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Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Guide — Snorkeling, Hours, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a Hawaiian park filled with history, tradition, culture, and adventure. From exploring ancient temples and royal grounds to snorkeling and hiking, this park has everything. Each year, approximately 250,000 visitors tour this fascinating park and learn about the intriguing history of warriors, chiefs, civilians, and traditions of this incredible region of Hawai’i. 

How To Get to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Where Is Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park?

The park can be found on the rugged coast of southern Kona on Hawai’i Island (the Big Island) and stretches over 420 acres. The park encompasses historic landmarks, coastal sites, and beautiful landscapes, preserving Hawaiian history and traditions and telling an intriguing story of the past.

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Opening Hours and Seasons

The park is open year-round, and visitors can enter from 8:15 a.m. to 15 minutes after sunset each day. Keep in mind that the sunset hours vary throughout the year, so it is wise to check the website or call the visitor center to find out the exact time of the sunset for the time you are visiting. 

Nearest Airports to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole (KOA) is the closest airport to the park and is about 30 minutes away.

Cities served by KOA include Honolulu (HNL), Denver (DEN), Kahului (OGG), Ontario (ONT), Portland (PDX), and Seattle (SEA). The airport receives flights from American, Delta, Southwest, United, and WestJet.

Driving to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Depending on where you are coming from, there are a few different routes to take when driving to the park.

Those from Kailua-Kona will take Highway 11 South and Highway 160 to the park. Visitors from Hilo heading North will take Highway 19 to Highway 190 and then Highway 160. For those coming from Hilo going south, Highway 11 to Highway 160 is the route to take.

Taking the Train to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

There is no train service to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Taking the Bus to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

The Hele-On Bus offers service to the park via the 204 bus line. This is a great way to let someone else take over the stress of driving and allows travelers to take in the beautiful scenery along the journey. 

Getting Around Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

The best way to explore Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is on foot. There are plenty of places to park your car at the park, and once you do, you can set out on your adventures. The National Park Service offers a wonderful interactive map to help plan park outings. 

What To See and Do in Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

There is no shortage of things to see and do at the park. With hiking, snorkeling, touring ancient sites, and learning about traditional Hawaiian culture from interactive demonstrations, there are plenty of sights and activities that appeal to visitors.

Cultural Demonstrations

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park staff and cultural practitioners frequently demonstrate traditional Hawaiian craft techniques. These demonstrations teach basket weaving, bracelet making, and how to play traditional Hawaiian games.

Watching these demonstrations gives a good look at the traditions of Hawai’i. Most of these demonstrations occur Thursday through Monday, and visitors are encouraged to engage with the practitioners.

Hiking

Hiking Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Image Credit: NPS

Hiking is a popular activity at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Visitors can hike the 1871 Trail, a section of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. The entire historic trail is 175 miles long. It travels from the island’s northern tip, along its western border, around the southern tip, and into its most eastern district.

The 1871 Trail is only 2 miles and takes visitors by many ancient and historic sites and rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the Keanae’e cliffs, the Alahaka Ramp, and the ocean.

Ki’ilae Village

Ki’ilae Village is an excellent part of the park to explore and learn about the past. When Hawai’i began changing quickly long ago, this area still supported the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle.

This village was believed to be established in the late 1700s or early 1800s and was inhabited until the 1930s. Today, this village features abandoned houses, animal pens, agricultural features, and salt vats. 

Royal Grounds and Pu’uhonua

Royal Grounds and Puuhonua
Image Credit: NPS

The Royal Grounds and Pu’uhonua are 2 cultural sites within the park that offer a glimpse into the past. The best way to tour these areas is with a self-guided half-mile walking and audio tour through this part of the park.

The Royal Grounds has many things to see and learn about, including Royal Ponds, the Great Wall, and Keone’ele Cove. In the past, these places were used to entertain and cater to the chiefs. Today, visitors can look for fish, play games, view artifacts, and watch sea turtles resting in the area. 

The Pu’uhonua is a ceremonial site of long ago. Today, visitors can see the temple and royal mausoleum, the favorite resting place of the high chief, tide pools, and an ancient heiau site, one of the oldest structures in the park.

Bottom Line:

Exploring the Royal Grounds and the Pu’uhonua is a great way to understand better the rich history of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is a big draw to the park and is the best way to explore the world under the water. The vibrant corals and unique wildlife are mesmerizing sights to take in. The best snorkeling area is right near the park, known as Two Step. The site for snorkeling is managed by the County of Hawai’i and is found at the Hōnaunau Bay Boat Ramp. 

Visitor Center

The Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Visitor Center is a great place to begin your park adventures. This visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visitors can learn about the park, grab Junior Ranger booklets, and browse the on-site bookstore. This is the perfect starting point for your visit to this Hawaiian park.

Best Times To Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is an incredible piece of paradise to visit no matter what time of year you come. However, some times are better than others if you hope to participate in a specific event or activity.

Best Time To Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park for Ideal Weather

Weather can make or break a trip, so it is important to research before planning your adventures. For ideal weather, February is the best time to visit. This month has the least precipitation, and the temperatures range from the mid-60s to low 80s.

Best Time To Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park To Avoid the Crowds

Every vacation is better when you don’t have to deal with crowds. If you want to experience a crowd-free trip, plan to visit in June. While this is the least crowded time to visit, it is also the month with the highest chance of precipitation, so be sure to pack your rain gear just in case. 

Best Time To Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park for Snorkeling

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park for Snorkeling
Image Credit: NPS

Snorkeling is one of the main activities that draws people to Pu’uhonua oHōnaunau National Historical Park. The best time to visit for snorkeling is in September, when water temperatures during the day range from 69 to 86 degrees. Another perk to coming this month is fewer visitors in the park, which means you’ll get the best snorkeling experience. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Traveling expenses can add up quickly, but there are ways to visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and save money at the same time. The cheapest month to visit is in September, especially early in the month. Flight and accommodation rates are typically lower this time of year, making it a great time to visit.

Annual Events in Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

This amazing park offers many programs throughout the year on a regular schedule, such as cultural demonstrations and ranger-led programs. There is 1 annual event that is looked forward to every year by visitors and locals alike.

Annual Cultural Festival

The Annual Cultural Festival takes place in June each year at the park. This event is when the locals gather to share their knowledge and skills, such as lei-making, hula dancing, canoe rides, and weaving. Visitors can enjoy food tastings and chat with community members during this visit.

Bottom Line:

This free event is offered each year to keep the Hawaiian traditions and values alive for generations to come.

Where To Stay In and Near Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Whether looking for a quiet retreat or a lively scene, you can find several wonderful options for staying near Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Inside the Park

There are no options for lodging or camping within the boundaries of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Towns Near Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

There are several towns and cities near the park that make an excellent home away from home during your visit. Each option has unique offerings regarding accommodations, restaurants, and activities to enjoy. Let’s look at 2 of the closest options for staying nearby. 

Hōnauna, Hawai’i

Hōnauna is a beautiful place to stay when visiting Pu’uhonuao Hōnaunau National Historical Park. It is about 10 minutes from the park and has terrific lodging, dining, and recreation options. This small town is a perfect option for visitors who want a quiet stay surrounded by beauty. 

The majority of the options for lodging are locally owned bed and breakfasts. Still, there are also a few hotels and resorts. 

There aren’t many food options, but several options for dining are within a few minutes of the town. Most visitors shop for food at the local grocery stores and eat in their room or find a beautiful spot for a picnic. 

For recreation, most visitors plan on exploring the nearby parks, touring historical monuments and landmarks, soaking in the sun’s rays on one of the many beaches, or visiting the botanical gardens. 

Hōnauna is the perfect place to retreat when you need to reset from the busy daily grind. You can’t beat its proximity to the park; the scenery will take your breath away. 

Kaliua-Kona, Hawai’i

Kaliua Kona Hawaii
Image Credit: Peter Luo via Unsplash

Kaliua-Kona is a town approximately 30 minutes from this park. This historic town is known for its vibrant nightlife, incredible restaurants, and unique shops. 

Lodging options include bed and breakfasts, all-inclusive resorts, and luxury hotels. Whether you are looking for an opulent stay or a quiet retreat on the beach, you can find the perfect solution in this community. 

Sushi lounges, fresh seafood eateries, and authentic cultural restaurants are some of the most common options. There are also dozens of beach bars for when you need to grab a bite in a hurry.

Adventure is everywhere; National historical parks, beaches, museums, and historic landmarks surround this exciting city.

Bottom Line:

With its proximity to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and its numerous dining, lodging, and recreation options, Kaliua-Kona makes an excellent choice for setting up a home base close to the park.

Where To Eat in Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

There are no dining options in the park, but plenty of options are nearby. No matter what you crave, you can find a solution to your hunger just down the road. Let’s look at some of the top-rated restaurants near the park.

Ka’aloa’s Super J’s Authentic Hawaiian

Ka’aloa’s Super J’s Authentic Hawaiian is 3 miles from the park. Customers call this restaurant a hidden gem, and it is a highly-rated restaurant in the town of Captain Cook. 

Customers rave about the incredible service and mouthwatering meals at Ka’aloa’s Super J’s Authentic Hawaiian. The menu features authentic Hawaiian cuisine, including pork laulau, rice and potato salad, passion fruit, and chocolate cake. 

Shaka Tacoz

Shaka Tacoz is a little under 5 miles from the park in the town of Captain Cook. This is a perfect place to stop if you want something quick and delicious. 

Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads are just some of the options you will find on the menu. Recommended dishes include steak salad, fish tacos, and burrito bowls. 

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Facts

Puuhonua o Honaunau
Image Credit: Ulrike R. Donohue via Unsplash

1. A New Park Established

Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park was initially established on July 26, 1955, as City of Refuge National Park. 

2. What’s in a Name?

This park was renamed on November 10, 1979, as Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

3. Sea Turtle Sightings

Sea turtles are often seen sunbathing at Keone’ele Cove or swimming offshore. These animals are protected by federal law, and humans should remain 20 feet or further from them. 

4. An Abundance of Animals

Many animals call the park home, including humpback whales, sea turtles, monk seals, mongooses, and hundreds of birds and fish. 

5. Sunscreen Hazards

Sunscreens can contain chemicals that can be harmful or deadly to the coral reefs and ocean life that make their home in the park. Hawai’i has a law that bans particular sunscreens. You can do your part to help protect these ocean habitats by avoiding the harmful types of sunscreen. The park’s website lists the types of sunscreen to avoid and recommends safe options. 

Final Thoughts

A trip to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is one of the best ways to experience the traditional culture of Hawai’i. There’s so much to see and do at this park, from cultural demonstrations to world-class hiking and exploring ancient sites; there’s something for every visitor to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park?

Entrance passes range from $10 per person entering on foot to $20 per vehicle. There are several days where the entrance fee is waived, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day. There is also the opportunity to buy an annual entrance pass for the park for $35.

What is the weather like at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park?

The weather is hot and sunny throughout the year. Daytime temperatures can reach the upper 80s, and nighttime lows are typically around 70 degrees. Rain is predicted each month of the year, with the rainiest month in June and the driest month in February.

Is there Wi-Fi available at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park?

Public Wi-Fi is not available at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Cellular service is typically good, but it depends on your service provider.

Can I fish at Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park?

Fishing is permitted in some areas of Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Fishermen do not need a license or permit if they don’t sell what they catch. Check the fishing regulations before casting a line to ensure you don’t accidentally break any park rules.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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