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Oʻahu Historic Places

Oʻahu was the home of the Hawaiian monarchy, the birthplace of modern and big-wave surfing, the stage for the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, and the tipping point that led to the United States’ involvement in World War II. Those are just the grand highlights of Oʻahu vivid past, offering rich stories for visitors who crave a deeper experience of this incredible island. 
After gaining control of the Hawaiian Islands to the east, island of Hawaiʻi chief Kamehameha invaded Oʻahu in 1795 with an army of thousands. The fight culminated at the Nuʻuanu Pali, a cliff with a 1,000-foot drop where 800 warriors were driven to their deaths by Kamehameha’s advancing army. The Battle of Nuʻuanu was a pivotal turning point in the unification of the Hawaiian Islands, and Oʻahu played a central role in the unified kingdom for the next century.
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. The intermingling of these plantation-era ethnicities is the source of Hawaiʻi’s multicultural population and, some studies have argued, a greater capacity for creativity and inter-cultural harmony. Step backward in time to explore this foundational epoch at Waipahu’s Plantation Village. You may even drive by a relic of those days, the smoke stack of the old Waialua Sugar Mill, on the way to the North Shore’s historic Haleʻiwa town.

Hawaiʻi was also an early adopter of technology. At King Kalākaua’s request, a renovation of ʻIolani Palace was completed in 1882 with the most up-to-date innovations. The official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs and seat of the government until the kingdom was overthrown in 1893, the Palace was ahead of its time, with Hawaiʻi’s first electric lights, indoor plumbing and even a telephone – well before the White House or Buckingham Palace installed those amenities.
Hawaiʻi’s visitor industry began to grow in the early 1900s. In 1901, the Moana Hotel opened on the beach in Waikīkī. Today, the Westin Moana Surfrider is Hawaiʻi’s oldest resort still in operation. Aloha Tower opened in 1926 at the disembarkation pier for ocean liners that brought tourists before jet travel; it was the tallest building in Hawaiʻi 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.”

At the center of the Pacific, Hawaiʻi’s strategic location placed it in the middle of World War II. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Oʻahu, killing 2,403 and wounding 1,178. The attack would precipitate the United States’ entry into the war. Four years later, in 1945, Japan signed its unconditional surrender on the USS Battleship Missouri. Although the signing didn’t take place in Pearl Harbor, the ship is now part of a museum and memorial complex at Pearl Harbor, offering activities and tours to visitors from all over the world.
In 1959, Hawaiʻi became the 50th state of the United States. Completed in 1969, the Hawaiʻi State Capitol is located in Downtown Honolulu, behind ʻIolani Palace.

Significant Oʻahu Heritage Sites

Bishop 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 Hawaiʻi and Polynesia.

The summer retreat of Queen Emma, wife of King Kamehameha IV, Hānaiakamalama houses a collection of the Queen’s personal belongings and furnishings.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The history of the United States military in Hawaiʻi reaches back to the late 1800s. Also called “Pūowaina” 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.

Washington Place
This historic home named for President George Washington was the center of critical events that changed the course of Hawaiʻi – it was the home and prison of Queen Liliʻuokalani, and later served as the residence of Hawaiʻi’s governors

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Historic Places on Oʻahu

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