Punchbowl Crater is an extinct volcanic tuff cone located on the island of O’ahu within the city limits of Honolulu, Hawai’i.

The crater was formed between 75,000 to 100,000 years ago during the Honolulu period of secondary volcanic activity. A crater resulted from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range.

The volcano is most likely a monogenetic volcano meaning it only erupted once because the volcano is low in height, yet it has a massive crater.

There are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.” This translation closely relates to the history of the crater. Pre-Kamehameha reign, the first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to their gods and killed violators of the many taboos.

During the reign of Kamehameha the Great, a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions.

With Western invasion in the early 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Near the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known (unofficially) as Punchbowl Cemetery. It serves as a memorial to honor those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces, and those who have given their lives in doing so.

punchbowl cemetery

Congress approved funding and construction began on the national cemetery in February 1948. Since the cemetery was dedicated in September 1949, approximately 53,000 U.S. Veteran’s of war have been buried at Punchbowl.

The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Millions of visitors visit the cemetery each year, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.

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