Volcanoes National Park
Perhaps the US Park Service’s flagship National Park in Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park is an ever changing, never the same experience! I have been fortunate to visit the park and the current eruption many times over the past ten years. It never ceases to amaze me how much the lava conditions change, not only year to year but often within the same week of a vacation!
I have just written a pretty extensive review of my experiences which may be found here: http://www.igougo.com/review-r1372447-Following_Madame_Pele_Over_the_Years.html . Check it out there.
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Known as the "Place of Refuge" the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is located about 30 minutes south from the downtown village area of Kailua-Kona. This is a sacred location to natives, believing that they will able to find refuge from a death sentence if they are able to make their way here.
As you walk the grounds here, you can see the reconstructed temple, grass houses and ki’i guards carved in wood overlooking and protecting the temple. Everything has been reconstructed to replicate this village to its appearance in the 1700s. Great care was taken by the US Park Service to assure that respect was paid to the native traditions and beliefs, with local artisans used to do the construction and development of this historical time in Hawaiian culture.
I found the Hale o Keawe temple to be fascinating given how it was built from kauila wood and hand woven and dried and knotted ti leaves. The smooth lava rock platform was surrounded by more ki’i wood carvings.
I’ve been told that from the beach here, you can snorkel although it appeared to me to be a bit too rocky at the shoreline to make your way out into the bay. Personally, I don’t know that would be respectful of this sacred place and would opt to enter from the other side of the boat ramp.
If you have a morning or afternoon with little planned and you feel like a nice leisurely walk while you learn more about the Hawaiian culture and beliefs, the Place of Refuge is a nice way to spend the day.
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site honors King Kamehameha’s 1790s building of a temple of lava stone to earn the favor of the God of War, Kuka'ilimoku. It was here that as Kamehameha worked to unify the Hawaiian Islands under his rule, he sacrificed a rival tribal leader. His monarchy lasted for 83 years, from 1810 until 1893. With the overthrow of kapu law system in 1819, came the end to the worshipping of Gods and the ritual of using a heiau in that practice.
During this time, King Kamehameha captured and later become friends with two European sailors who became the King’s ally and helped him in battle. John Young later became the governor of the Island of Hawai’i and Isaac Davis the governor of Oahu. Young’s home is also here at Pu’ukohola Heiau and has been preserved for future visitors.
This historic site is approximately 45 minutes north of Kailua-Kona. This historical site really didn’t hold my interest very much. I did enjoy the fantastic view of the ocean though. On a clear day you can see over to Maui and the peak of Haleakala.
I understand that frequently there are native crafts and arts shows, as well as demonstrations here. Unfortunately on the day that I made the trip up here, it was like a ghost town. I was the only visitor for over an hour on that September morning. If you know that you’ll be visiting when there are other activities happening here, I would say it would be well worth your trip. If however, this would be your only reason for taking the ride, I’d save the time and go find a nice beach somewhere.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park
Located just north of Kailua-Kona, this historical park is a nice oceanfront walking park that is still largely under development. There is a manned visitors center that is largely a small gift shop and restrooms, with a drinking fountain. On the day of our visit it was a bit rainy and I really didn’t have the right shoes on to be out hiking around on (lava) gravel trails that often become rough and jagged.
The main thrust of this park is to give visitors to the Hawaiian Islands a better and more historically accurate representation of life here during ancient times. How the people lived off the land and sea is a big part of the cultural presentation.
I look for more development here in the future, subject to funding from the US National Park Service and public grants intended to preserve the heritage of the Hawaiian people.
For more information on all of the US National Parks located in Hawaii, you can go to http://www.nps.gov/state/HI/index.htm . You can click on any one of the many parks to get more information including hours of operation and admission fees (if any).