City of Refuge

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park or the City of Refuge as it’s more commonly known as is a National Park you’ve probably never heard of but need to visit. It’s located on Highway 160 in Honaunau, HI. This was one place my sister, and I definitely wanted to visit while we were in Hawai’i. The City of Refuge is full of history and is still to this day considered a sacred site. Before you start planning your visit, this is what you need to know.


-The Park opens at 7am and closes 15 minutes after sunset every day

-The Visitors Center is open daily from 8:30am-4:30pm. 

-The park can occasionally close because of high winds or dangerous storm conditions. 

-It is usually hot and sunny at the park so make sure you have dressed appropriately and bring water. I was wearing jeans and a tank top and after a few minutes instantly regretted my decision. 

-It does cost $15 per non-commercial vehicle to enter the park and park in their lot. If you choose to park outside of the Park’s parking lot (say that 3 times fast) it will cost you $7 per person to enter the National Park. Depending on how many people are with you, it will probably be cheaper just to pay the $15 and park in their lot since it covers everyone in the car. 


If you choose to stop by the Visitor’s Center, you can get an orientation on the City of Refuge. I saw a few people walking around with headphones on so I’m assuming you can do a self-guided audio tour, but I didn’t inquire about it since I had already done my research on this historical site before coming. 


Back in the day, if you broke a kapu or law, the penalty was certain death. The only option to survive was to somehow elude your pursuers and reach the Pu’uhonua or place of refuge. There is a wall that marks the boundaries between the royal grounds and the sanctuary. You’ll see many ki’i or carved wooden images that surround the Hale o Keawe temple, which houses the bones of the chiefs that infuse the area with their mana. If and only if you can reach this sacred place, you would be saved.


You saw the Royal Grounds and the Pu’uhonua so what else is there to do here? If you like to hike you can head to the park’s back-country trails to see historical agricultural sites, we didn’t do this as I was hot, hungry and starting to get a little cranky. You can also head over to that fishing and picnicking area. You may also choose to head over to Two Step which is a small cove adjacent to the park and go snorkeling, it is important to note you may not enter the water at Keone’ele Cove in the park. Check the park’s website to see when the cultural demonstrations such as basket and bracelet weaving are scheduled. 


Even though it was warm, I enjoyed Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau. I loved seeing this sacred historic site in person. I almost forgot to mention, because this is still a holy site there are restrictions in place. There is no commercial filming allowed, nudity, beach chairs, towels, beach umbrellas are not permitted, you cannot have your wedding in the National Park or take wedding photos here. To see the full list of the restrictions, please visit the website. I feel like it was worth the price of parking, and would definitely recommend it if you’re heading to Hawai’i.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you visited the City of Refuge? Will you add this National Historical Park to your itinerary now? I hope the answer to the second question is yes, let me know in the comments below! Mahalo for reading! 

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