Honaunau, Hawaii Guide

Honaunau, Hawaii Guide
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Address , Honaunau, HI 96704
Complete guide to the city of Honaunau, Big Island, Hawaii.

• General: Educational • General: Guide • General: History

Guide Series: Hawaii City Guides
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Honaunau Location

The town of Honaunau is located roughly in the middle of the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island. The next city to the north is Captain Cook and Ocean View is the next major city to the south. The main north/south road on this side of the island is the Mamalahoa Highway (11) which will connect to Keala O Keawe Road (160) to bring you into Honaunau.

Honaunau History

For such a (relatively) small area, Honaunau is rich with Hawaiian culture and history with Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park being the main historical attraction. This area is a very sacred site to the Hawaiian people and home to many archaeological remains, most of which are at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau which translates as "place or temple of refuge at Honaunau".

This refuge is one of several sacred spots, with this being the most important one, that provided ancient Hawaiians (around the 15th century) sanctuary in times of war. This was a place that warriors, taboo breakers, fugitives, and anyone who violated a Kapu (sacred law) could use to escape a punishment of death if they were able to get here before their pursuers. If they made it they would then spend a few days here performing religious services and were then free to leave with the full protection of the gods.

In the early 1800's, the Hawaiian people were under the reign of King Kamehameha II and these old religious practices were forbidden and the heiaus (temples) were destroyed. In 1961 the area was declared a national historical park and is now a place you can visit known as Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

Honaunau Attractions

When most tourists come to Honaunau, they're coming for Ho'okena Beach Park. The name Two Steps comes from the two natural steps in the hardened lava flow that lead into the water. While there is no sandy beach here, it's one of the best places on the Big Island for snorkeling when the ocean is calm. It's a popular place and brings in the most crowds on weekends.

Another area beach is Ho'okena Beach Park which is a gray sand (salt and pepper) beach that's an excellent beach for families. When the ocean is calm it's a good beach for kids to play in the water as it has some protected tide pool areas. Snorkeling can be good off to the east side (left as you face the ocean) if the water is calm.

As mentioned earlier, the main historical attraction here is Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park and worth checking out to get a taste of what early Hawaiian life was like.

Just east of this area (in what is technically Captain Cook) is St. Benedict Painted Church but is better known as the Painted Church. This was the first Roman Catholic church in Hawaii and a place you can still visit today. It's famous for its interior walls and ceilings which feature various religious scenes that were all hand painted by Father John Velghe, a self taught painter and Belgian Catholic missionary.

Just a bit to the north is the Captain Cook Monument where Captain James Cook (see The History of Captain James Cook) was killed. The only way to see the monument up close is via a boat (or really long swim) or the Captain Cook Monument Trail Hike.

View all that Honaunau has to offer here.

Honaunau Fun Facts

In ancient Hawaiians times there were a lot of Kapu (sacred laws) that were punishable by death. Breaking a Kapu could be something as simple as entering an area reserved only for chiefs or even eating a forbidden food! This is a time where Taco Tuesday could send you running for your life to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. Make it in time and you could live. Get caught and that taco would be your last. It was sort like a real life Running Man situation. Scary stuff.