Category Archives: Hawaii

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Overview

On the dry western side of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, south of bustling port city Kailua-Kona, Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park is home to a reconstructed village that provides a glimpse into the daily life of the indigenous people hundreds of years ago.  The National Park Service (NPS) offers a visitor center, picnic area, and a festival held annually in July.

Highlights

Hale o Keawe temple, kōnane game table, fish ponds, Ki‘ilae village

Must-Do Activity

Adjacent to the popular snorkeling area dubbed “Two-Step,” this park sees its share of sea turtles.  Though these green sea turtles nest 800 miles to the northwest in the French Frigate Shoals, the well-known hula dance actually imitates the digging motions of a female turtle laying her eggs.  In the winter, watch for migrating humpback whales that spout and jump just offshore. 

Best Trail

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau was a “place of refuge” for vanquished warriors, noncombatants, and kapu (taboo) breakers to be absolved by a kahuna pule (priest) so they could return home in peace.  It was separated from the Royal Grounds by a 10-foot wall built in AD1550, which can be seen along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail that runs through the park to access Ki‘ilae village.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Carved wooden ki‘i are guardians of this place of refuge and stand next to this reconstruction of a temple and mausoleum that held the bones of 23 ali‘i (noble chiefs).  Ho‘okupu (offerings) were placed on the lele (tower) next to them.

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/puho/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

County and state parks on the leeward west coast of this island are great places to camp and relax under palm trees listening to the waves break.

Explore More – What was the most severe punishment for breaking a kapu, such as letting your shadow fall on Royal Grounds?

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

Overview

The WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument was created in 2008 and disbanded in 2019. It was composed of three sites in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, California’s Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark (now a National Monument), and five sites around Honolulu, Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, much better known as Pearl Harbor.  It was there that on December 7, 1941, a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy fleet led the country to formally enter World War II.

Highlights

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, museum at Pearl Harbor, U.S.S. Missouri tours

Must-Do Activity

At Pearl Harbor there is a free museum run by the National Park Service and you can pick up free tickets to ferry to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which was dedicated in 1962.  You will be hard pressed to find a more tasteful and solemn war memorial than this one.  Tickets can also be purchased to tour the nearby U.S.S. Missouri battleship and U.S.S. Bowfin submarine. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona battleship serves as the graves for 1,102 sailors and Marines who were on board when it sunk, and it still leaks black “tears” of oil that leave a rainbow sheen on the water’s surface. 

Peak Season

Year round, especially on and around December 7.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/valr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Free entry to the museum and free timed tickets for the ferry to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial available to the first 1,300 people each day or by reservation.  Tickets can also be purchased to tour the nearby U.S.S. Missouri battleship and U.S.S. Bowfin submarine.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, though parking is limited at the Pearl Harbor site.

Camping

Private and county campgrounds can be found on Oahu Island outside the city of Honolulu.

Explore More – What significant event took place upon the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945?

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Overview

Located on the remote northern peninsula of Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands, this isolated spot was selected by King Kamehameha V in 1865 as a quarantine area for those suffering from Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy).  It is fairly noncontagious and successful treatments were developed, meaning patients have not been forced to live here since 1949.  There are still no roads to the settlement, so you will have to get the necessary permits through Father Damien Tours to fly, hike, or ride mules into the restricted-access park.  Nobody under age 16 is allowed.

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Highlights

Kalaupapa Trail, St. Philomena Church, Kalawao Settlement

Must-Do Activity

“Must do” in this case means you are only allowed to enter this park on the 4-hour bus tours led by Hansen’s disease patients who choose to remain living here, which truly enhances your experience.  From them you will hear the amazing stories of the exiles and those who helped them, including two saints: Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope.

Best Trail

Hiking down the 1,600-foot high cliffs is an exciting introduction to the land, or you can ride a mule on the same trail.  Permits required.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The tour stops for lunch at the long-abandoned Kalawao Settlement at the end of the road, which offers stunning views of the 1,600-foot cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

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Peak Season

The weather is nice year round in the tropics, but always be prepared for rain.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/kala/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

Permits are required to enter this park and the only concessionaire is Father Damien Tours.  A day trip including flights from Honolulu cost $249 per person in 2016, but cheaper options are available if you are already staying on Molokai Island.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads are bumpy, especially in a bus, but you won’t be driving so just enjoy the scenery.

Camping

None

A view of Kalaupapa from near the top of the trail
Tropical jungles and extraordinary overlooks are two reasons to enter the park via the Kalaupapa Trail.

Tiff on the downhill

Scott with an awesome tree

Tiff at the restored church built by Father Damien in the 1800s
Father Damien served here at St. Philomena Church in the later abandoned Kalawao Settlement; he was canonized in 2009.

Active Catholic church in Kalaupapa

Tiff boarding our plane to get topside on Moloka'i
Small airplanes are used to fly in and out of Kalaupapa, offering great views of Molokai.

Explore More – Since 1865, how many Hansen’s disease patients were buried in Kalaupapa?

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