Finding Refuge in Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau: A Guide to Hawaii’s City of Refuge

Hawaii Things to do Vacation Rentals

hawaii place refuge

Aloha and welcome to Kohala Coast Properties’ guide to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau (City of Refuge) National Historical Park! If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, be sure to add this stunning and historically rich destination to your itinerary.

About the Park

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a place of great cultural significance for the people of Hawaii. The park is located on the Kona coast of the Big Island and encompasses an area of approximately 420 acres.

The park was initially established in 1955 as a National Historic Site, and it was later designated as a National Historical Park in 1978. The park’s purpose is to preserve and protect the cultural and historical significance of the area, which was once a place of refuge for those who had broken the law or violated a kapu (sacred law).

The word puʻuhonua translates to “place of refuge,” and that’s exactly what Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau was during ancient times. In ancient Hawaii, breaking the law or violating a kapu was considered a serious offense, and the punishment for such offenses was often severe, including death. However, those who had committed such offenses had a chance to avoid punishment by making their way to a puʻuhonua or place of refuge.

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau was one of several such places in Hawaii and is considered one of the most sacred. Those who made it to the puʻuhonua were given a chance to receive absolution for their crimes by a priest or kahuna, and they were allowed to rejoin society without fear of punishment. This tradition of refuge was an important part of Hawaiian culture, and it helped to maintain social order and prevent further violence.

In addition to serving as a place of refuge, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau was also a sacred site for Hawaiian royalty. The area known as the Royal Grounds was once the residence of the aliʻi (chiefs), and it was considered a place of great mana (spiritual power). The Great Wall, which surrounds the Royal Grounds, is an impressive feat of engineering, and it served to protect the aliʻi and their families from enemies and invaders.

Today, visitors to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park can learn about Hawaii’s history and culture through various exhibits and educational programs. The park’s staff and volunteers work hard to preserve and protect the area’s cultural and historical significance. They are dedicated to sharing this important part of Hawaii’s past with visitors from around the world.


Located on the south Kona coast, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a sacred site that was once the home of Hawaiian royalty. The park is situated on approximately 420 acres and boasts sweeping ocean views, lush tropical vegetation, and an abundance of cultural and historical significance.

Getting There

The park is located about 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona, and it’s easily accessible by car. From Kailua-Kona, take Highway 11 south, and turn left onto Highway 160. Follow the signs to the park, and you’ll soon find yourself at the entrance.

If you’re staying in the Kona area, you may also consider taking a guided tour to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Many tour operators offer half-day and full-day tours that include a visit to the park and other local attractions. This can be a great option if you’re looking to learn more about the area and its rich history.

Fee-Free Days

If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be happy to know that Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park offers fee-free days throughout the year. These special days allow visitors to enter the park free of charge, making it an even more attractive destination for budget-conscious travelers.

Some of the fee-free days at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park include:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 16, 2023)
  • National Park Week (April 22, 2023)
  • National Park Service Birthday (August 4, 2023)
  • National Public Lands Day (September 23, 2023)
  • Veterans Day (November 11, 2023)

If you’re planning your trip around one of these fee-free days, be sure to arrive early, as the park can get crowded on these busy days.

What to See and Do

Now that you know how to get to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and when to visit, let’s take a closer look at some of the things you can see and do at this incredible destination.

Explore the Royal Grounds

One of the main attractions at the park is the Royal Grounds, which are home to several sacred temples and structures that were once used by Hawaiian royalty. As you walk through the Royal Grounds, you’ll be transported back in time to the days of ancient Hawaii, when the area was a bustling center of culture and commerce.

Visit the Great Wall

Another must-see attraction at the park is the Great Wall, a massive stone wall built to protect the Royal Grounds from invaders. The wall is over 1,000 feet long and 10 feet high, and it’s an impressive feat of engineering that is sure to leave you in awe.

Take a Dip in the Ocean

After exploring the park, be sure to take some time to relax on the beach and cool off in the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. The park’s beach is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing, and it’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring.

Attend a Cultural Event

Throughout the year, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park hosts various cultural events and activities designed to educate visitors about the rich history and culture of the area. From traditional Hawaiian music and dance performances to educational talks and workshops, there is always something happening at the park.

Hike the Coastal Trail

For those who enjoy hiking, the park offers a stunning coastal trail that winds along the rugged Kona coastline. The trail is approximately 2.5 miles long and offers breathtaking ocean views and the surrounding landscape.

Tips for Visiting Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

To make the most of your visit to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing

The park is quite large, and you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.

Bring sunscreen and a hat

The park can get quite hot, especially during the middle of the day, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun.

Pack a picnic lunch

The park has several picnic areas where you can relax and enjoy a meal, so consider packing a lunch or snacks to enjoy during your visit.

Respect the cultural significance of the area

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a sacred site, and it’s important to show respect for the area’s cultural and historical significance.

Stay on designated trails. To protect the park’s delicate ecosystem, it’s important to stay on designated trails and not wander off into the surrounding areas.

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a truly unique destination that offers visitors a glimpse into Hawaii’s rich history and culture. From the Royal Grounds and Great Wall to the stunning coastal trail and cultural events, this incredible park has something for everyone. So if you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, be sure to add Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park to your itinerary. It is a destination not to be missed.

Save on your Hawaii Vacation Rental

Remember, you can always save 10% on your vacation rental when you book direct with us and mention “Aloha Escape” in your reservation.

We hope to see you soon – a hui hou!


To top