Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau Foundation Document

Table of Contents


Part 1: Core Components

Part 2: Dynamic Components

Part 3: Contributers


Every unit of the national park system will have a foundational document to provide basic guidance for planning and management decisions—a foundation for planning and management. The core components of a foundation document include a brief description of the park as well as the park’s purpose, significance, fundamental resources and values, other important resources and values, and interpretive themes. The foundation document also includes special mandates and administrative commitments, an assessment of planning and data needs that identifies planning issues, planning products to be developed, and the associated studies and data required for park planning. Along with the core components, the assessment provides a focus for park planning activities and establishes a baseline from which planning documents are developed. A primary benefit of developing a foundation document is the opportunity to integrate and coordinate all kinds and levels of planning from a single, shared understanding of what is most important about the park. The process of developing a foundation document begins with gathering and integrating information about the park. Next, this information is refined and focused to determine what the most important attributes of the park are. The process of preparing a foundation document aids park managers, staff, and the public in identifying and clearly stating in one document the essential information that is necessary for park management to consider when determining future planning efforts, outlining key planning issues, and protecting resources and values that are integral to park purpose and identity. While not included in this document, a park atlas is also part of a foundation project. The atlas is a series of maps compiled from available geographic information system (GIS) data on natural and cultural resources, visitor use patterns, facilities, and other topics. It serves as a GIS-based support tool for planning and park operations. The atlas is published as a (hard copy) paper product and as geospatial data for use in a web mapping environment. The park atlas for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park can be accessed online.

Part 1: Core Components

The core components of a foundation document include a brief description of the park, park purpose, significance statements, fundamental resources and values, other important resources and values, and interpretive themes. These components are core because they typically do not change over time. Core components are expected to be used in future planning and management efforts.

Brief Description of the Park

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located along the southern Kona coastline on the western side of the Island of Hawai‘i. The 420-acre park lies on prehistoric lava flows of Mauna Loa volcano, where coastal fault subsidence forms cliffs and coral reefs supply sand to narrow beaches. From Hōnaunau Bay on the park’s northern end, the land rises gradually, but in the southern region, cliffs predominate on the shoreline and the inland fault escarpment (Pali Alahaka), 120 feet high, is a dominant landform. At its highest point, the park reaches 640 feet above sea level at its southern end.

Congress authorized establishment of the park on July 26, 1955. The enabling legislation (PL 84-177, 69 Stat. 376) described lands necessary and suitable for park establishment and specified that in the future these lands would be set apart as the City of Refuge National Historical Park. The new park was formally established on July 1, 1961, after title to these lands had been vested in the United States. (See appendixes A and B for relevant legislation and orders.)

Initially, the park was referred to as the City of Refuge in accordance with the name given by English missionary William Ellis in the 1820s. In 1978 the park was re-designated as Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park to recognize the original Hawaiian name. In 1974, the entire park (then consisting of 182 acres) was recognized as nationally significant and one of the most important archeological and historical complexes in the Hawaiian Islands and listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district.

Historic sites and features preserved at the park further the understanding of traditional Hawaiian lifeways and perpetuate the cultural connections of kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) to this wahi pana (sacred place). Until the death of King Kamehameha I in 1819, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau was a sanctuary where vanquished warriors, noncombatants, and violators of the kapu (laws of conduct) could take refuge from a possible death sentence. Kapu governed all aspects of traditional Hawaiian society, and the penalties for violations were severe and swift. The Pu‘uhonua (sacred place of refuge) was enclosed on two sides by the Pā Pu‘uhonua (Great Wall), a massive 978-foot-long, 10-foot high basalt block wall that marked the boundary between the sanctuary and the Royal Grounds.

Hōnaunau Bay’s protected waters and canoe landing point, along with other favorable factors such as the availability of drinking water from freshwater springs, served as an ideal location for the ali‘i (royal chiefs) to establish their residential and ceremonial sites. The location provided easy access to Kona’s rich fishing grounds, and anchialine pools made suitable holding pens for fish and the royal fishponds. The royal residence consisted of multiple thatched structures built on stone platforms in the coconut palm grove. The Royal Grounds were within the ahupua‘a of Hōnaunau, a land division that extended from the ocean to the upper slopes of Mauna Loa. For several centuries, the Pu‘uhonua, the Royal Grounds, and adjacent areas formed one of the primary religious and political centers within the traditional district of Kona.

Among the significant cultural sites is the Hale o Keawe, a temple that once held the bones of 23 ali‘i and infused the area with their mana (spiritual power). Besides the hale, the reconstructed scene also includes the restored stone platform, ki‘i (carved wooden images) that surround and guard the temple, and the wood and cordagelashed fence, or palisade. Other significant features include heiau (sacred structures or temples), animal pens, plant cultivation areas, and three steep hōlua (stone slides) where royalty would compete by racing downhill on wooden papa hōlua (sleds). The large stone temple platform of the ‘Āle‘ale‘a Heiau, believed to be the oldest heiau in the park, was constructed in seven stages. The village of Ki‘ilae, an abandoned farming and fishing village, consists of about a dozen lots enclosed by stone walls along with house platforms, burial crypts, and other stone structures. Inhabited from ancient times by Native Hawaiians and their descendants, isolated Ki‘ilae continued into the 1920s as one of the last surviving coastal villages. A one-milelong segment of the historic 1871 Trail traverses the park coastline. These sites and features serve as physical evidence conveying the importance and evolution of the cultural landscape. They reveal aspects of the daily lives of ancient Hawaiians and the changes that occurred after the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century and the eventual end of the traditional kapu system.

The park practices integrated resource management that incorporates native ecosystems and the human imprint on the landscape. The park and Keone‘ele Cove provide protected habitats for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), the endangered ‘ōpe‘ape‘a (Hawaiian hoary bat), the endangered ‘īlioholoikauaua (Hawaiian monk seal), and 30 species of manu (Hawaiian birds, six of which are native). Among the 134 known vascular plant species within the park’s diverse landscape are 23 native Hawaiian plants, such as pōhuehue (beach morning glory), hala (pandanus) trees, and naupaka (a shrub common along the coastline). Many such plants are culturally significant to Hawaiians.

Visitors have a wide range of opportunities to experience the park and to become immersed in Hawaiian culture and history. They can take self-guided tours of the Royal Grounds and Pu‘uhonua, access shoreline and coastal trails, and visit the picnic area. The park visitor center provides orientation and interpretive information. Completed in 1968 during the NPS Mission 66 period of design and construction, the national-register-eligible visitor center complex blends Polynesian-inspired open-air elements with modern architectural design. Visitors may also take a two-mile round-trip hike to Ki‘ilae Village to see ancient structural remains, volcanic features, and ocean views.

Park Purpose

The purpose statement identifies the specific reason(s) for establishment of a particular park. The purpose statement for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park was drafted through a careful analysis of its enabling legislation and the legislative history that influenced its development. The park was authorized when the enabling legislation adopted by Congress was signed into law on July 26, 1955. After specified lands had been vested in the United States, a Secretarial order announced that the park was formally established, effective July 1, 1961. (See appendixes A and B for enabling legislation, subsequent amendments, and the Secretarial order.) The purpose statement lays the foundation for understanding what is most important about the park.

For the benefit and inspiration of all people, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park protects the wahi pana (sacred place) and interconnected cultural and natural resources of the Hōnaunau, Kēōkea, and Ki‘ilae ahupua‘a, so traditional Hawaiian values and practices will thrive now and into the future.

Park Significance

Significance statements express why a park’s resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the national park system. These statements are linked to the purpose of Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, and are supported by data, research, and consensus. Statements of significance describe the distinctive nature of the park and why an area is important within a global, national, regional, and systemwide context. They focus on the most important resources and values that will assist in park planning and management.

The following significance statements have been identified for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. (Please note that the sequence of the statements does not reflect the level of significance.)

  1. The park protects one of the best preserved Pu‘uhonua in the Hawaiian Islands, a sacred place of refuge that exemplifies the important role of the kapu system in governing Hawaiian society.
  2. Reconstructed by the National Park Service, Hale o Keawe is the only representation of a traditional hale poki (consecrated house) on the island. At Hale o Keawe, a ruling dynasty cared for the sacred bones of Keawe‘Īkekahiali‘iokamoku and other paramount chiefs, imparting a strong spiritual power to the Pu‘uhonua site that is still felt today.
  3. The park encompasses the Royal Grounds of Hōnaunau where many generations of high ranking chiefs governed, including Keawe, who was once the paramount chief of the Island of Hawai‘i.
  4. The religious and cultural significance of this wahi pana connects visitors, communities, and cultural practitioners to its resources and inspires collaborative stewardship of these lands.
  5. Due to its great size and high degree of preservation, the coastal village of Ki‘ilae is an outstanding archeological landscape with great potential to reveal new insights about daily Hawaiian life from the precontact times to the late 1920s.
  6. From the Royal Grounds where high chiefs governed, to an agricultural village where commoners lived and farmed, the park protects a great variety of cultural resources that represent a tremendous degree of social stratification and illustrate the richness and complexity of Hawaiian culture.

Fundamental Resources and Values

Fundamental resources and values (FRVs) are those features, systems, processes, experiences, stories, scenes, sounds, smells, or other attributes determined to warrant primary consideration during planning and management processes because they are essential to achieving the purpose of the park and maintaining its significance. Fundamental resources and values are closely related to a park’s legislative purpose and are more specific than significance statements.

Fundamental resources and values help focus planning and management efforts on what is truly significant about the park. One of the most important responsibilities of NPS managers is to ensure the conservation and public enjoyment of those qualities that are essential (fundamental) to achieving the purpose of the park and maintaining its significance. If fundamental resources and values are allowed to deteriorate, the park purpose and/or significance could be jeopardized.

The following fundamental resources and values have been identified for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park:

  • Pu‘uhonua and Royal Grounds. Between approximately AD 1400 and 1600 the Royal Grounds and Pu‘uhonua developed as one of the primary religious and political centers within the traditional District of Kona. The district’s ali‘i resided in Hōnaunau (Royal Grounds). The grounds were included in the ahupua‘a of Hōnaunau, a political subdistrict that extended from the ocean to the upper slopes of Mauna Loa. Thatched buildings built on stone platforms in the Royal Grounds were used for residential and ceremonial purposes. Hōnaunau Bay’s protected waters provided an ideal location for a canoe landing point at Keoneʻele Cove that was strictly reserved for the chief and his attendants. The residents had access to fresh drinking water, and the royal fishponds held fish for consumption by the ali‘i. The Royal Grounds were separated from the adjoining Pu‘uhonua by the Great Wall. The Pu‘uhonua served as a safe haven for violators of the kapu, defeated warriors, and noncombatants during times of conflict. Because of its configuration next to the Royal Grounds and orientation to the ocean, those seeking protection at the Pu‘uhonua were challenged to escape their pursuers and seek refuge. Within the grounds and barren lava fields of the Pu‘uhonua are the stone platforms of heiau including the ‘Āle‘ale‘a (the area’s principal and perhaps oldest heiau, built about AD 1400) and the site of the “Ancient” Heiau (also among the oldest structures in the Pu‘uhonua). The large rectangular platforms of these temples were constructed of dry-set basalt lava rock.
  • Great Wall. The Pā Pu‘uhonua (Great Wall), the largest single structure in the park, is a massive dry-set rock masonry wall that divides the Royal Grounds from the Pu‘uhonua. It also forms the inland boundary of the Pu‘uhonua. The wall was built as the royal center developed and the ali‘i consolidated power. The wall is about 10 feet high, 978 feet long, and 17 feet wide. The outer faces of the wall were constructed from uncut basalt blocks, and the inner core of the wall was rubble filled. In some places, the wall exhibits pao construction techniques, which incorporate the use of interior vaulted spans to possibly reduce the amount of fill material required. Mortar was not used in construction, and instead the wall is held together by gravity and friction. The wall was first restored in 1902 when the area was under private ownership; it was subsequently repaired and stabilized by the National Park Service in the 1960s and more recently in 1991 and 2004.
  • Hale o Keawe. Hale o Keawe is a reconstructed temple that once held the deified bones of 23 ali‘i (royal chiefs). The temple is located at the northern end of the Great Wall and at the entrance to the Pu‘uhonua. According to genealogical information and traditional accounts, Hale o Keawe was likely built around AD 1650 by or for chief Keawe‘Īkekahiali‘iokamoku, the great-grandfather of Kamehameha I. The powerful mana (divine power) associated with his remains and those of the other ali‘i served to sanctify the Pu‘uhonua. Ho‘okupu (offerings) were traditionally placed on the structure’s lele (tower). Although many of the island’s religious structures were destroyed after the death of Kamehameha I in 1819 and the end of the kapu system, the abandoned temple was spared demolition but deteriorated over the years. Reverence for the site continued and because of its significance it was reconstructed by the National Park Service in 1967-1968. The reconstructed temple house is thatched with ti leaves and rests on a dry-set temple platform (approximately 24 feet by 11 feet), restored to its pre-1902 conditions. It is surrounded by a 5-foot-high palisade and reconstructed ki‘i.
  • Ki‘ilae. Ki‘ilae is a farming and fishing village that was inhabited by Native Hawaiians and their descendants from ancient times until about 1926. It consists of about one dozen stone-wall-enclosed lots that contain house and heiau platforms, burial crypts, and other stone structures. Some structures date from kuleana land awards issued to Native Hawaiian tenant farmers in the 1850s. As one of the last surviving coastal villages, Ki‘ilae offers a glimpse into the post-contact history of Kona into the early 20th century. Changes to customary practices and the cultural landscape accompanied the introduction of new plants and animals. The use of tin roofs and glass windows in traditional thatch house construction were further indications of the cultural adaptations that occurred. While most other coastal communities eventually moved to more fertile uplands and larger harbor cities, Ki‘ilae persisted well into the 20th century.
  • 1871 Trail. The 1871 Trail refers to the section of coastal trail that originally extended from Nāpo‘opo‘o south to Ho‘okena. It is a segment of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, a 175-mile-long corridor and trail network of cultural and historical significance that is itself a distinct unit of the national park system. Within the park, a one-mile-long section of the trail extends from behind the visitor center to Ki‘ilae Village. The trail is typical of those constructed on the island between 1841 and 1918. Named the “1871 Trail” in recognition of the improvements completed in 1871, the trail was widened (currently 6–10-feet wide in the park) to accommodate the passage of horses, and curbstones were added to better delineate the trail for pack animal use. In 1918 the trail section north of Hōnaunau was improved for wheeled traffic, while the section south to Ho‘okena was never modified for motorized vehicles. The trail represents one section of a coastal alaloa (regional thoroughfare). Native Hawaiians developed alaloa, or long trails, as primary routes of travel between communities, royal centers, religious sites, and resources. Shorter, locally important trails were known as ala hele. The 1871 Trail is part of a larger system of trails in the ahupua‘a that it traverses, including mauka-makai (mountain-to-sea) trails.
  • Cultural Landscape. The entire park may be viewed as an ethnographic landscape—a type of cultural landscape with a variety of natural and cultural resources that associated people define as heritage resources. In addition to the major sites represented by other fundamental resources (e.g., the Pu‘uhonua and Royal Grounds, Ki‘ilae, and the 1871 Trail), the park’s cultural landscape also encompasses hundreds of other important archeological sites and features. These interrelated resources illustrate the close relationship that Native Hawaiians have with their physical environment. For example, the park protects caves and anchialine pools that were modified and used. The cultural landscape also includes native plants that remain meaningful to Native Hawaiians and support traditional cultural practices.
  • Traditional Cultural Practices. The park has cultural and spiritual significance to Native Hawaiians, who have used these lands since ancient times and continue to visit sites and features within the park for traditional practices. This park is integral in supporting the revitalization and continuation of cultural identity through a myriad of cultural practices. Among these traditional cultural practices are spiritual ceremonies and the celebration and transfer of traditional practices and knowledge. The National Park Service recognizes that cultural practices evolve and change. Many of the park’s cultural sites, objects, landscapes, and natural resources remain important touchstones that contribute to Native Hawaiian identity and heritage.
  • The Concept of Pu‘uhonua: Opportunities for Refuge and Renewal. The ancient concept of Pu‘uhonua (refuge) is deeply rooted in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture. In ancient Hawai‘i, a system of laws known as kānāwai enforced the social order, and laws of conduct, or kapu, governed every aspect of society. In addition to royalty, certain places, things, and times were sacred, and their disturbance was strictly forbidden. Kapu further dictated the appropriate conduct of fishing, the planting and harvesting of crops, and other practices. Any breaking of kapu disturbed the stability of society, and the punishment was often death. Traditionally, a ruling chief would declare certain lands or heiau as Pu‘uhonua, and no harm would come to those who eluded their pursuers and safely reached the place of refuge. The Pu‘uhonua protected fugitive kapu breakers and defeated warriors, as well as the families of combatants during times of battle. Lawbreakers were allowed to return to their homes after their transgressions were absolved by the kahuna (priest), and earned a second chance at life in their personal journey to understand levels of consciousness granted by the gods. Today, people come to the park to experience refuge and renewal in a personally meaningful way.
  • Opportunities to Experience a Natural Setting. The power and beauty of the natural landscape is immediately evident in the park. Sky, water, geologic, vegetation, and wildlife resources combine to establish a unique sense of place and offer the opportunity to experience a range of natural settings and ecosystems. Visitors are treated to dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean from the park’s rocky, volcanic coastline. More than 180 species of plants may be found in the park. While many plants are exotic species that were recently introduced, some are native to Hawai‘i and still others were brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesians for use as food, medicine, or clothing. A variety of animals may be spotted in the park, from majestic nā koholā (humpback whales) that migrate to Hawaiian waters during the winter months to little ‘ōpae ‘ula (Hawaiian red shrimp) that graze on algae in the park’s brackish ponds. Tidal pools hold a colorful array of native tropical fish, while honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) may be seen basking in the sun at low tide. Visitors to the park also experience natural soundscapes, which frequently consist of crashing surf, calling birds, and the sound of wind blowing through hala and coconut trees.

Other Important Resources and Values

Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park contains other resources and values that are not fundamental to the purpose of the park and may be unrelated to its significance, but are important to consider in planning processes. These are referred to as “other important resources and values” (OIRV). These resources and values have been selected because they are important in the operation and management of the park and warrant special consideration in park planning.

The following other important resource and value has been identified for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park:

  • Visitor Center. Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park’s visitor center was completed in 1968, constructed as part of the National Park Service’s systemwide program of planning, design, and construction known as “Mission 66.” The mid-20th century program modernized outdated facilities and addressed the growing pressures of the motoring public for improved visitor services. The Polynesian-inspired, openair complex consists of three main pavilion-like buildings (comfort station, office / information desk, and theater). The one-story buildings are linked by a covered lanai and an interpretive wall. In addition to the buildings, other features contributing to the visitor center’s cultural landscape include the parking lot, walkways, planters, vegetation, benches, and lava-rock retaining walls. Architects adapted modern and regional Hawaiian architectural designs, incorporating local materials to harmoniously blend the visitor center with the park’s tropical setting. The visitor center complex was determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance. It retains integrity conveying its distinctive architectural design, and its historical association with the Mission 66 program.

Interpretive Themes

Interpretive themes are often described as the key stories or concepts that visitors should understand after visiting a park—they define the most important ideas or concepts communicated to visitors about a park unit. Themes are derived from, and should reflect, park purpose, significance, resources, and values. The set of interpretive themes is complete when it provides the structure necessary for park staff to develop opportunities for visitors to explore and relate to all park significance statements and fundamental and other important resources and values.

Interpretive themes are an organizational tool that reveal and clarify meaning, concepts, contexts, and values represented by park resources. Sound themes are accurate and reflect current scholarship and science. They encourage exploration of the context in which events or natural processes occurred and the effects of those events and processes. Interpretive themes go beyond a mere description of the event or process to foster multiple opportunities to experience and consider the park and its resources. These themes help explain why a park story is relevant to people who may otherwise be unaware of connections they have to an event, time, or place associated with the park.

The following interpretive themes have been identified for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park:

  • The complexity of the rich resources of the sea and land at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau required reverent management based on kapu (sacred law) that all people understood and applied in every aspect of their lives: Ua ola no o kai ia kai, ua ola no o uka ia uka (Life comes from the sea, life comes from the land).
  • An integral foundational philosophy embedded in the concepts of Puʻuhonua is aloha ʻāina, the compassion or love for that which sustains life—the land, sea, water and all the elements and animals within. The land connects the people to the heartbeat of the gods in a physical way through wahi pana (sacred or pulsating places).
  • The Puʻuhonua was a place where the gods supported transformation—the only process of redemption allowed by the ancient kapu system—and provided protection of life, especially during the rehabilitation of one’s mind, body, and soul. Today, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau continues to pulse as a “safe place” for all, including those who consult the ancient wisdoms.
  • KeaweʻĪkekahialiʻiokamoku, ruler of the Island of Hawaiʻi in the late 17th century, embodied wisdom and diplomacy. His focus on unity and peaceful relationships with other island chiefdoms continues today as foundational philosophies for the function of the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau.
  • The continuing traditions and practices of the hale poki (consecrated house) ensure that each individual chief’s ‘iwi (bones) contribute to those of his predecessors, that the mo‘o (succession) of philosophies and principles lived by significant chiefs interred within takes place, and that their mana (spiritual life force) secures and ensures continued balance, harmony, and unity among people.
  • Kiʻi are carved wooden images that embody human and spiritual qualities and serve as reminders to guide people at the Puʻuhonua on their personal spiritual journeys to a balanced life.
  • For generations, residents of Kiʻilae village performed essential roles that supported the functions of the Puʻuhonua and Royal Grounds. These individuals and their lifestyles attest to the kupunā ʻike (ancient knowledge) that has been carried forth into Hawaiian society today.

Part 2: Dynamic Concepts

The dynamic components of a foundation document include special mandates and administrative commitments and an assessment of planning and data needs. These components are dynamic because they will change over time. New special mandates can be established and new administrative commitments made. As conditions and trends of fundamental and other important resources and values change over time, the analysis of planning and data needs will need to be revisited and revised, along with key issues. Therefore, this part of the foundation document will be updated accordingly.

Special Mandates and Administrative Commitments

Many management decisions for a park unit are directed or influenced by special mandates and administrative commitments with other federal agencies, state and local governments, utility companies, partnering organizations, and other entities. Special mandates are requirements specific to a park that must be fulfilled. Mandates can be expressed in enabling legislation, in separate legislation following the establishment of the park, or through a judicial process. They may expand on park purpose or introduce elements unrelated to the purpose of the park. Administrative commitments are, in general, agreements that have been reached through formal, documented processes, often through memorandums of agreement. Examples include easements, rights-of-way, arrangements for emergency service responses, etc. Special mandates and administrative commitments can support, in many cases, a network of partnerships that help fulfill the objectives of the park and facilitate working relationships with other organizations. They are an essential component of managing and planning for Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Special Mandates

No special mandates were identified.

Administrative Commitments

For information about the administrative commitments for Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, please see appendix D.

Assessment of Planning and Data Needs

Once the core components of part 1 of the foundation document have been identified, it is important to gather and evaluate existing information about the park’s fundamental and other important resources and values, and develop a full assessment of the park’s planning and data needs. The assessment of planning and data needs section presents planning issues, the planning projects that will address these issues, and the associated information requirements for planning, such as resource inventories and data collection, including GIS data.

There are three sections in the assessment of planning and data needs:

  1. analysis of fundamental and other important resources and values (see appendix C)
  2. identification of key issues and associated planning and data needs
  3. identification of planning and data needs (including spatial mapping activities or GIS maps)

The analysis of fundamental and other important resources and values and identification of key
issues leads up to and supports the identification of planning and data collection needs.

Analysis of Fundamental Resources and Values

The fundamental resource or value analysis table includes current conditions, potential threats and opportunities, planning and data needs, and selected laws and NPS policies related to management of the identified resource or value. Please see appendix C for the analysis of fundamental and other important resources and values.

Identification of Key Issues and Planning and Data Needs

This section considers key issues to be addressed in planning and management and therefore takes a broader view over the primary focus of part 1. A key issue focuses on a question that is important for a park. Key issues often raise questions regarding park purpose and significance and fundamental and other important resources and values. For example, a key issue may pertain to the potential for a fundamental or other important resource or value in a park to be detrimentally affected by discretionary management decisions. A key issue may also address crucial questions that are not directly related to purpose and significance, but which still affect them indirectly. Usually, a key issue is one that a future planning effort or data collection needs to address and requires a decision by NPS managers.

The following are key issues for Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park and the
associated planning and data needs to address them:

  • Climate Change. Changing climate portends profound changes to natural cycles and systems, with related impacts on natural and cultural resources, access, infrastructure, and environmental conditions. As a coastal park, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is threatened by the effects of sea level rise. High surf and storm events already impact the park, and these are projected to worsen significantly with climate change. Damage to dry-set masonry and sustained flooding have already occurred. Modeling of potential future sea level rise indicates that some of the archeological features of the park, including anchialine pools, are vulnerable to inundation at 1 meter rise. Global climate change models predict sea level to rise between 0.25 to 1 meter by the year 2100. The maximum predicted sea level rise is 1.9 meters in the local area. Storm surge would occur over and above the projected sea level rise, with models projecting more frequent and intense coastal flooding in Hawai‘i. Average annual temperature at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau is expected to increase, while models differ in their predictions of average annual precipitation. Changes to temperature and precipitation are likely to impact natural and cultural resources.
    • Associated High Priority Planning and Data Needs: Climate change adaptation strategy; integrated pest management plan; facility planning for the visitor center; facility planning for collections storage; Kiʻilae management plan; site planning for the picnic area and maintenance / resource management facilities; climate change data
  • Management of Kiʻilae. In 2002, the boundary of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park was modified to include the Kiʻilae area. This boundary addition more than doubled the size of the park, adding a large undeveloped area with extensive archeological resources. Kiʻilae village, occupied from pre-European contact until the early 20th century, presents an exceptional opportunity to gain additional understanding of Native Hawaiian villages and to interpret a different story than that told at the Puʻuhonua and Royal Grounds. However, guidance is needed to achieve this potential. Archeological investigations are just beginning (2016), and currently there are no management, interpretive, or other plans for this area. Nonnative species, including feral pigs and goats, and nonnative plants also challenge the Kiʻilae area.
    • Associated High Priority Planning and Data Needs: Park-specific cultural use guidelines; climate change adaptation strategy; integrated pest management plan; Kiʻilae management plan; climate change modeling; Kiʻilae archeological inventory; oral histories; visitor use data
  • Community Relationships. Deep cultural attachments to the land in and around Hōnaunau have existed for centuries. When the land transferred to the National Park Service, long-term legal responsibilities for stewardship of the land shifted to the federal government. With it came a kuleana (responsibility and privilege) to consult and communicate with those families and individuals as well as all who were potentially affected by management decisions. Throughout the last 55 years the park has been a place where family traditions in the park have continued and local residents have become increasingly involved in a variety of ways such as employment, volunteerism, special events, youth programs, and research.
Today community members continue to develop new connections with the land the park encompasses. The National Park Service considers the community an integral part of Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.

Maintaining flexible access to the site for cultural practitioners is another important goal for the park staff. The park staff has a duty to act in accordance with federal law and agency policies and in some instances conflicts arise when cultural uses by Native Hawaiians are subjected to federal review. Some of the issues regarding park access for practitioners include overnight uses, fee waivers (particularly when front-line entrance booth employees need to make on-the-spot decisions), and differences in regional and behavioral norms of practitioners from different parts of the island.

As a popular local destination, which is adjacent to the widely visited Honaunau Bay, the park also faces issues of safety and public health, desire for extended hours, and recreational impacts. While the park boundary does not include marine areas, there are opportunities for interpretation, education, and outreach to encourage understanding and protection of this essential part of the park’s story and setting.

  • Associated High Priority Planning and Data Needs: Park-specific cultural use guidelines; Kiʻilae management plan; site planning for the picnic area and maintenance / resource management facilities; oral histories; visitor use data
  • Visitor Experience, Access, and Use. Park managers face a variety of challenges and opportunities in providing for exceptional visitor experiences while simultaneously protecting resources and respecting the traditional sacredness of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Opportunities exist to improve visitor opportunities for learning, including having more Hawaiian practitioners on the grounds and continuing to build relationships between the interpretive program and historians, archeologists, and community members. There is also an opportunity to provide more interpretation about stewardship and natural and ocean resources in general.

Park managers and staff are conscious that the park is a sacred place of great significance to Native Hawaiians and that it needs to be respected as such. At times, getting the message of cultural sensitivity across to park visitors can be challenging, especially when cultural practices or ceremonies are occurring. Some visitors would like to have access to more places and longer hours of operations, but staff safety, resource protection, and cultural respect are concerns.

  • Associated High Priority Planning and Data Needs: Park-specific cultural use guidelines; integrated pest management plan; facility planning for the visitor center; Kiʻilae management plan; site planning for the picnic area and maintenance/ resource management facilities; climate change modeling; visitor use data
  • Determining the Vision for Appropriate Facilities in the Future. Facilities at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park have a variety of challenges, and there is a need to consider how to maintain, upgrade, and design park facilities so that they can be as efficient and effective as possible. A number of buildings at the park are older, have pest issues, are energy inefficient, and are not arranged in an effective way for current uses. Some buildings were also originally constructed as temporary facilities, but have been converted to permanent use. Collections storage does not meet NPS museum preservation standards and is not large enough for the size of the park’s collection. Interpretive facilities could be improved, particularly accessibility and finding ways to increase interpretive space in the visitor center. The visitor center currently functions primarily as a bookstore, and the park lacks dedicated space for visitor contact and interpretive displays.
    • Associated High Priority Planning and Data Needs: Climate change adaptation strategy; integrated pest management plan; facility planning for the visitor center; facility planning for collections storage; site planning for the picnic area and maintenance / resource management facilities; climate change modeling; visitor use data

Other Important Issues

In addition to the key issues described above, one other important park issue was identified:

  • Nonnative Species and Pest Management. The park is threatened by nonnative species and pests including invasive vegetation, feral pigs and goats, fungal plant diseases (particularly a fungus that attacks the park’s iconic coconut palms), and destructive and disease-carrying insects. These pests impact natural and cultural resources, as well as structures in the park. Removal of nonnative vegetation is a perpetual challenge throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and needs to be followed by restoration with native species appropriate to both the cultural landscape of the park and current land use and management. The 2015-2016 outbreak of dengue in the area, and the potential for the zika virus, also present concerns about diseasecarrying mosquitoes.

Planning and Data Needs

To maintain connection to the core elements of the foundation and the importance of these core foundation elements, the planning and data needs listed here are directly related to protecting fundamental resources and values, park significance, and park purpose, as well as addressing key issues. To successfully undertake a planning effort, information from sources such as inventories, studies, research activities, and analyses may be required to provide adequate knowledge of park resources and visitor information. Such information sources have been identified as data needs. Geospatial mapping tasks and products are included in data needs.

Items considered of the utmost importance were identified as high priority, and other items identified, but not rising to the level of high priority, were listed as either medium- or lowpriority needs. These priorities inform park management efforts to secure funding and support for planning projects.

Criteria and Considerations for Prioritization. The following criteria were used to evaluate the priority of each planning or data need:

  • Emergency or urgency of the issue
  • Help support the purpose of the park
  • Protect fundamental resources and values or prevent resource degradation
  • Enhance visitor experience
  • Address multiple interrelated issues
  • Opportunities, including interagency or partner assistance

High Priority Planning Needs

Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

Rationale — Climate change is a key issue at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, as sea level rise and increased storm surge directly threaten park resources. Changes in precipitation and temperature also have the potential to impact the park’s ecosystem and resources. Climate change scenario planning needs to be done for the park and managers need to develop specific strategies based on these scenarios. The development of an adaptation strategy, informed by additional climate change modeling, is essential for making decisions about how to treat park resources as they are threatened and affected by a changing climate.

Scope — A climate change adaptation strategy would provide concrete recommendations and decision points. The adaptation strategy would employ climatesmart conservation principles to assess climate vulnerabilities, establish conservation goals, and identify, evaluate, and prioritize adaptation actions. The strategy would also provide guidance for monitoring adaptation action effectiveness, as well as monitoring for “trigger points” that would prompt a reevaluation of goals or implementation of new actions. Park staff will require the assistance of NPS climate scientists and involve traditional ecological knowledge to develop this plan.

Park-Specific Cultural Use Guidelines.

Rationale — The National Park Service is committed to facilitating cultural use in the park, but front-line employees are frequently faced with making cultural use decisions, particularly relating to fee waivers or allowing group events, without clear park-specific guidance. There is a need to establish park-specific protocols to ensure cultural practitioners have access to the land and sea and associated resources and that management has the tools to protect park resources

Scope — Guidelines would provide park employees with the tools to make consistent cultural use decisions. Considerations might include: activity, group size, equipment needs, facility needs, need for supervision or park staff support, location, and time, intensity, and duration of use. Based on these considerations, park employees would be able to make objective and defensible decisions about whether the proposed cultural use can proceed with no notice, whether notice is required, or whether the use is inappropriate. This decision-making process could take the form of a checklist or flowchart.

Facility Planning for Collections Storage.

Rationale — The current collections storage facility does not meet current NPS standards for museum collection storage, including inadequacies in climate control, fire protection, and accessibility. The collection has also outgrown the facility, and there is a need to find more space or a more efficient use of existing space.

Scope — The plan would consider how to best utilize existing space for collections storage, and evaluate if there is a need for additional space. It would outline what upgrades are needed to increase efficiency of the existing space and bring it up to current standards for collections storage. Safety and accessibility would also be addressed. The plan would focus on providing solutions to repair, rehabilitate, and possibly expand the existing building rather than proposing a new structure.

Facility Planning for the Visitor Center.

Rationale — The visitor center has limited space, which is currently being used almost entirely as a bookstore. Interpretive rangers do not have a dedicated space for visitor contact, and instead must share the bookstore counter. The interpretive and cooperating association (bookstore operations) office spaces in the back are very cramped. The only interpretive exhibits are outdoors in the passageway to the amphitheater, and are outdated. Finally, portions of the visitor center, including the amphitheater and ramp to the Royal Grounds, do not meet current accessibility standards.

Scope — The plan would determine how to rearrange and/or expand space in the visitor center to best satisfy the needs of visitor contact, interpretation, and bookstore operations. It would also address accessibility deficiencies. Since the visitor center is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its Mission 66 architecture, any modifications would be carefully considered so as not to impact the historic character and features of the building.

Integrated Pest Management Plan.

Rationale — Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park faces a number of nonnative species and pest management issues. These species compete with or prey upon native species, spread disease, and damage resources and facilities, affecting the natural environment, cultural landscape, visitor experience, and visitor and employee safety. An integrated pest management plan is needed to address these pests and establish best practices.

Scope — Integrated pest management planning is a decision-making process that coordinates knowledge of pest biology, the environment, and available technology to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by cost-effective means while posing the least possible risk to people, resources, and the environment. At Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, an integrated pest management plan would address issues parkwide and involve all divisions. The plan would address: trapping of feral ungulates; control of mongooses and rats; feral cat presence; structural pests (such as termites); invasive vegetation; fungal diseases (particularly those affecting the coconut groves); mosquito and wasp control; tilapia removal from fishponds; and best management practices for cleaning up and storing green waste. The plan should consider mechanical (e.g., mouse traps), biological (e.g., living organisms to manage pests), physical (e.g., screening/patching holes in structures), chemical (e.g., pesticides), and cultural (e.g., sanitation practices) treatments. Treatments will be science-based and pest-specific considering the biological characteristics of the pest species. The plan would also provide recommendations for pest management best practices during other park activities, such as when vegetation clearing is needed for archeological work.

Kiʻilae Management Plan.

Rationale — The addition of Kiʻilae doubled the size of the park when it was added via a boundary expansion in 2002. However, since it was added, very little work has been done to gain understanding of this area, and it is not currently interpreted to visitors. A plan is needed to better understand, manage, interpret, and protect this area.

Scope — The Kiʻilae management plan would provide comprehensive management direction for the Kiʻilae area and adjacent lands to be managed by Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. It would address resource management—including restoration, preservation, protection, and research—incorporating the results of ongoing archeological studies and the parkwide integrated pest management plan. The plan would also address visitor access, experience, and interpretation. It would consider necessary facilities, such as trails or signage, and interpretation of the history of the area and the results of current research at the site. The plan would also give direction for interpretation of the 1871 Trail, an important historical resource which connects Kiʻilae to the rest of the park.

Site Planning for the Picnic Area and Maintenance / Resource Management Facilities.

Rationale — A separate project to relocate the maintenance and resource management facilities would create opportunities to rethink the use of this space and the adjacent picnic area. This area of the park is an important local and visitor recreational area, and contains cultural resources which could be better interpreted and protected. Preservation treatment of the Chief’s House Complex near the picnic area will be necessary when the current facilities, constructed within an archeological site, are removed. Erosion control and protection of sensitive archeological resources and burial areas in the sandy deposits along the shoreline is needed.

Scope — The site planning effort would determine the best place to locate the functions currently in this area, as well as the preservation treatment and potential future interpretation of the area. It would consider access, resource protection, visitor use, park management uses, and accessibility. Some planning has already been done for the relocation of the maintenance facility, and this would be incorporated into a larger site plan for this area. The plan would also address rehabilitation of the Chief’s House Complex. Given the importance of this picnic area to local families and sensitivity of the resources, community engagement will be essential in developing this plan.

High Priority Data Needs

Climate Change Data.

Rationale and Scope — Additional climate change data is needed to inform a climate change adaptation strategy—including traditional knowledge. The park staff has done some climate change modeling, but it was focused only on the Puʻuhonua and Royal Grounds. Similar modeling is needed across the park, particularly for precipitation patterns, as flooding is a concern. A bathymetric survey is also needed in order to model storm surge, which is a major concern in this coastal park.

Kiʻilae Archeological Inventory.

Rationale and Scope — A completed archeological inventory of Kiʻilae is needed to inform the Kiʻilae management plan. The inventory will describe and assess known and potential resources in the Kiʻilae area. This effort is underway (2016), but has not been funded through the completion of the project.

Oral Histories.

Rationale and Scope — Oral histories are essential to learn from descendants of the Native Hawaiians who once lived in the area that is now the park. These oral histories help to maintain strong relationships between the park and community, inform resource management, and assist with interpretation. Particular areas of interest include Kiʻilae, genealogy and ethnography, funerary practices, navigation, and the concept of Puʻuhonua, but park managers are also broadly interested in any stories from descendants. Some oral histories have already been collected, but there is the potential for much more to be done.

Visitor Use Data.

Rationale and Scope — Park management is concerned about increasing or changing visitation patterns and potential impacts to park resources or visitor experience. Little has been documented about visitor use patterns to make informed management decisions, or determine whether changes are needed. Collecting visitor use data, including numbers of visitors, length of stay, movement within the park, and demographic information will help managers to determine next steps. Outside assistance would be needed for this effort, and could be obtained via a cooperative agreement with a university, a Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (CESU), or a social studies Solution for Technical Assistance Request (STAR) within the National Park Service.

Planning Needs and Priority Levels
Planning Needs Priority Level (H, M, L)
Park-specific cultural use guidelines H
Climate change adaptation strategy H
Facility planning for the visitor center H
Facility planning for collections storage H
Integrated pest management plan H
Kiʻilae management plan H
Site planning for the picnic area and maintenance / resource management facilities H
Accessibility self-evaluation and transistion plan M
Long-range interpretive plan update M
Sign plan M
Site plan for amphitheater area M
Vegetation management plan update M
Visitor use management analysis M
Workforce planning M
Air tour management plan L
Data Needs and Studies
Data Needs and Studies Priority Level
(H, M, L)
Climate change data H
Kiʻilae archeological inventory H
Oral histories H
Visitor use data H
Adminstrative history M
Collect acoustic data M
Cultural landscape reports M
Cultural landscape inventory M
Data on plant disease M
Data on groudwater movement M
Data on sediments along shoreline M
Night sky data M

Part 3: Contributors

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

Barbara Alberti, Acting Superintendent
Tammy Duchesne, Superintendent
Kawailehua Domingo, Interpretive Ranger
Kehau Freitas, Administrative Support Assistant
Cynthia Galieto, Chief of Visitor and Resource Protection
Felipe Galieto, Jr., Maintenance Supervisor
Marcel Gillet, Chief of Maintenance
Rae Godden, Chief of Interpretation
Malia Hayes, Biological Technician
Adam Johnson, Chief of Integrated Resources
MaryAnne Maigret, Acting Chief of Integrated Resources
Julia Swanson, Interpretive Ranger
Bill Thompson, Acting Superintendent

NPS Pacific West Region

Martha Crusius, Program Chief, Park Planning & Environmental Compliance
Katelyn Walker, Planner

Denver Service Center, Planning Division

Melody Bentfield, Contract Librarian (former)
Tom Gibney, Project Manager
John Paul Jones, Visual Information Specialist
Ericka Pilcher, Visitor Use Planner (former)
Aleksandra Pitt, Project Specialist
Nancy Shock, Foundation Coordinator
Philip Viray, Publications Chief
Laura Watt, Contract Editor
Steve Whissen, Project Specialist / Cultural Resource Specialist

Other NPS Personnel

Wyndeth Davis, Superintendent of Keweenaw National Historical Park


Monico K. Galieto
Shirley Kauhaihao
Shane Akoni Nelsen
Kahakaʻio Ravenscraft
Joellen Salisbury

Last updated: July 13, 2020

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Hōnaunau , HI 96726


808 328-2326

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