Puuhonua O Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawaii is the most famous and
best preserved of Hawaii's ancient places of refuge. Designated a national
historical park in 1961, this 182-acre site includes the puuhonua and a
complex of archeological sites, including temple platforms, royal fishponds,
sledding tracks and some coastal village sites. Join more than 375,000
visitors each year and immerse yourself in the rich history of the area and
discover intriguing facts about the early Hawaiians' way of life.
At the park, you'll encounter canoe builders constructing an outrigger
canoe the way it was built in ancient times. There are demonstrations of
traditional Hawaiian games, including spear throwing competitions. Examine a
massive L-shaped wall, built around 1550 from thousands of lava rocks, which
separated the chief's home from the puuhonua. Inside this 1,000-foot-long
wall are fine examples of temples and homes of old Hawaii.
Hikers can follow a trail that winds along the coast for about a mile
to the park boundary. The trail includes several archeological sites,
including heiau (temples) and sledding tracks.
Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is open daily.
Orientation talks are provided several times a day at the park's
amphitheater. On the last weekend of June, the park holds its annual
cultural festival with hula performances, Hawaiian games, and arts and
Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, formerly known as the City of Refuge Park, was set aside as a national historical park by Congress on July 1, 1961. Hawaiians who broke a kapu or one of the ancient laws against the gods could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or "pu`uhonua". Utilizing many local artists and artisans with authentic and traditional tools, the National Park Service has worked very hard to restore the site to its appearance in the late 1700's.
The park has two major sections, the Palace Grounds and the Pu`uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. Separating the two areas of the park is the Great Wall.You will walk past a reconstructed temple, the Hale o Keawe Heiau. The original temple, built around 1650 and long ago destroyed, housed the bones of at least 23 chiefs. As late as 1818, a son of Kamehameha I was buried on these sacred grounds. It was believed that the mana in the bones of the dead chiefs gave additional protection to the place of refuge.The offender would absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combantants could also find refuge here during times of battle.
Once you have passed the temple you have entered Pu`uhonua. People who had been sentenced to death for breaking kapu fled to this section to seek refuge, often by swimming across the entire bay. Also came men, women and children, those weak and ill, those defeated in battle, or those who were non-combatants in battle but on the losing side. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the pu`uhonua were home to several generations of powerful cheifs. The 182 acre park, established in 1961, includes the pu`uhonua and a complex of archeological sites inculding: temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks, and some coastal village sites.
As you work you way back to the Visitor Center you walk past the the royal fishpond. Fish caught exclusively for the chiefs were placed in this pond.The Haloe o Keawe temple and several thatched strucures have been reconstructed.
Trully an awesome experience!
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is a special place and ranks up there with Volcano Park for me. In the days of old, there were a huge amount of laws that people were bound by. If you broke a rule, chances were the consequence would be an ugly death. The only way to avoid such a fate was to reach the sacred City of Refuge. There is a lot see here so count on 2-3 hours.
The City of Refuge was made anational park in 1961 and it is said to be the best example of a place of refuge in the islands. Reconstructed houses and temples can be seen. The beach where only the king could step foot and land his canoe. The foundation of the very large original temple is still there. The grounds are well tended. Lots of turtles (see photo). Wooden carvings of ancient totem-like statues abound. Best of all is the ancient dry stone wall - 1000' long, 10' high and 17' thick - all built without mortar! Some recreated ancient games, some petroglyphs, and the king's bench are all there to see and touch.
There is a fee of $5 per car to park, but noone was collecting the day we were there and no place to put the money as far as I could tell (I looked - really).
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is where the royal chiefs had one of their most important residences. The pu'uhonua was a place of refuge for defeated warriors, noncombatants in time of war and those who violated the kapu. The place was built around 1550 and was abandoned in 1818 when King Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices.
I was unfortunate to find that the main atraction, the replica of the actual place of refuge was under maintenace during my visit, but then again it will not be surounded by the scafoldings for a while to come.
Visiting the City of Refuge will give you the feeling of being in olden Hawaii. Here is where in the olden days, someone in trouble could find sanctuary, and pardon (but only if they made it to the site) Trust me, it wasn't the easiest place to find according to our travel map! The layout is beautiful! You will find three heiau's here (ancient temple grounds) There are huts set up where you can view traditional wood carving. Walk around and see some of the ancient relics and games. The tidal pools alone could have kept me there all day long!
Just on the edge of Hilo towards Mauna Kea is the Rainbow Falls, so named because you can often see a rainbow here.
The best time to catch a rainbow is after rain, which is fairly often given the fact that Hilo is the wettest city in the US, or in the early morning when vivid rainbows pierce the morning mist with their rich spectrum of colours...
The State Park offers a nice short scenic stroll to an excellent vantage point (pictured). There are a number of picnic sites here but beware that you must come prepared with some industrial strength Mosquito Repellant as the falls are home to an aggressive colony of oversized Mosquitoes!
As well as the main viewing point, there is a flight of stone stairs on the left side of the parking lot that you can climb to get a great vewing of the top of the falls and the Wailuku River below, in the shade of a gigantic banyan tree.
A little further upstream from Rainbow Falls are the striking and infrequently visited 'Boiling Pots', a series of falls that spill violently into churning pools of water as they course down the river.
When you're in Hilo, this makes for a pleasant half hour diversion...
In ancient Hawaiian times, breaking a taboo (kapu) was punishable by death. The only way out of this gruesome fate was to escape to a place of refuge, such as Puuhonua O Honaunau. This may seem childish to us, but it was deadly serious business to the ancient Hawaiians, who took the cleansing power of being atthe heiau (temple) very seriously. In fact, Kamehameha I had ordered one of his opposing generals killed during one of his earlier campaigns, but the man made it to a refuge temple and was spared. Eventually, when Kamehameh united the Hawaiian islands, he made that very same person one of his ministers.
Puuhonua O Honaunau Nat'l Historical Park is one of the most significant heiaus and places of refuge in the hawaiian Islands. It is carefully and minimally reconstructed so that you can imagine what it was like in its pre-contact days, without feeling the tackiness, say, of Tombstone, Arizona. You can truly imagine that this would be a great royal compound of the early Hawaiians. Don't miss it!
UPDATE: This park was damaged by a tsunami on March 11, 2011. As of April 2011, the park remains closed as officials assess the damage.
Ancient Hawaiian justice was rather harsh. If you broke most kapu (laws), you faced the death penalty. One way to avoid this was to make it to a Place of Refuge such as this one. You certainly feel the peace and security of this place as you look at the ki'i (wood carvings) and the magnificent views all around.
The fee to enter is $5. Free entry with National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).
This was a place of refugee where ancient Hawaiians could escape to and live if they were banished from their own district or if they were sentenced to death and could make it here they would be safe and recieve sanctuary. However once they made it here they could never leave. On the sight are preserved temples and village walls along with recreated houses.
This is also a great place to see honu (sea turtles).
A 30 minute self guided tour takes you through the grounds and history of the park. Enjoy many archeological sites, thatched structures, and sea turtles sunning on the beach.
Up until the 19th century, this site was used as a place of refuge. Hawaiians who broke an ancient law would flee here for safety. Absolved by a priest, they would then be free to leave. Defeated warriors could also find refuge here during times of battle.
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