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Pu'uhonua - Place of Refuge

Field review by the editors.

Honaunau, Big Island, Hawaii

Kapu, the sacred laws, were tough in ancient Hawaii. You couldn't walk in the royal chief's footsteps, touch his things, or even let your shadow fall on palace grounds. If you did and weren't punished, a volcano might decide to erupt, or a tsunami could erase your village. So everyone joined in to bring violators to justice. Often the penalty was death!

You might have one chance: an all-out run and swim for Pu'uhonua, the Place of Refuge, pursued by warriors. And another waited to club you to death near the entrance. But if you made it, a priest would perform a ceremony of absolution, and all was well again.

Place of Refuge.

The ancient Hawaiian sanctuary has been restored and preserved as Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park since 1961. It sits along a black lava sand shore among stands of palm trees. Beyond the visitor center, it really feels like you've entered ancient Hawaii. There are large sea turtles in the cove, and everything seems untouched by modern civilization.

As with most Hawaiian ruins, black stone walls and platforms are explained with signs: the Great Wall, the Royal Grounds, the chief's resting stone. There are a number of replica thatched structures, including a temple and mausoleum, with many carved poles and Tiki heads. This was never a bar.

Special game for bored kids: don't let your shadow touch anything.

Pu'uhonua - Place of Refuge

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

HI Hwy 160, Honaunau, Big Island, HI
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. South of Kona, HI Hwy 11 to HI Hwy 160, mile post 103-104 follow signs down hill to parking.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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