Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Place of refuge

In Puuhonua o Honaunau you can step back in time to a sanctuary of Hawaii’s past where traditional Hawaiian lifestyle is preserved. Ancient temples and ki’i (wooden images) whisper stories from the past. This sacred place provided refuge to Hawaiians who came here. Today, the historical park continues as a sanctuary for visitors seeking a peaceful place and as a safe haven the native wildlife.

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Kapu, or sacred laws, were of utmost importance to Hawaiian culture and the breaking of kapu could mean death. A kapu-breaker’s only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge.

In old Hawaiian culture, if you had broken a kapu (sacred law), the penalty was death. Perhaps you had entered into an area that was reserved for only the chiefs, or had eaten forbidden foods. Laws, or kapu, governed every aspect of Hawaiian society. A kapu breaker’s only option for survival was to evade his pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua, or sacred place of refuge.

A great wall is marking the boundaries between the royal grounds and the sanctuary. Many ki’i (carved wooden images) surround the Hale o Keawe, housing the bones of the chiefs that infuse the area with their power or mana. If this sacred place was reached, the law-breaker would be able to return to society.

Today, you may visit Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and still feel the spirit of peace and forgiveness that continues to surround and bless this special place. The Pu’uhonua is still considered a scared site.

Join a Park Ranger in the Place of Refuge at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM daily for a fascinating talk about the way of life of ancient Hawaii and how the pu’uhonua played a lifesaving role.

Park hours: 7:00 AM to Sunset

Visitor center: (808) 328-2326 ext 1702

The Visitor Center is open from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM daily.