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Brief History of Oahu
From the Hawaiian monarchy to the attack on Pearl Harbor, an exploration of Oahu’s history reflects the key influences that have impacted all of Hawaii. In 1795, King Kamehameha I led his forces in the legendary Battle of Nuuanu, which resulted in the conquering of Oahu and the eventual unification of the Hawaiian Islands under one rule in 1810.
Seven Hawaiian monarchs followed after Kamehameha the Great. King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli) permanently established the Hawaiian Kingdom’s government on Oahu. Queen Liliuokalani was Hawaii’s last reigning monarch after American colonists overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom in a controversial coup in 1893. In 1898, Hawaii became a territory of the United States.
As agriculture boomed in the late 19th century, plantation owners found themselves in the midst of a labor shortage. Immigrants from Japan, China, Korea, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Russia and the Philippines arrived to work in the plantations. Today, this mix of ethnicities is the source of Hawaii’s multicultural population. Visitors can step backward in time to explore this era at Waipahu’s Plantation Village. You can also still see the smoke stack of the old Waialua Sugar Mill as you drive toward historic Haleiwa town.
Hawaii’s visitor industry began to grow in the early 1900s. In 1901, the Moana Hotel opened on the beach in Waikiki. Today, the Westin Moana Surfrider is Hawaii’s oldest resort still in operation. The Aloha Tower opened in 1926, and was the tallest building in Hawaii for four decades. It’s now a historic Honolulu landmark and home to an outdoor shopping and dining marketplace. In 1927, the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel opened and was nicknamed the “Pink Palace.”
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor pushing America into World War II. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. Completed in 1969, the Hawaii State Capitol is located in Downtown Honolulu, behind Iolani Palace.
Oahu Heritage Sites
There are nine Heritage Sites of Hawaii on Oahu, serving as destinations that showcase significant historical, cultural and environmental contributions and encapsulate Native Hawaiian customs, beliefs and practices.
Diamond Head (Leahi) State Monument
One of Hawaii’s most recognized natural landmarks, you can hike to the top of the crater for panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu.
Five Pearl Harbor Historic Sites honor this National Historic Landmark with amazing memorials and living museums. WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument is where the attack of Pearl Harbor took place on December 7, 1941, marking the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.
Best known for the USS Arizona Memorial, there are four other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites to experience, including the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Pacific Aviation Museum and the USS Oklahoma Memorial.
Today, you can also walk in the footsteps of Hawaii’s rich military past at locations throughout Oahu. In Waikiki, the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii chronicles the history of warfare in Hawaii from King Kamehameha to today. Two of Waikiki’s most historic hotels, the Moana Surfrider and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel were popular rest and recreation stops for soldiers during WWII. Even iconic Leahi (Diamond Head) was used for the coastal defense of Oahu. A total of five military batteries were built atop Diamond Head State Monument between 1910 and 1943, the remains of which are still visible.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Located at Punchbowl Crater, this is one of the nation’s most prominent national cemeteries, with more than 49,000 internments — including more than 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II. Over 5 million visitors come to pay their respects here each year. The memorial lookouts also offer panoramic views of Honolulu.
Iolani Palace State Monument
King Kalakaua, also known as the Merrie Monarch, built the majestic Iolani Palace in Downtown Honolulu. Dedicated in 1882, it is the only official state residence of royalty in the United States. The palace’s grounds and galleries are now open to the public as a museum. The iconic King Kamehameha I statue stands just across the street.
Nuuanu Pali State Wayside (Pali Lookout)
Overlooking the lush Windward Coast and the majestic Koolau mountain range, the Nuuanu Pali Lookout was the site of the Battle of Nuuanu. It was here, high atop these sheer cliffs, that King Kamehameha I won a decisive battle that helped him conquer the island of Oahu.
Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline (Makapuu Trail)
Hike the one-mile Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail to this scenic point on Oahu’s eastern-most tip for incredible views and whale watching during the winter.
Queen Emma Summer Palace
Known as Hanaiakamalama, the summer retreat in the Nuuanu Valley of Queen Emma — wife of King Kamehameha IV — is now a museum that houses a collection of her belongings, furnishings and artifacts.
The premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific region, Bishop Museum is known through the world for its research projects, public education programs and cultural exhibits — including a unique and unparalleled collection of Hawaii cultural artifacts.
Most commonly known as the home of Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, this storied mansion sits in Downtown Honolulu in the heart of the Hawaii Capital Historic District and is a registered National Historic Landmark.
Nearby, you’ll find modern landmarks like the Hawaii State Capitol and Honolulu Hale, home to the city council and mayor’s office. Just east of Kawaiahao Church, the Hawaiian Mission Houses Museum displays three missionary homes built in New England and shipped to Oahu.
Located in the hangars that bear the scars of the Pearl Harbor attack. Aircraft such as a 1942 Japanese Zero and a Wildcat in diorama exhibits. Movie, Cafe, Gift Shop, Free Flight Simulator coupon at www.PacificAviationMuseum.org.
The Battleship Missouri is located on legendary Battleship Row in the famous Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. General MacArthur accepted the unconditional Japanese surrender that ended WWII on the Surrender Deck of the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
Join Oahu's original eco-tour company for a fun and educational hiking or sightseeing adventure. Spectacular scenery, excellent photographic opportunities, and information about the geology, archaeology, mythology and history of Hawaii await you on our half-day and full-day adventures.
We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Naval Aviation History in Hawaii through educational and hands-on tours of our historical collection of aircraft which was stationed here in Hawaii at the former Naval Air Station Barbers Point. Fun tours for all ages!
"No Rush" Private Tours customized for each tour. We are experienced local guides who share our passion for Oahu, it's history, culture, flora, and wildlife. Learn, Experience and Explore with the Historic Pearl Harbor, Best of Oahu Food & Sightseeing, or Photography. Half Day & Full Day. Warm Aloha
DISCOVERY: In three historic buildings guests can see and feel the dramatic changes the New England Missionaries brought to Hawaii starting in 1820.
Pacific Historic Parks operates the USS Arizona Memorial Narrated Tour, Virtual Reality Tours, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Tours and the Arizona Memorial Museum Store. At Diamond Head, our firm runs the Diamond Head Visitor Center and the Diamond Head Tour. At Kalaupapa, we run the Gift Store.