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Hawaiian Culture Lives at Place of Refuge

Updated 01.02.2015

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Standing guard at Place of Refuge

Are you planning a vacation to Hawaii? Be sure to take a break from resort activities in the Kailua-Kona area to experience Hawaiian culture and history. A 30-minute scenic ride south on Highway 11 will introduce you to Pu’uhonau o Honaunau National Historical Park, also known as Place of Refuge.

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Tiki at Place of Refuge

What did ancient Hawaiians do if they broke one of the many laws of the kapu system? To avoid death by clubbing, strangulation, fire or spear, they ran for the nearest place of refuge or Pu’uhonau, where the lawbreaker’s violations could be absolved through certain rituals. Pu’uhonau o Honaunau Historical Park is a well preserved example of a Place of Refuge.

The park includes royal grounds,which are separated from the Place of Refuge by a 10-foot-high wall that is 17 feet thick. Situated on Keone’ele Cove, where only royals were allowed, the site includes black lava flows that seem to creep into the ocean in a jagged tangle of black rocks. Farther back from shore, coconut palms shade the heiau (temple) where wood carved tiki statues stand guard.

A one-hour self-guided tour introduces visitors to the tools and structures used by the ancient Hawaiian culture, including royal fish ponds. But take your time; this is a beautiful spot for lingering, especially about an hour before sunset.

The park charges a small entry fee of $5 per car. Baby boomer travelers won’t find any food concessions or even vending machines. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as the dark lava flows tend to radiate heat from the tropical sun. Bottled water can be purchased at the gift shop. Consider bringing your snorkel gear for exceptional snorkeling among the coral gardens at Honaunau Bay, immediately adjacent to the park.

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Palm tree on the beach at Place of Refuge

Alan and I discovered Pu’uhonau o Honaunau National Historical Park while reading Hawaii The Big Island Revealed. On the drive to Place of Refuge, we detoured through the coffee plantations to Napo’opo’o Beach. Sitting on the rocks that Hurricane Iniki deposited on shore, we ate our deli sandwich lunch while watching kayakers make their way across Kaelakekua Bay to the Captain Cook Monument. Afterwards, it was a short, flat drive across ancient lava flows to Pu’uhonau o Honaunau Historical Park.

Planning a Hawaiian vacation? Check out Hawaii Travel Planning Resources to learn about the online sites, guides and products that we used to plan our trip.

I have included an Amazon link to Hawaii The Big Island Revealed for your convenience. However My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small percentage for purchases made at Amazon.com.

Have you visited the Place of Refuge? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email.

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