Pu’uhonua, Place of Refuge

The last time we were on the Kona Coast on the big island of Hawai’i, 45 years ago, most of the development was south of Kona airport.  We rented a condo South of the airport and explored the coast with our kids.  Now most people go to the new resorts north of the airport and many never venture south.  But that’s where some of the more interesting historic sites are.

Our friend Karen lives south of the airport.  She decided to take us south to see some of her favorite places, places that the tourists, who now stay in the North may miss. 

Our Guide, and friend, Karen points out our destination.

Some are places we visited 45 years ago and are worth revisiting, others, like the Painted Church are new to us.

One of those places we had visited before is Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau, a place of refuge.  Today it’s a National Historical Park. In pre contact Hawaiian custom if a person violates a tabu, for instance, allows their shadow to be cast on a noble, catches a fish out of season or if a man eats with a woman, they could be put to death.  But if they can make it to a place of refuge they can go through a regimen and be absolved by a priest.  The same goes for a defeated warrior. 

The place of refuge is not easy to get to.  It is surrounded by a great wall of lava rock.  You have to swim to it and come ashore on a beach of sharp lava rock. 

The Pu’uhona is adjacent to royal grounds made sacred by the bones of 23 chiefs that were interned there.  The place has powerful “Mana” or spirit power.  It is where chiefs assembled, held discussions, negotiated treaties, and played sports and games like kōnane, a strategy game using black and white pebbles on a stone “board.”

The park has trails, and picnic areas.  In many ways the feeling is similar to Sitka National Historical Park, looking out over tide pools, with wooden carved guardians and other symbols, even a carving shed.  It gave me the same sense of peace and power that the Sitka park gives me when I walk through it.  Here is a gallery of photos from the park.

After leaving the park we drove along the Kona Coast and had a few more stops to admire the sea, crashing surf, and black lava beaches. 

Thank you Karen, for a wonderful day.

2 thoughts on “Pu’uhonua, Place of Refuge

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.