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Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park - BEST Places to Picnic

PO Box 129
Honaunau, HI 96726

Visitor Information
(808) 328-2326

WELCOME to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Step back in time to a sanctuary of Hawaii�s past where traditional Hawaiian lifestyle is preserved. Ancient temples and ki�i (wooden images) whisper stories from the past. This place provided refuge to Hawaiians who came here. Today, the park continues as a sanctuary for visitors seeking a peaceful place and as a safe haven for all of the native wildlife living here.

The history of old Hawaii comes alive at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. Walk along the ocean, past Keone�ele Cove where once only ali'i (chiefs) were allowed to go. Imagine the Kapu breakers fleeing their pursuers as they swim across the bay to the safety of the pu'uhonua. Marvel at the engineering accomplishments of the Hawaiians as you pass along the great wall and heiau. The people and places here have left many stories waiting to be told.

The Hawaii of old was an organized into a social structure including chiefs, priests, skilled laborers and commoners. Strict laws existed for each of the separate divisions

The Royal Grounds adjacent to the pu'uhonua were a favored residence of Hawaiian chiefs. Hale-o-Keawe acted as the royal mausoleum and held the remains of 23 chiefs. The mana (spiritual power) of the remains bestowed sanctity upon this sacred area. This temple was constructed in honor of Keawe'ikekahiali'i o kamoku, the great-grandfather of Kamehameha I.

Hale o Keawe stands prominently in the pu'uhonua, protected by several watchful ki�i (wooden images of the gods), alerting visitors this is a special and important place. Surrounding the pu'uhonua are the royal grounds, the area once exclusively reserved for use by the chiefs and their court. The neighboring Ki�ilae village offers a glimpse into Hawaii�s past and the changes that came to Hawaii after the arrival of Europeans.

The Puuhonua

In old Hawaii, you had broken a law the penalty was death. Perhaps you had entered into an area that was reserved for only the chiefs, or had eaten forbidden forbidden. Laws, or kapu, governed every aspect of Hawaiian society. The penalty for breaking these laws was certain death. Your only option for survival is to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua, or place of refuge.

As you enter, the great wall rises up before you marking the boundaries between the royal grounds and the sanctuary. Many ki'i (carved wooden images) surround the Hale o Keawe, housing the bones of the chiefs that infuse the area with their power or mana. If you reached this sacred place, you would be saved.

Today, you may visit Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and still fell the spirit of peace and forgiveness that continues to surround and bless this special place.

Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles)

Honu is the Hawaiian word commonly used to refer to all sea turtles. It was once the name specifically given to the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle which can be observed feeding in the shallow coves or basking on the shores at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau.

The Royal Grounds

In the past, chiefs entered the royal grounds from Keone'ele Cove by canoe. The pu (conch shell) is sounded to warn of thier approach, for it is forbidden for others to look upon or even cast their shadow on the ali'i (chiefs). As the canoe makes land fall, other members of the royal court stroll past the royal fishponds, looking for a choice fish for dinner. 

Other chiefs my engage in a game of konane. The spectacular golden colors of sunset play upon the vast ocean. The beauty, splendor and history of the royal grounds at Pu'uhonua o Honuanua are still felt as you take a self-guided walking tour along the trails once reserved for Hawaiian royalty.

Kiilae Village

Ki'ilae Village offers a glimpse into the past, when Hawaii was changing rapidly but still supported traditional aspects of daily life. With the arrival of Europeans in the Hawaiian Islands, many things changed. New plants and animals were introduced and settlements began moving away from the coastal villages to the more fertile uplands and larger harbor cities. 

What remains in Kiilae today are abandoned heiau (temples), agricultural features and holua slides where the chiefs once rode narrow sleds at great speeds down steep slopes. Animal pens, salt vats and church foundations can be seen from more recent times.


From Kailua-Kona: Take Highway 11 south, approximately 20 miles. Between mileposts 103 and 104, at the Honaunau Post Office, turn right towards the ocean onto Hwy 160. Travel 3.5 miles and turn left at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park sign. Travel times will vary due to ongoing construction in North Kona.

From Hilo, going north: Take Hwy 19 to the junction of Hwy 190 in Waimea. As the road bends follow Hwy 190 until it intersects with Hwy 11 and turn left. (Hwy 11 is also known as Hawaii Belt Road and Queen Kaahumanu Hwy). Between mileposts 103 and 104, at the Honaunau Post Office, turn right towards the ocean onto Hwy 160. Travel 3.5 miles then turn left at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park sign. Total travel distance is approximately 116 miles.

From Hilo, going south: Take Hwy 11 south past Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the towns of Pahala and Naalehu. Between mileposts 103 and 104, at the Honaunau Post Office, turn left towards the ocean onto Hwy 160. Travel 3.5 miles then turn left at the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park sign. Total travel distance is approximately 107 miles.

Did You Know?
In 1778 Captain Cook visited the Kealakekua bay area and perished in a struggle with the local Native people over stolen row boat.

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