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Honolulu's renovated Punchbowl.

Honolulu's renovated Punchbowl It is surely, one of the most beautiful final resting places in the world. High above the Pacific, in the crater of an extinct volcano, row on row of granite grave markers march across the seamless green lawn. Trade winds unfurl the American flag and stir the leaves of the frangipani and monkeypod trees. This is Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as Punchbowl.

Ernie Pyle is buried here, and Challenger astronaut Ellison Onizuka, and nearly 30,000 veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf. Punchbowl's melding of military tradition with natural splendor has made it one of the most touristed spots in Hawaii; last year it drew 6 million visitors. Now a $2 million renovation is helping the cemetery to withstand this popularity -- and visitors to find the tranquility the setting demands.

From Puowaina to Punchbowl

Punchbowl was called Puowaina, hill of sacrifice, by the early Hawaiians. In the 19th century, its strategic position led King Kamehameha's government to locate a cannon battery on its slopes, while the views lured many locals. That the promontory would make an inspirational site for a cemetery was suggested as early as the 1890s, but it took World War II to make this proposal a reality.

The cemetery was dedicated on September 2, 1949, the fourth anniversary of V-J day. The adjacent war memorial, with its shrines to soldiers missing in action and its map murals of the war in the Pacific, was completed a quarter-century later.

Finished late last year, the renovation steers cars and buses to the cemetery's perimeter, and replaces the old road up to Observation Point, with a new Memorial Walk. The observation area itself is new, though the views -- south across Honolulu to the Pacific, north across Punchbowl to the Koolau Range -- are as serenely spectacular as always.

Punchbowl lies off Puowaina Drive, just north of downtown. Summer hours are 8 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. daily. Despite the improvements, bus tours can crowd the cemetery, especially from about 9:30 to 3:30; we suggest you visit earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. For more information, call (808) 541-1430.
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Title Annotation:Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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