Annual Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Every summer for two days in June, the National Park Service, HPPA and other funders present the Annual Hawaiian Cultural Festival at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the south Kona coast of Hawaiʻi Island. The past is present here, in this serene, indescribably lovely Park Service gem. For centuries this was one of the most sacred and powerful places in Hawaiʻi.
The name means “place of refuge”. Lawbreakers, if they could reach it, could find sanctuary and purification here. In times of war the puʻuhonua would shelter women, children, the elderly and sick. Highborn chiefs spent leisure hours here and often returned their bones after death, where it was believed the great mana (spiritual power) of the bones would further sanctify, and protect, the grounds. It was a powerful, meaningful, important place—something you can still feel when you stroll the white sands by Keoneʻele Bay.
On festival days, come early to catch the opening ceremonies and you will witness a reenactment of the kind of procession that would have attended a newly landed high chief of Hawaiʻi. Hula halau (schools or groups) vie to perform for the chief and the members of his court. Their dances, told within the color and swirl of the paʻu, (skirts) on the dancers, tell tales of gods and warriors, great loves and great tragedies.
After the ceremonies, visitors are welcome to join cultural practitioners on the grounds to learn how to make lovely lei and other adornments. Practical lessons in the everyday life of pre-contact Hawaiʻi are available for anyone wishing to transport him or herself to a time when everything used daily was crafted by you and your family. Mat weaving, gourd and canoe carving, toymaking, clothmaking—you can try your hand at all of these. Paddle out into the bay in an authentic canoe and get a different perspective, in every sense of the word, on Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
The festival ends with a hukilau, a reenactment of the big moment when the fish in the bay were herded together in a large net, one that required everyone’s help to hold and pull. Roll up your pants, tuck your skirts high, shuck your shoes and wade in to help, literally, huki (pull) the (lau) ropes to shore. (Fish fans note: this is a demonstration, and the fish are released.)
HPPA is proud to be part of this cultural festival every year. We hope to see you soon on the white sands of the Royal Grounds by the bay. (If you didn’t bring a hat, you can make one from coconut fronds when you get there).