Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, the ‘City of Refuge’ is a Cultural Gem in Kona

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is a wonderful National Park site located just south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is the last of the remaining Pu’uhonua (Place of Refuge) in the Hawaiian islands. The rest were destroyed in the cultural and religious counter-revolution that occurred after western contact.

Hale at Honaunau - Copy

It is remarkable because this was a safe place where your sins / crimes were forgiven if you could reach this haven. You would have to arrive by water (swimming, or by canoe) since the surrounding land was royal property and trespassing was kapu (forbidden).

Altar at Honaunau
Altar at Honaunau

This site was also remarkable because no human sacrifice ever performed here. It was the retreat of the Hawaiian royalty, whose bones used to be buried on the site.

Ki'i Guardians of Honaunau
Ki’i Guardians of Honaunau

The Ki’i (literally translated as ‘images’ but more commonly referred to as ‘tiki’) are of the Hawaiian god, Lono.  Lono was known as the god of peace, agriculture, music, rain, and fertility.

This National Park hosts a wonderful cultural festival annually the last weekend of June (if you’re in town before the 4th of July, make sure you check it out).

Split Tiki at Honaunau
Split Tiki at Honaunau

Admission is free during the cultural festival. Other times, it is a nominal fee for entry. There is no food at the site, so please eat beforehand or bring your own snacks. No picnics are allowed beyond the visitor center.

Clean restrooms are available at the visitor center.  Cold drinking water is available at the water fountains.

Altar angle Honaunau WM

Make it a point to attend a ranger talk. We have seen ranger Kale Hua give several talks — he is always informative, and shows his love of the park and the land.

Altar at Honaunau
Altar at Honaunau
Comments (and Tips!)

Just for my Blog readers, I have additional tips about the property that are not posted on other sites (Disney hotel reviews, TripAdvisor).

  • There is little shade when you enter the grounds — bring your water bottle and sunscreen for an enjoyable visit!


  • Check out the shallow waters near the shore — there are often honu (sea turtles) munching on limu (seaweed) nearby.  The waters are so crystal clear that you often can see bright yellow tang and raccoon butterfly fish in the water!
  • Watch for baby coconut trees sprouting from coconuts.  Everything grows on the Big Island!

See my review also on Tripadvisor!

 Have you been to the Pu’u Honua o Honaunau?  Please share your thoughts below!




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