies the Pu'uhonua, a sacred place of refuge where those who had violated the strict kapu (sacred laws) could seek forgiveness and absolution. In ancient Hawaiian society, breaking these laws was punishable by death, making the Pu'uhonua a literal lifeline for those seeking a second chance.

As you explore the Pu'uhonua, you'll encounter the Great Wall, a massive structure that once marked the boundary between the sanctuary and the Royal Grounds. Nearby, you'll find the Hale o Keawe Heiau, a sacred temple that housed the bones of 23 revered Hawaiian chiefs, guarded by fierce ki'i (wooden images of gods).[1]

Immersing in Hawaiian Culture

One of the highlights of visiting Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is the opportunity to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture through various demonstrations and activities. Park rangers and cultural practitioners offer engaging talks and workshops, sharing their knowledge of traditional crafts, games, and customs.[3]

You can learn about the intricate art of weaving lauhala (pandanus leaves) into mats, baskets, and other items, or try your hand at traditional Hawaiian games like 'ulu maika (a form of bowling) or moa pahe'e (dart sliding). These interactive experiences provide a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural tapestry of Hawaii.

Exploring the Trails and Coastal Wonders

Beyond the cultural sites, Pu'uhonua O Honaunau offers a network of trails that wind through the park, allowing visitors to explore the surrounding natural landscapes. The 1871 Trail, named after the year it was constructed, takes you through an ancient Hawaiian fishing village and offers stunning views of the rugged coastline and the towering mountains in the distance.[2]

For those seeking a more immersive experience, the park also provides opportunities for snorkeling and swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Hōnaunau Bay. The vibrant coral reefs and abundant marine life make this a true underwater paradise for nature enthusiasts and snorkelers alike.[3]

A Profound Connection to the Past

As you wander through Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, you can't help but feel a profound connection to the past. The park's well-preserved structures and cultural sites serve as a living testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the ancient Hawaiian people, reminding us of the importance of preserving and honoring cultural heritage.

Things to Know Before Your Visit Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Entrance Fees

- $20 per private vehicle (valid for 7 days)

- $10 per pedestrian or bicycle (valid for 7 days)

- $15 per motorcycle (valid for 7 days)

- The park only accepts credit/debit cards for entrance fees

Tips for Visitors

- Plan for being outdoors with little shade, wear a hat and comfortable walking shoes

- Allow 1-1.5 hours to see the main sites like the Pu'uhonua, Royal Grounds, and Visitor Center

- Allow more time if hiking the 1871 Trail

- Don't touch artifacts or climb on sacred sites

- Attend a ranger talk or watch the park film to learn more about the cultural significance

- The park is open daily from 8:15am to sunset, with the visitor center open 8:30am-4:30pm

Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or simply someone seeking a deeper understanding of the world around you, Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is a must-visit destination. Its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and spiritual significance make it a truly unforgettable experience.[1][2][3]

Hawaii Pu'uhonua O Honaunau coast near Captain Cook


4 views0 comments


bottom of page