Wooden temple efigies, Pu'uhonua O Honaunau Temple, South Kona..

©Greg Elms/Lonely Planet

Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Top choice in South Kona Coast

This awesome park is an ancient place of refuge – or puʻuhonua, a sanctuary where kapu (taboo)-breakers could have their lives spared. A half-mile walking tour encompasses major sites – the visitor center provides a brochure map with cultural information. You enter the park in the village-like royal grounds, where Kona aliʻi (chiefs) and their warriors lived; the spiritual atmosphere is greatly enhanced by gently breaking waves and wind-rustled palms. Throughout the grounds are wooden kiʻi (deity images) standing up to 15ft high.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby South Kona Coast attractions

1. Keoneʻele Cove

0.12 MILES

Once this was the royal canoe landing; now it's a tongue of sand that hooks into the waters (wave to those snorkelers at Two-Step just across the way) and…

2. Hale o Keawe Heiau

0.16 MILES

'The temple on the point of the cove,' located a few hundred yards past the main park entrance, was built around 1650 and contains the bones of 23 chiefs…

3. Great Wall

0.21 MILES

Leading up to Hale o Keawe Heiau is the Great Wall, separating the royal grounds from the puʻuhonua (place of sanctuary). Built around 1550, this stone…

4. Picnic Area

0.36 MILES

Just south of the park’s central village area, an oceanfront palm-tree grove holds one of South Kona’s choicest picnic areas. Parking, picnic tables and…

5. St Benedict's Painted Church

1.66 MILES

A pulpit with a view, gravestones cradled by tropical blooms and a little chapel with floor-to-ceiling 'outsider art' make this church a picturesque side…

6. Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary

2.25 MILES

Near the church on Painted Church Rd, these tranquil 7-acre gardens contain shrines to the world’s major religions and a staggeringly impressive ‘Galaxy…

7. Society for Kona's Education & Art

2.29 MILES

SKEA is a hotbed of activity, with pilates, Polynesian dance, tai chi and Japanese-ink-painting classes, art shows and poetry readings; check the online…

8. Keʻei Beach

2.77 MILES

Just south of Kealakekua Bay, Keʻei Beach is an attractive cove that's mostly too rough and rocky for swimming, except for a very narrow sandy stretch at…