Monday, August 25, 2014

The Big Island of Hawai'i: The Painted Church and Place of Refuge

The last installment of our trip around The Big Island of Hawai'i ends with my favorite places on the island. The Painted Church and The Place of Refuge. Located in the same area of the island, between Kailua-Kona and South Point on the 11 Highway. You take the 11 to the 160 and hang a right. You will see a sign for The Painted Church to guide your way. Soon you will come to a sign for Painted Church Road. Hang a right there and the church is up a steep driveway on your right. 
 In fact, the first thing you will notice about the church are the gorgeous gardens. They begin at the start of the circular drive, continue around the parking lot and up onto the church grounds themselves. Take some time to enjoy them. They are worth it!
 St. Benedict's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1899 and Father John Velghe used ordinary house paints to decorate the inside of the church. Hawaiians couldn't read at that time so he told his stories in picture form...with much success! 
 You can see that the church still retains some of the Victorian flare from earlier in the century. The beautiful woodwork filigree is just part of the charm of this place.
 As you walk towards the front steps of the church look to your right and see if the China Hat flowers are in bloom. Bright and colorful these are cheerful flowers that you may not have a chance to see anywhere else.
 But it is the inside of this church that draws people from all over the world to admire it. Every panel tells a story and it's wonderful to go and sit for awhile in this peaceful place and enjoy it.
 But St. Benedict's is still an active parish and they do hold services and have a great outreach program for the local community. I was lucky enough to be there on a day when there were only a few visitors around so I had the church to myself for a bit.
 But then it was back out into the gardens where the flowers are gorgeous but the tropical plants are stunning too!
 Even the lush greenery takes your breath away here. The Big Island gets 75-125 inches of rain each year. November and March are the most rainy months but you stand a chance of having a bit of rain all year round. Our experience has been to wear cotton clothing because when it rains for that 20 minutes to an hour during the afternoon you will get a bit wet...but cotton dries quickly once the sun comes back out. One thing we noticed was the absence of umbrellas on the Big Island. Maybe because they have short little showers each day and it's hardly worth pulling out an umbrella? 
 As a photographer, one of the most fun things I get to do when I'm in the Islands is discover the tropical flowers. This is part of the Ginger family and I love how it looks barbaric and beautiful all at the same time! And, yes, all of these different flowers and plants (and more) were in the gardens of The Painted Church.
 But once you get back onto 160 and head all the way down the hill you will come to The Place of Refuge. Pu'uhonua o' Honaunau Historical Park is one of the most beautiful places you will find in the Islands and my favorite, hands down. 
 This beautiful place was where you would run if you had broken a sacred law and the punishment was death. If you could make it to here then you would not only be safe but they would defend you from any pursuers. The Place of Refuge.
 If you get lucky on the day of your visit you may see a craftsman carving a figure or a canoe in one of the structures on the property.
 If you have always dreamed of the lush islands with white sands and palm trees then this is your dream come true. And it's still considered a sacred place so there will be no picnic baskets, no kids throwing a frisbee or a football around, just peace and tranquility. If you want to do all of that, as well as snorkel in 100 foot deep clear water, there is a beach park to the right of the entrance to the Historic Site that you can enjoy.
 The main structure on the point is actually a tomb for the chiefs bones. These Ki'i surround the building adding even more to the ancient feel of the site.
 All along the edge of the water are lava rock "fences" to help with the eroding of the shoreline. These make perfect spots for you to sit and just enjoy the quiet and the view.
 The fences are also a great place to watch the little black crabs that dart all over the rocks and into the waters edge. 
 You will find some very odd looking plants there as well. These palm seed pods look like one of the sculptures from Beetlejuice! 
But the reason I love to put my last visit to this place on the last day is the sense of peace and tranquility you feel when you leave it. Lush, beautiful and serene, it is a place to be treasured and always a highlight on one of our trips to the Big Island.

Next up! I've been traveling California so I have a lot to share with you. Next week we'll start with the Monterey Bay Area!


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