Hike,  Places

Place of Refuge

Pu’uhonua o Honounau, or the Place of Refuge, is located on the Kona coast on the Big Island. This is one of my favorites places on the Big Island. This ancient walled area was a self-contained community. People in need of safety went here to be protected from their attackers. Residents included defeated warriors, noncombatants in times of war, and those who violated sacred laws, or kapu. No blood could be shed within its walls.

Place of Refuge

The grounds include several modest buildings and huts, a fish pond, massive stone walls, and many wooden statues and tikis. The inlet to the sea is frequented by marine life including sea turtles. Unlike many other tourist spots this is a quiet place to experience in peace. To me it was like being in an empty, glorious cathedral. You just want to silently sit in that place experience it.

Carvings at Place of Refuge

When you visit the Place of Refuge read the signs, talk with the rangers, and learn about the place and the people who lived there. Take the time to just sit, enjoy the views, feel the peace of the place, and admire the structures and carvings. Watch the waves crash on the dark lava rock, marvel at the massive walls, and be sure to treat the grounds with the upmost respect.

Tava the Master Carver

One of my fondest memories was meeting Tava, the master carver. He told me a bit about his tribe and his family history. He stood proudly as he told me that he is from the tribe of the warriors. When he said that his small frame snapped to attention and you could see the pride in his face. He even showed me how to carve and allowed me to take a few chips from his current tiki pole. When I met him he was probably in his 70s. When he carved he would not draw plans or mark the wood. He would envision the final carving in his head and then transfer that image to the wood using mallets and chisels.

Pu’uhonua o Honounau is one of the many treasures of the Big Island. It is best enjoyed in quiet after the tour buses have departed. Talk to the rangers and listen to the stories about the place. Above all, treat the place with the respect that it deserves. Do NOT hurry and take time to just sit and enjoy this remarkable place.

Additional Information