History and Culture
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Hawaii’s rich past comes to vivid life at incredible historic sites that help us understand the historical, cultural, and environmental forces that shaped Hawaii as we know it today. Whether it’s a unique natural wonder, a National Historic Site, Park or Monument, or a sacred place that connects us to Native Hawaiian customs, beliefs and practices, these sites will help you gain a deeper understanding of Hawaii on your next visit.
OahuBishop Museum: Founded in 1889, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific region, housing more than 24 million cultural and natural treasures from Hawaii and Polynesia.
Leahi (Diamond Head) State Monument: The iconic crater sitting at the edge of Waikiki is named Leahi (forehead of the ahi fish) due to its profile resembling that of the fish. Visitors can hike a trail to the summit to see stunning views of the south shore of the island.
Iolani Palace State Monument: Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace was home to Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs and is registered as a National Historic Landmark. The public is welcome to visit on guided tours.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: The history of the United States military in Hawaii reaches back to the late 1800s. Also called “Punchbowl” for its location inside a crater, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was established in 1949 as a final resting place for those who served in the armed forces.
Nuuanu Pali State Wayside: The lookout on these steep cliffs offer panoramic views of the Koolau mountain range and the east side of the island. This was the site of the Battle of Nuuanu, where Kamehameha the Great defeated Oahu forces and brought the island under his rule.
Pearl Harbor: On Dec. 7, 1941, Oahu was struck by a surprise Japanese military attack that pulled America into World War II. Most of the destruction was centered at Pearl Harbor. Today, visitors can learn about that pivotal point in world history at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which includes the USS Arizona Memorial.
Hanaiakamalama - Queen Emma Summer Palace: The summer retreat of Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, Hanaiakamalama houses a collection of the Queen’s personal belongings and furnishings.
Washington Place: This historic home named for President George Washington was the center of critical events that changed the course of Hawaii – it was the home and prison of Queen Liliuokalani, and later served as the residence of Hawaii’s governors.
Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse: On a rocky peninsula, the 52-foot lighthouse was commissioned in 1913 and was dedicated to U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye in 2013. The point is also a national wildlife refuge for seabirds.
Waimea Canyon State Park: Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the 10-mile-wide by 3,000-feet-deep Waimea Canyon on Kauai’s west side was carved by the Waimea River, which receives its water from Mount Waialeale.
Kalaupapa Lookout at the Palaau State Park: This overlook features an amazing view of Molokai’s north coast and Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a remote setMore than 8,000 people affected by Hansen’s disease were exiled to the Molokai peninsula in the years 1866 to 1969. Today, a handful of patients voluntarily remain, and the park is now a place where people gather to honor the memories of those that came before. Saint Damien and Saint Marianne Cope both served patients here.tlement where sufferers of Hansen’s disease (leprosy) were exiled.
Kaunolu Village: A favorite fishing spot of King Kamehameha I, this archaeological site features the largest surviving ruins of a prehistoric Hawaiian vilA significant and sensitive wahi pana (sacred place), Kaunolu was the religious and chiefly center for the island and its legendary stories connect Hawaiians to their ancestral homeland of Kahiki. Remains of the old fishing village can still be seen, including Kamehameha the Great’s former royal residence, on a mile-long trail around the coastline.
Haleakala National Park: Spanning 30,004 acres from the coast to its 10,023-foot summit, this park has a larger concentration of endangered species than any other natEncompassing 33,265 acres from the coast to its 10,023-foot summit, Haleakala National Park features the dormant volcano, Haleakala, which hasn’t erupted for 400 to 600 years. Visitors can explore the otherworldly summit and watch the sunrise, or visit the Kipahulu District on the east side of the island where waterfalls and pools can be seen.
Iao Valley State Monument: Home to the iconic Iao Needle, this is the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai, where the forces of King Kamehameha I conquered the Maui armThe 4,000-acre state park features Iao Needle, a landform that rises 1,200 feet from the valley floor. In 1790, Kamehameha the Great’s army defeated Maui forces here, in the Battle of Kepaniwai (the water dam), named after the way fallen warriors blocked the river.
Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls State Park: A scAlong the lush, verdant Hamakua Coast, the streams of water coming down the slopes of Maunakea shape the land. See two of the most dramatic waterfalls, Akaka Falls (442 feet) and Kahuna Falls (100 feet), on this scenic self-guided walk.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, make up Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the island around it, the park is constantly changing. Its vast 323,431 acres include many opportunities for sightseeing and exploration, giving visitors glimpses of dramatic landscapes and historic places.
Hulihee Palace: A former summer home for Hawaiian royalty, Hulihee Palace is at the center of Historic Kailua Village. Across Kailua Bay lies Kamakahonu and Ahuena Heiau, the royal residence of King Kamehameha. And across Alii Drive you can see Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s first Christian church.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park: Preserving Hawaiian culture, the Koloko-Honokohau National Historical Park encompasses two ahupuaa (land divisions), protecting archaeological sites such as fishponds, heiau (temples) and house sites, where visitors can see first-hand what life in ancient Hawaii was like.
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park: Kealakekua Bay is the site of a heiau (temple) to Lono, and also the site one of Hawaii’s most significant historical turning points – Captain James Cook first landed on the island here in 1779. The largest sheltered bay on the island of Hawaii, Kealakekua Bay is also a marine life conservation district.
Lapakahi State Historical Park: On the Kohala Coast, a 600-year-old Hawaiian fishing village is being preserved in archaeological sites that make up Lapakahi State Historical Park. Visitors can take a self-guided hike on the park’s interpretive trail.
Lyman Mission House and Museum: Built in 1839 for Christian missionaries David and Sarah Lyman, the historic Lyman Mission House offers tours to give visitors a feel for early missionary life in the Islands. Next door, the Lyman Museum, established in 1931, has artifacts and natural history exhibits on view.
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park: A Native Hawaiian puuhonua (place of refuge for lawbreakers) and royal village, the South Kona national park includes heiau (temples) with carved wooden kii (statues), fishponds, and other archaeological sites.
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site: Thousands of people built Puukohola Heiau by hand in 1791 for Kamehameha the Great, who dedicated it to the war god Kukailimoku. The temple was part of a prophecy that was fulfilled when Kamehameha succesfully united the Hawaiian islands.
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