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1778: Captain James Cook lands at Waimea Bay on the island of Kauai, becoming the first European to make contact with the Hawaiian Islands. Cook names the archipelago the “Sandwich Islands” after the Earl of Sandwich. A year later, Cook is killed at Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawaii.
1790: The Battle of Kepaniwai was fought between forces from the island of Hawaii and Maui.
1795: Battle of Nuuanu takes place on the southern shores of Oahu. It was a key battle in Kamehameha's campaign to unite the islands.
1795-1874: The Kamehameha dynasty reigns over Hawaii.
1810: Kamehameha I unites the Hawaiian Islands.
1819: Liholiho, son of Kamehameha, defies the tradition of men and women eating separately during a feast, which leads to the abolishment of the kapu (taboo) system.
1820: The first missionaries arrive in Hawaii.
1820-1845: Lahaina was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom
1835: The first sugar plantation opens on Kauai. The Hawaiian Islands garner recognition for their prime agricultural land. Agriculture becomes a dominant economic force.
1830s-1848: The Great Mahele Kamehameha III sought to keep the land in Hawaiian hands by adopting a western allodial system with a new system that would divide the land into thirds – one-third to the Hawaiian crown lands, one-third to the chiefs, and one-third to the people. In the end, the people received less than 1% as the law required land claims to be filed within two years under the Kuleana Act and many Hawaiians made no claim. This was largely because ownership of land was not a common concept.
1845: Honolulu becomes the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom
1850s: With Hawaii’s plantation production on the rise, a need for more labor is realized. The first workers are recruited from China. Workers also make their way to the islands from Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Portugal.
1874: William Charles Lunalilo dies leaving no heirs. The Kamehameha dynasty comes to an end. David Kalakaua is elected as Lunalilo’s successor.
1878: Lydia Kamakaeha (later Queen Liliuokalani) pens "Aloha 'Oe"
1881: King Kalakaua becomes the first monarch in history to circumnavigate the globe.
1882: Iolani Palace, the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs, is completed. The Palace was ahead of its time outfitted with the most up-to-date amenities, before even the White House and Buckingham Palace, including the first electric lights in Hawaii, indoor plumbing and even a telephone.
1889: Joseph Kekuku from Laie, Oahu invents the steel guitar. He later moves to the US Mainland to share his music with the rest of the world. Steel guitar becomes incredibly popular with country music and is still heard today.
1891: King David Kalakaua dies and Queen Liliuokalani takes the throne.
1893: The overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii begins. Queen Liliuokalani is placed under house arrest at Iolani Palace in Honolulu.
1898: Hawaii is annexed by the United States through the Newlands Resolution.
1900: The Organic Act establishes the Territory of Hawaii.
1901: The first Waikiki hotel, The Moana Hotel, opens on March 11. The resort is affectionately named “The First Lady of Waikiki.”
1917: Queen Liliuokalani, the last sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom, passes away.
1941: On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu during World War II.
1945: On September 2, 1945, Japan signs its unconditional surrender on the USS Battleship Missouri. Although the signing didn't take place in Pearl Harbor, the ship is now part of museum and memorial complex at Pearl Harbor, offering activities and tours to visitors from all over the world
1966: Don Ho releases his signature song, "Tiny Bubbles." The album makes the Billboard Top 20 and stays in the charts for nearly a year. His music and style become synonymous with Hawaiian leisure.
1978: The Hawaii State Constitutional Convention makes Hawaiian the state's official language (the only state in the U.S. with a non-English official language).
1980: Hawaii becomes the home of the NFL Pro Bowl when the AFC-NFC all star game lands in Oahu's Aloha Stadium. The Pro Bowl is hosted in Hawaii for 26 years, until 2017 when it moved to Orlando, FL.
1990: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes located on the island of Hawaii, erupts sending lava through the town of Kalapana. While it destroyed the town, it also created a new coastline that extends nearly 1,000 feet farther into the Pacific Ocean.
2009: Senator Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. Obama, who was the first African American to have served as president, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
2011: Hawaii hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
2013: The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage begins. The four-year voyage covered over 60,000 nautical miles, 100 ports, and 27 nations, including 12 of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage sites. The mission was to take Hawaii's iconic cultural sailing canoe Hokulea around the world and her sister canoe Hikianalia around the Pacific and the Hawaiian Islands, to grow a global movement toward a more sustainable world. The voyage sought to engage all – practicing how to live sustainably, while sharing Polynesian culture, learning from the past and from each other.
2017: Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage completes its journey.
More Ways to Experience Hawaiian History
In the historic Kailua-Kona area, you'll find historic landmarks like the Hulihee Summer Palace, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s first Christian church and more.More
Grab a historic walking trail map from the Lahaina Visitor Center and follow the Lahaina Historic Trail to uncover the historical gems hidden throughout this seaside town.More
Read more about the history of the great Hawaiian king who lead a conquest to unify the islands.More
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Live butterfly farm and educational tours. Hands on tours involving the entire life cycle of the butterfly including eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies. See some of the wildlife found on the farm. Surround yourself with live butterflies in Hawaii’s only live butterfly house.