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Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (The Place of Refuge), Big Island of Hawaii


Perhaps the best place on the Big Island to enjoy a sunset (from many great possibilities), Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (the Place of Refuge) is a remarkable destination.  This is a National Historic site which should be near the top of things NOT to be missed by anyone visiting the Big Island.

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau was built by the Hawaiian people as a sanctuary and place of safety.  Any commoner one who had broken one of the many laws (known as kapu) of their society could try to go here to be safe (although people would be trying to stop them as they tried to get to the place of refuge).  No blood could be shed or people arrested within the Pu’uhonua.  Many crimes — some as simple as having your shadow fall on the King — of the old Hawaiian society were punished by a painful death so you can see the appeal of the place.  After a period of rituals, under the guidance of a priest,  your crime was forgiven and you could be reintegrated into society.

Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

There were many Pu’uhonuas in Hawaii but this one, a little south of Kona, is the best preserved.  It became a division of the National Park System in 1961.   The place now retains a large lava rock wall around it (built in the 15th century) and offers for your exploration a large oceanside plot of land with a few reconstructed huts.  It features beautiful stands of palm trees and is wonderful to visit around sunset.  There is a trail you can hike on the black lava flows by the beach.  The beach itself is rough black rock and not really conducive to swimming, although people do fish from these rocks with some success.  Nearby Honaunau Bay, adjacent to the park, is one of the best snorkeling sites on the Big Island.  It is near here that British explorer Captain Cook was killed.

The carvings on the grounds depict the Hawaiian gods.  The thatched structure with all the carvings around it was original a mausoleum and had the bones of two dozen chiefs in it.  This structure and its art really are the most interesting focal point of your visit here, but there’s much more to enjoy.

The sunset here can be magical and, in my opinion, dusk is the best time to visit.  Most of these photos were taken at that magical hour of day.  A few more photos of the Place of Refuge follow….

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slight show)

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