Escape to an Ancient Refuge

Big IslandEssential Big Island

PU‘UHONUA O HŌNAUNAU was, in ancient times, the destination for people seeking asylum from severe penalties imposed on all who broke kapu (taboo) laws.

Once inside the compound’s 10- foot walls, sanctuary was guaranteed; the resident kāhuna, or priests, were obligated to off er absolution to all fugitives, no matter how great or small the infraction.

Refuges like Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau ceased functioning in the early 19th century, when the kapu system was abolished, but this site remains intact to provide a glimpse into a time when people could be sentenced to death merely for eating with their husband or walking in the shadow of a chief.

Now a NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, Pu‘uhonua was reconstructed by local artisans using traditional tools. One of the major features of the complex is a RECONSTRUCTED TEMPLE called Hale o Keawe. The original temple, built around 1650, housed the BONES of at least 23 chiefs, and fi erce, WOOD-CARVED STATUES, known as ki‘i, guard this oft-photographed temple today.

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau is open from 7 a.m. to sunset daily; the visitor center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. There is an entrance fee of $20 per car. Call 808-328-2326 ext. 1702 for current park hours.

To get there, drive south from Kailua-Kona on Highway 11. Turn toward the ocean on Route 160 at the Hōnaunau Post Offi ce, and watch for the historic park sign. WALK THROUGH TIMEWORN PETROGLYPH FIELDS PHO TO: JEFF S ANNER | L OCA TION: HA W AI‘I V OL CANOES NA TIONAL P ARK 22 101 things to do |

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