Situated in Honaunau Bay in South Kona on the Big Island, Puuhonau o Honaunau National Historical Park were once official royal grounds and considered a place of refuge for Hawaiian people who broke ancient laws.
These sacred laws, referred to as Kapu, were of the highest significance to traditional Hawaiian culture and treated with great respect. Consequences for breaking kapu were severe, and included death. Those who had broken a law could only hope to seek safety in the puuhonua refuge where they would participate in a ceremony of absolution before being released back into society.
Puuhonua o Honaunau is one of the most significant sites in Hawaii, and today stands restored and strong. Self-guided walking tours are offered at the park, leading visitors to the 10ft high Great Wall, the sacred temple (and resting place of the 23 chiefs bones) and kii, the wooden structures of gods who guard the site.
Nearby are the Royal Grounds, home to the chiefs of the time. Visitors are invited to explore the Keoua Stone, a resting place of the high chief, Keoneele Cove (the canoe landing) and a heiau sacred temple.
In 2001 the Trust for Public Land purchased the 238-acre park to save it from a proposed development. Local and native communities protested widely and fortunately the site was saved. In 2006 the land was transferred to the National Park Service, effectively doubling the size of the park and conserving the sacred burial grounds and sites of significance.
An entry fee is charged per car at the park entrance. Those with a National Park pass can enter free.
A self-guided tour is available and is a very informative way to absorb and understand the cultural significance of the site.
A shop and facilities are also available at the park.