Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park (Place of Refuge)
Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park located on the west coast of the island. The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or pu`uhonua. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the pu`uhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs.
The 420 acre (1.7 sq Kilometers) site was originally established in 1955 as City of Refuge National Historical Park and was renamed on November 10, 1978. It includes the pu`uhonua and a complex of archeological sites including: temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks, and some coastal village sites. The Hale o Keawe temple and several thatched structures have been reconstructed.
The park contains a reconstruction of the Hale O Keawe heiau, which was originally built by a Kona chief named Kanuha. After the death of Keawe, a great chief of Kona in the mid 16th century, his bones were entombed within the Heiau. The nobility (ali`i) of Kona continued to be buried here for 250 years. The last person buried here was a son of Kamehameha I in 1818.
It was believed that additional protection to the place of refuge was received from the mana in the bones of the chiefs. It survived several years after other temples were destroyed. It was looted by Lord George Byron (cousin of the distinguished English poet) in 1825. In 1929, High Chiefess Kapi`olani removed the remaining bones and hid them in the Pali Kapu O Keoua cliffs above nearby Kealakekua Bay. She then ordered this last temple to be destroyed. The bones were later moved to the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii in 1858.
Take Hwy 11 south past Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and the towns of Pahala and Naalehu. Between milesposts 103 and 104, at the Honaunau Post Office, turn left towards the ocean onto Hwy 160. Travel 3.5 miles then turn left at the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park sign. Total travel distance is approximately 107 miles.