Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i.
The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puʻuhonua.
This is a marvelous, respectful view of Hawaii’s past and how its culture worked. Now that it is a national site, the displays & information available have been expanded in greater detail.
This “Place of Refuge” is located about a 45 minute drive from down town Kailua Kona on Hwy 160. On our way from the Volcano National Park to Kailua Kona we stopped here at the park. It is a free attraction, however you will be charged $5 to park if you use their paved parking lot.
We loved this little slice of history. The beach is breathtaking – we spent about an hour exploring the lava rock tide pools and saw lots of fish. The self-guided walk around the park didn’t take much time – maybe an hour. We spent about 1.5 or so hours wandering around the grounds, learning about the historical information around the site. It was very scenic as well, the tall palm trees, the sand, the black lava rock, the ocean, all blending into some picturesque views. The setting, at the edge of the ocean, is just gorgeous. Since it is a religious site, you can’t swim or snorkel at the park, but there is a swim and snorkel spot right next to it and you can see colourful fish in the tide pools.
The park has many beautiful palm trees, white sand all around and there are various beautiful ancient houses to visit where you can see the tools and canoes that ancient Hawaiians used when they lived here. You can also see several beautifully crafted “totems” around the park.
The exhibits and artifacts area of the park is small and easy to walk around. With numbered markers and some reconstructed structures, you can download an app, or use the brochure you get at the gate, to learn of the various purposes and significance of each. If you happen to be there when a Park ranger is giving a guided tour, then you will most likely get more out of it. There also is a wall of murals, with a recorded audio history that is rather simplistic.
If you want to make more of a day out of it, there is a beach picnic area a hundred yards from the parking lot to the south with tables with charcoal grills and port-a-potties. There is no food or beverages available at the visitor centre, so plan accordingly. The visitor centre is open 8:30am – 4:30pm. It has restrooms, a water bottle filling station, a very small gift shop, and amphitheatre.
We are glad we stopped. I would recommend it, especially for anyone wanting to know more about Hawaiian history and culture.