Museums of Hawaii
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 1800’s. 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, 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 3,500 objects of Islamic Art. For Hawaii’s finest contemporary art, visit the beautiful Honolulu Museum of Art - Spalding House atop Makiki Heights, overlooking Honolulu.
Hawaii's Big Island
Hawaii’s Big Island is the home of the islands’ only active volcano and the birthplace of King Kamehameha I making its museums truly unique. Located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and overlooking Halemaumau Crater, the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum is home to geologic displays, maps and videos about the study of volcanoes.
Along the lava rock coastline of south Kona, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is a 180-acre national historic park featuring restored temples, fierce kii (wooden images of gods), and royal grounds. Head north along the Kohala Coast to Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site and see the largest restored heiau (temple) in Hawaii. Between 1790 and 1791, King Kamehameha I ordered the construction of this heiau. He dedicated it to the war god Ku to help him unite the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Hilo’s newest world-class attraction, the Imiloa Astronomy Center, is housed beneath three striking titanium cones representing the three largest mountains on Hawaii Island. It features fun Interactive exhibits and an IMAX-style theater.
Maui is known for whale watching. Located in the Whalers Village shopping center fronting beautiful Kaanapali Beach, the Whalers Village Museum 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.
The Kauai Museum in Lihue features amazing collections from the artisans of Kauai county. Visitors can learn about the geology of Hawaii, early Native Hawaiian life, and Captain Cook’s arrival on Kauai’s shores in Waimea. 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 Natural History 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.