Pu`uhonua o Hōnaunau
National Historical Park
Today, Polynesian-introduced coconut trees towering gracefully over the National Historical Park grounds shade preserved and rehabilitated walls, canoe hale, and fishponds. The picturesque and utilitarian hala (screwpine), an introduced Polynesian plant used to weave mats and baskets, is still found here. The leaves, or lau, of the hala are resilient and flexible. Look for handcrafted lauhala items now available at the bookshop—or learn to weave your own crafts during lauhala weaving demonstrations.
Visitors will be drawn to the carefully tended thatched heiau (temple), Hale o Keawe, which once held the consecrated bones of 23 great chiefs of Hawaiʻi. It was believed that the mana (spiritual power), of the chiefly bones would offer additional protection to an already powerful place. Situated on a point of land near the sea and surrounded by dramatic kiʻi, (protective carvings), Hale o Keawe is still considered very sacred ground.
The waters of the nearby small bay are considered part of those restricted grounds and may not be entered for swimming. Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) often rest and warm themselves on the sandy shore—they are also protected, but by Federal law. Iwa (Great frigate birds) often ride the rising thermals overhead, and during the winter you may see the kokea (Pacific Golden Plover) on the park grounds, holding a territory and fattening up before its long migration back to Alaskan breeding grounds.
The long, serrated leaves of the graceful Pandanus trees which dot the grounds would once have been stripped of their thorns, dried, and woven into tough mats by women for everyday household use.