O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Park
There is, perhaps, no other region on the Big Island
shrouded in more history than the district of South
Kona. Whether it be the origins of Kona coffee, the
ancient Hawaiian village setting of Pu`uhonua O Honaunau
(Place of Refuge) National Park, or the Painted Church
nestled along the hillside overlooking Kealakekua Bay,
the spot where the famous English explorer Captain Cook
met his fate in 1779, South Kona will keep the historically
minded visitor busy weaving their way through its network
of mountain roads.
Coffee first came to Kona in 1828 when the Reverend
Samuel Ruggles brought plant cuttings to Kealakekua.
The early Japanese farmers cultivated many of Kona's
first farms and engineered the system of milling and
processing this prized coffee.
On highway 160 amidst coffee farms and high on the
slopes of Kealakekua Bay is The Painted Church, where
sometime between 1899 and 1904, Father John Velge, a
Catholic missionary from Belgium painted images on the
interior walls of the church depicting the biblical
scenes of heaven and hell.
At the bottom of Napoopoo Road is Hikiau Heiau at Kealakekua
Bay, and a white stone monument across the bay that
marks the spot where Captain Cook was killed in 1779.
The story behind Cook's death was that it was the result
of a failed attempt by Cook and his soldiers to exchange
the high chief Kalaniopuu hostage in return for a cutter
that was stolen the night before. Cook, who had come
south to the Hawaiian Islands seeking shelter for the
winter months, was in search of a northwest passage
A lower coastal road connects Kealakekua Bay to Pu'uhonua
O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Park. In the early
years of Hawaiian civilization it was to the Place of
Refuge that people who broke kapu (sacred laws) would
attempt to flee. If the kapu breaker could reach this
sanctuary his life would be spared. Some of these kapu
that governed the common people included not being allowed
to walk in the footsteps of the chiefs or to touch their
possessions. Other rules forbade commoners from eating
foods reserved for offering to the gods, and women were
not allowed to eat with the men. The gathering of wood,
seasons for fishing and the taking of animals as well
as the hula were also controlled under the kapu system.
Other features at the park are lokos (ancient fish ponds),
hales (thatched roof structures that served as homes),
heiaus and ancient rock walls. Visitors are usually
provided with live demonstrations of ancient Hawaiian
crafts such as the building of canoes and tikis at the
park. Check at the Parks visitor center to find
out about any special programs that may be happening
at the park during your stay.
of Hawaii’s exotic fruit left to right: mango, star
fruit and rambutan.
Leis for sale.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.