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Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Big Island, Hawai'i

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Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

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  • Parking for Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The visitor center and gift shop.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is great for all ages.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Several historic and reconstructed structures can be found throughout the park.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • A reconstructed model of the larger Hale o Keawe, the royal mausoleum.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The original Hale o Keawe.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The interior of the reconstructed model.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The pits in the rock were created by the Hawaiians, though the exact purpose is unknown. - Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • This is a reconstruction of a kōnane table, a checker-type game played on a lava table.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Fierce statues are spread throughout Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. - Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • When molten lava surrounds a tree and hardens, the tree decomposes over time and leaves a mold.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The protected bay at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Swimming is prohibited here, and the beach is a common resting place for sea turtles.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • An outrigger canoe in one of the hālau.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Fierce statues are spread throughout Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. - Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The royal fishponds were managed to provide food for the ruling class. - Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The Great Wall of the Pu'uhonua is 18 feet wide, 950 feet long, and constructed from innumerable hand-placed lava rocks.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • A detail of the Great Wall shows how sizable some of the rocks are.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The path inside the wall at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • A genuine kōnane table in the Pu'uhonua.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • The Great Wall that encloses the Pu'uhonua.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Statues guard the Hale o Keawe, the royal mausoleum.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
  • Hale o Keawe, the royal mausoleum that gives the site such power.- Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Culturally and historically significant. Educational. Beautiful grounds. Family friendly walk.
Cons: 
None.
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Region:
Big Island, HI
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Parking Pass: 
General Day Use Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Team

It is impossible to explore the ancient Hawaiian culture without running into the term kapu, which can be most easily understood as taboo. Ancient Hawaiians used the kapu system to enforce law and order, and there were numerous customs that invoked strict punishment as a consequence of violation. Transgressions could range from stepping on the shadow of an ali'i, or chief, to working the land during the makahiki, the fallow season, or fishing in forbidden waters, or even eating with a member of the opposite sex. The uses of the kapu were many, and the punishment was frequently death. 

The one chance an offender might have to escape their death sentence was here at the Pu'uhonua, the place of refuge. If the offender managed to escape immediate execution and elude captors, their task was to reach this spot, the only spot on the Big Island where clemency could be given. No matter where the kapu was violated, refugees would risk their lives in the ocean or over harsh and jagged land to reach Pu'uhonua because the only alternative was execution. 

The site's mana, or power, comes from the Hale o Keawe Heiau, a royal mausoleum that holds the remains of several generations of ali'i. This heiau is at the entrance to the Pu'uhonua, which is otherwise enclosed by the Great Wall, a true feat of labor. This wall reaches heights of 12 feet and averages 18 feet wide for its entire 950 feet length, and all of the stones are hand placed and dry set. The shore around the Pu'uhonua consists of jagged lava; between the wall and the shore, the sacred space was effectively isolated to all but the very holy and the very desperate. Inside the Pu'uhonua you'll have the opportunity to walk a footpath and see the sacred area, the remains of other heiau, spot a genuine kōnane board (a checkers-like game played with stones), and appreciate the Hale ō Keawe itself.

Outside of the Pu'uhonua sit the royal grounds, and there are several stops to make here as well. You'll see a reconstruction of Hale ō Keawe, the royal fishponds that were used for keeping and harvesting food for the ali'i, and several hālau, traditional structures made from ōhi'a wood and thatched pili grass. 

Be sure to grab a pamphlet as you pay the entrance fee because it details a suggested walking route and has numbered stops for you to reference as you proceed. This really is a fascinating place, so do yourself a favor and budget plenty of time to appreciate it. 

If you are looking to extend your day once you finish here, consider a stop at Pae'a, also known as Two Step, which is adjacent to Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. The area has excellent snorkeling right from the lava rock entrance, hence the name Two Step. And note that, while parking near Pae'a is $5 if you can't get a spot on the road, your $5 entrance fee to Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park also buys you a parking spot just a five-minute walk away.

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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(14 within a 30 mile radius)

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