Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park

Puuhonua O Honaunua National Park is a 180-acre compound on the South Kohala coast where defeated warriors, war victims and law-breakers traveled to seek forgiveness and safety in ancient times. Puuhonua is surrounded by a large stone wall, which measures 1,000 feet long, 10 feet high and 17 feet wide. The 180-acre site includes a fishpond, canoe landing, thatched hale (house), halau (A-framed large structure) and Hale O Keawe heiau (temple), an ancient temple surrounded by large ancient wooden kii (statue), which stand guard over the buried bones of 23 alii (Hawaiian royalty).

Photo courtesy of Kirk Lee Aeder - Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau


  • 6:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
  • 6:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.
  • The Visitor Center is open 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. daily.

Location: Off Hwy. 160 22 miles south of Kailua-Kona

Pu`uhonua o Honaunau means ''place of refuge of Honaunau.'' It was established during the early 15th century (some on-site artifacts date to the 12th century). The area was one of several sacred spots that gave sanctuary to breakers of one of the ancient laws against the gods or kapu, the religious law, for which the punishment was death. It also provided a safe haven to women and children and defeated warriors seeking protection in time of war. War refugees remained until the conflict was over; kapu breakers remained until they were purified by priests, usually within a few hours or overnight. When they left, the protection continued to guard them.

In the mid-1500s the Kona District was ruled by Keawe, great-grandfather of Kamehameha the Great. On his death he was deified and his bones placed in a temple at the bay end of the wall with the remains of other previous chiefs of Kona.

The last bones to be put in the temple were those of one of Kamehameha's sons in 1818. The next year, with the abolition of the kapu system, the place of refuge became a thing of the past. Within the next decade the images were taken, and the royal mausoleum fell to ruin.

Established in 1961, the park includes the sanctuary and such archeological sites as temple platforms, royal fishponds and coastal village sites. The Hale o Keawe temple and several thatched structures also have been rebuilt.

The sanctuary, or pu'uhonua, is between the sea and a lone L-shaped stone wall measuring up to 17 feet wide and 10 feet high. Entrances are at both ends of the wall. The sanctuary contains replicas of buildings and artifacts of the heiau's culture. The well-preserved temple platform, built in the late 16th century with stones from an earlier structure, is within the wall, and a reconstructed temple is at one end.

Leaflets outlining self-guiding walks are available at the information desk in the visitor center. Orientation talks are presented daily 10-3. Throughout the year, people in native dress demonstrate such activities as carving, weaving, the making of tapa cloth from mulberry bark and the playing of traditional games. Picnicking is permitted, but camping is not.

Admission is charged. As of 2004, the fee is $5.00 per person for a week or $20 for an annual pass. A National Parks Pass may also be used for admission.

Where to Stay in the Area:

  • Kanaloa at Kona
  • Aston Keauhou Beach Resort
  • Kona by the Sea

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