There is a unique place on the island of Hawaii called by the locals as The Place of Refuge. The Hawaiian name for this place is Pu’uhonua O Honaunau.
In ancient Hawaii the law of the land was the kapu system. It evolved form the Samoan tabu system where there was only one punishment for any crime or wrongdoing…DEATH! Any Hawaiian found guilty of a kapu was sentenced to death unless he could reach one of the places of refuge like Pu’uhonua O Honaunau.
Once at one of the places of refuge the Hawaiians could be forgiven the kapu that they had done. Kapus were easy to happen in ancient Hawaii, as some of the smallest things were considered to be kapu or forbidden. The ancient Hawaiians operated on basically three classes. There were the commoners, the Alii and the ruling class. In the Alii class were the Kauhunas which, were essentially the teachers, craftsmen, and priests. The priests could reinstate a Hawaiian that could reach a place of refuge.
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau is a National Historic park and requires an entry fee, but well worth it. In the park there are many exhibits which are self guided. You start with a series of audio tape narratives telling you the history of the places of refuge. Then as you walk through the park following a map, provided by the rangers at check in, each exhibit is viewed in turn.
The main feature of the park is the heiau and it is just about the best example of and in the best condition of any in the islands. A heiau is an ancient Hawaiian place of worship and/or a place where various rituals were performed. In the park there are exhibits of a fully restored temple, a canoe shed, where they built their canoes, a ancient board game (actually made of lava so I guess it would really be a lava game) that was played sort of like chess, carved tiki images and other exhibits of interest. It takes about an hour or so to walk through the heiau area and it is very pleasant and easy walk
In another part of the park is a nice beach area where you can have a picnic. It is very pleasant and is worth bringing a lunch to enjoy by the ocean. There are pits provided by the park and you can bring charcoal and whatever you like to fix, hamburgers and hot dogs are great outdoors.
If you are going to visit Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, you need to plan on at least a half of day. This is a very historic place on the Big Island and is well worth the effort.
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