Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is a must see when you are in this area.
It is located 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona.
The park service has tried to restore this refuge to the way it appeared in the 1700's.
You will walk by numbered coconuts that designate points of interest as you stroll through the compound and canoe landing. Ferocious carved Tikis stand vigil around the bay
Ancient Hawaii was governed by a rigid system of kapu (taboos). After committing one you were put to death unless you could reach a refuge such as this one.
Coconut and Noni trees grow within the Puuhonua. There are many native plants that grow in the park.
The center is open from 8am-5pm
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau is a museum that preserves the sacred place where in old Hawaiian times, people who broke kapu (taboo) were given refuge and forgiveness by the priests who lived there. But not only that, immediately adjacent to the museum to the north, there is a lava shelf that is one of the most popular places to step off to snorkel and scuba dive. Usually we avoid crowds, and really, it's not all that crowded. But there is a reason the place is popular. It really is spectacular! The coral formations are amazing and there is so much life in the water! Add to that a couple of easy, natural steps in the lava shelf down into the water, fantastic visibility and this place is simply a joy to dive! You'll see probably hundreds of yellow tang, all kinds of triggers and butterflyfish; colorful nudibranchs if you look closely; and probably some turtles too!
There is parking available with a $2 or $3 donation requested. Port-a-johns are on site, but I was told the smell was pretty rank. I didn't dare venture over.
This park is in a brilliant setting. The views of the ocean, as well as the grounds, are great, to say nothing of the historical interest of the place.
Just away from the park there is good snorkeling at Two-Step.
Pu'uhonau O Honaunau is not in Kailua-Kona, but I've placed it in this section because if you are staying on the Kona side of the island, it is just a short trip south on 11, onto Napoopoo Road.
This former royal ground and place of refuge is a sacred site. It has been operated as a restored site by the state and offers a fantastic look at life then. But the soul of the park is the sacred site of refuge. No blood may be shed here. At the Hale o Keawe heiau, anyone guilty of kapu (sinful or illegal acts) had the opportunity to get to this spot, have rituals performed by the kahuna pule (priest) to cleanse the soul of the kapu and gave a clean slate. This is also where defeated warriors could be cleansed and offer loyalty to their defeater with amnesty. After driving through rough, obstructive lava fields to get to this park, it's hard to imagine how it was reached years ago.
Go about 20 miles south of Kona and visit the Place of Refuge (Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park). In the old days, if you made it there, you were exhonerated of any crimes. Here in the national park you can walk through an ancient Hawaiian village and see firsthand how the kings of Hawaii once lived. THere is a $5 entrance fee.
The snorkeling from where this picture was taken was one of our favorite spots, too. Parking is along the road and not in the National park---so it is free. This is actually as close as we got to the national park.
This 180-acre national historic park was, in early times, a place of refuge and healing. Kapu breakers, criminals, and prisoners of war who escaped and reached this site were allowed to live and to avoid punishment upon purification by the priests who lived within its walls. Hale-o-Keawe Heiau, built in 1650, has been restored, and wood images of Hawaiian gods have been replaced.
Demonstrations of Hawaiian skills, games, poi (taro-root paste) pounding, canoe making, and more are frequently scheduled. There are tidal pools and a picnic area in this park heavy with history.
Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park
Officially called in Hawaiian, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, the Place of Refuge is probably the most visited Kona tourist site out of Kailua. Surprisingly it is a National Park so that there are two such on the Big Island including the Volcanoes National Park. This place was very important to Hawaiians.
If you broke a kapu (law) in those days then you were under a rather unpleasant immediate death sentence (This was before Miranda). However there was an out. If you could paddle your canoe fast enough to reach this place of refuge, then all your sins would be forgiven and you could return to your village life. There are murals here of one guy paddling like mad, only to be caught and killed by the king's warriors in their huge battle canoe within a hundred yards of his salvation. You can see how the missionaries were able to make hay selling confessionals.