Place of Refuge is just up the road from Hale Hoola

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Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park

Ancient Hawaiian Religious Sanctuary Along the Kona Coast


Place of Refuge at Honaunau National Park

One of the most accessible, interesting, and enchanting cultural sites in the State of Hawaii is the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.  Translated, the "Place of Refuge at Honaunau" is the most complete restoration of an ancient Hawaiian religious sanctuary in Hawaii. On the black lava flats of the southern Kona Coast, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is a preserved ancient Hawaiian village.  This National Park is located adjacent to the excellent snorkeling spot of Honaunau Bay.

Tall royal palms surround the temple complex that sits on a 20-acre finger of lava bordered by the sea on three sides. The only access to the Pu'uhonua (temple of refuge) was by swimming across a bay known as the Sharks Den. If you managed to survive, the kahuna (priest) was required, under pain of death, to offer you sanctuary and absolve you of all wrong doing. Here in the national park you can walk through an ancient Hawaiian village and see firsthand how the kings of Hawaii once lived.

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park (daily 7.30am-5.30pm; $2; ), four miles on from Kealakekua, is the single most evocative historical site in all the Hawaiian islands, jutting into the Pacific on a small peninsula of jagged black lava. The grounds include a palace, with fishpond and private canoe landing, and three heiaus , guarded by large carved effigies of gods - reproductions, but still eerie in their original setting. An ancient " place of refuge " lies firmly protected behind the mortar-less masonry of the sixteenth-century Great Wall.  Those who broke ancient Hawaii's intricate system of kapu (taboo) - perhaps by treading on the shadow of a chief, or fishing in the wrong season - could expect summary execution unless they fled to the sanctuary of a place such as this. As chiefs lived on the surrounding land, transgressors had to swim through the shark-infested seas. If successful, they would be absolved and released overnight.


hananau Temple
Hananua Temple canoes


Hiking the 1871 Trail

For those wanting to explore further, the backcountry trail offers a 2 mile round trip hike along the 1871 trail through the agricultural areas that surround the park. On this trail, you will encounter Hawaiian heiau, holua sled courses and the dramatic Keanae'e cliffs.

The 1871 Trail follows the path of an ancient trail. It is part of a system of trails that encircled the island to serve as trade routes. This portion of the trail was last improved in 1871, hence the name 1871 Trail. The trail is part of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and it begins behind the park's visitor center. Walking the trail, you will be led through Hawaiian history and natural resources until you reach the abandoned village of Ki'ilae.  More information on the 1871 Trail - NPS website.  Ask at the visitor center for a backcountry trail guide.  For information call: (808)328-2326


Directions - Take Rte 11 South from Kailua Kona for about 19 miles.  Take a right on Hwy 160 (Ke Ala o Keawe Rd) near the 104 mile marker.  Be sure to arrive early because parking is limited. 

Note - You can also reach Honaunau via Kealakekua bay by traveling south on Hwy 160 for 3.2 miles.  Place of Refuge National Park ($5 entry) immediately adjacent to beach park; bathrooms in the park


Place of Refuge Temple surounded by palm trees
Sea Cave at the Place of Refuge Looking for a unique island kayaking adventure?  Try kayaking to the Sea Caves near Honaunau.  You can launch your kayak right from the boat ramp at Honaunau and visit these spectacular caves only accessible by water.  You can even jump in the water and snorkel in the caves!  Kayak the spectacular blue waters and visit the sea caves. 


Hale Ho`ola
Big Island Hawaii Bed and Breakfast Inn

85-4577 Mamalahoa Hwy
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Toll Free: 877-628-9117 or 808-328-9117


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