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Explore Hawaii’s living museums and learn about the rich culture and history of the islands. Discover artifacts and artwork from Hawaii’s past from the first Polynesian settlers to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Or browse modern art galleries to see some of Hawaii’s—and the Pacific’s—best contemporary art.
Oahu is home to some of Hawaii’s largest and most extensive museums. Located in Honolulu, the Bishop Museum is Hawaii’s largest museum dedicated to studying and preserving the history of Hawaii. Originally designed to house the extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a descendent of King Kamehameha I, the museum is now the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific.
The Iolani Palace, located in downtown Honolulu, is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States and was the center of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the late 1800s. Tour the grand rooms of this American Florentine-style palace and see royal portraits, ornate furnishings and priceless regalia while you learn about the Hawaiian monarchy.
Located in the Ewa District of Central Oahu, Puuloa (Pearl Harbor) is the largest natural harbor in Hawaii and the only naval base in the United States to be designated a National Historical Landmark. Learn more about the historic events that plunged the U.S. into World War II at the living museums of the Pacific Historic Parks, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Since 1927, the Honolulu Museum of Art has been Hawaii's largest fine arts museum, boasting a permanent collection of over 38,000 works of art from cultures around the world. From the museum you can also take a guided tour to heiress Doris Duke’s amazing home, Shangri-La, where you’ll find more than 3,000 objects of Islamic Art. For Hawaii’s finest contemporary art, visit the beautiful Honolulu Museum of Art - Spalding House atop Makiki Heights, overlooking Honolulu.
Island of Hawaii
The island of Hawaii is the home of the islands’ only active volcano and the birthplace of King Kamehameha I, making its museums truly unique.
In Hilo, museum-lovers will find some unique options. The Imiloa Astronomy Center is housed beneath three striking titanium cones representing the three tallest mountains on the island of Hawaii. It features fun interactive exhibits and an IMAX-style planetarium theater. Downtown, at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, interactive exhibits for kids and families explore the Pacific islands' fragile reef ecosystems. History buffs will want to visit the Lyman Museum and Mission House, where there are exhibits covering the life of early Hawaiians and natural history, as well as comprehensive archives and a preserved 19th-century missionary's home.
In Kona, The Kona Coffee Living History Farm showcases the unique regional history of coffee farmers during the early 20th century. The site offers self-guided tours as well as costumed interpreters who provide engaging stories and historical context. Nearby is the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum, a well preserved outpost from the late 19th century, which was a hub for immigrants during the earliest days of ranching on the island.
Maui is known for whale watching. Located in the Whalers Village shopping center fronting beautiful Kaanapali Beach, the Whale Center of Hawaii features artifacts and exhibits centered on the whaling era from 1825-1860.
The sugar industry also played a major role in Maui’s history. Visit the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum to see the workings of a sugar mill and learn how sugar helped shape the multi-ethnic population of Hawaii.
You can also learn more about the history of the island at the Bailey House in Wailuku. The building has served as a school, a private residence and a sugar plantation offices since being built in the 19th century. Along with details about its past, the collection also includes one of Duke Kahanamoku's surfboards.
The Kauai Museum in Lihue features amazing collections from the artisans of Kauai. Visitors can learn about the geology of Hawaii, early Native Hawaiian life and Captain Cook’s arrival on Kauai’s shores in Waimea. One of the museum's most prominent exhibits is the Haaheo o Hawaii (Pride of Hawaii), a collection of artifacts and treasures recovered from a sunken, 19th century ship that belonged King Kamehameha II. Also in Lihue, the Grove Farm Homestead Museum is a 100-acre, historic site that showcases life during Kauai’s plantation era more than a century ago.
On the West Side, just beyond breathtaking Waimea Canyon, you’ll find the Kokee Museum. This is the place to go to get an overview of the hiking trails, rare plants and endemic animals found in Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon.
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