The Ultimate Historical Reference Guide for Sites in Hawaii

Visions of beaches, warm nights, and a simpler life draw many to the Hawaiian Islands, and with good reason.

There are not too many places in the world that make you want to return again and again. The places, people, and the culture hopefully remain with visitors, young and old throughout their lives.

While all that is undeniable, there is more to this State than meets the eye.

This history of Hawaii is an amazing one, full of myth, culture, and even a bit of surprise warfare thrown in.

So, take a seat. Today’s lesson will take us back in time referencing some historical information and some of the historical sites to visit.

Don’t worry, there won’t be a pop quiz at the end. Maybe.

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Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

This historical site has a few things memorable as a part of Hawaii’s history.

Not only is this the site for Captain James Cook’s arrival on this island, but it is now also a marine life conservation district. Of course, the two cannot be compared, but both are destined to remain in the annals of Hawaiian historical sites.

As was the fate for many impromptu visitors from foreign countries exploring what was thought to be uninhabited land, Captain Cook met his demise here.

The sea life here is vehemently protected.

Only select guides are allowed to take visitors through the bay due to the sensitives for the ongoing, and sustainability of sea life.

Lyman Mission House and Museum

From the volcanic origins of the islands to the people that helped shape Hawaii’s future population, this museum holds the secrets that everyone can now share.

Learn about the animal, sea, and bird life that inhabited these islands before mankind.

Take a guided tour to learn more than you’ll ever read about from experts who impart a feeling of nostalgia, the lives lived and a genuine love of the island’s historical beginnings.

Ethic groupings of sugarcane workers on the plantations established a work ethic suited to only the brave and the dedicated wanting a better life during the 19th and 20th centuries

While you are there, pick up the history in book form to educate your kids, and family on the old mission life as it was over 150 years ago.

 If you are visiting Hilo, this is one for long-term memories.

Puukohola Heaiu National Historical Site

Legends say this is a sacred site built by King Kamehameha from a sense of respect and reverence for the family God, Ku.

The main aim was to unite the islands, and due to his inability to overcome problems associated with his plan, the King sought advice from his mother and the prophet Kapoukahi.

A symbol of peace and unification, the Hawaiian people continue to revere this site and encourage others to understand its importance when learning about Hawaiian history.

Iolani Palace

If you like a touch of royalty this is the place for you.  When visiting Honolulu make this a must-do trip down historical lane. Iolani Palace is a living representation of a proud historical Hawaii.

Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, this building was the home of Hawaii’s reigning monarchs and was the social and political stage until 1893.

Restored to the highest standards befitting a royal residence, Iolani Palace has become one of the most head-turning and recognized buildings on the Islands.

This is a registered National historic landmark and is known as the only official royal residence in the United States.

Pearl Harbor

Infamous for its air attack by Japan on December 7, 1941, this is the Hawaiian Islands’ most visited modern-day battle site.

Caught off guard, Hawaii fell to the surprise attack which was all but over in two hours.

Today, visitors gravitate to this memorial site. 

Look at the exhibits of the WW11 Valor in the Pacific Monument, then atop the harbor itself, take the ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial for a trip not to be missed.

The feeling here is palpable. The memories live on.

A must-see when visiting the city of Honolulu.

Nu’uanu Pali Lookout

At just 5 miles out of Honolulu, the breathtaking journey is just the beginning.

The cliffs of Nu’uanu were the scene for one of the most famous clashes in Oahu. King Kamehameha fought for ruling power in 1795 by driving the island’s men up to the cliffs of Nu’uanu and promptly seeing them over the edge to their deaths.

This was the last battle to be conquered in ancient times.

Gruesome, yes. Worth Seeing? Without doubt.

Don’t forget your camera for this one.

Kukaoo Heiau

Sitting proudly above the Manoa Valley is Kukaoo Heiau, an ancient agricultural temple. Built by the residents of the valley at the time, and restored in 1993, this temple is now considered a heritage site.

On the grounds of one of Oahu’s most noteworthy homes, this temple is a link to the past never to be forgotten.

Make a plan to visit the Manoa Heritage Centre and take a guided tour to find out more about the history of this inspiring site.

Kukaniloko Birthstone State Monument

Located on five acres in central Oahu’s town of Wahiawa, this sacred site was once used as a royal birthing place. The lava-rock stones are said to have healing powers to assist with the pain of childbirth.

These 180 rocks are told to be over 900 years old. That’s a lot of royal babies.

An Oahu Chief built this site in the 12th Century, on which his own son was born.

You can learn more about this fascinating site here.

Hot Tips for Enjoying Hawaii’s Historical Sites 

Check Opening Times and Days 

Avoid those disappointed faces by double checking when such sites are in operation. Certain ones are only open during particular days of the week.  

Are Bookings Essential? 

Along with days, and opening times, check whether pre-bookings are essential. Some venues and places of interest may only cater to small groups, and some may operate on a first to arrive, first in basis 

Take Note of any Warnings 

Signage around properties will indicate if visitors are to refrain from eating, drinking on the grounds or within an exhibition. Please respect all requests to not touch the exhibits and artefacts if the site is not an interactive one.  

Check for Accessibility 

If you or anyone you travel with requires particular accessibility it pays to do your research. Some sites may not be wheelchair friendly or require visitors to have a minimum level of mobility.

From ancient birthplaces of royalty to modern times fallen soldiers and century-old battles to the death, Hawaii has it all.

Hawaii is a magical place to visit. Rich in culture and histories its people want all to know how the land became what it is today.

The protection of all historical sites is an essential undertaking for not just those  who reside, or have a link to its history, but to all visitors and history buffs alike.

This is by no means all there is to see and do. The history of these islands is significant not only as a part of US history but as a salute to the people who saw the potential and fought to preserve a way of life.

History shows us many things. What to do. What not to do, but it is simply that. A History. 

We all have one.

An irreversible truth.

Ready to go? Check out our guides on where to visit. Your next historical adventure awaits!

Updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides

If you're visiting Hawaii soon, be sure to download a copy of one of our updated 2023 Hawaii Visitor Guides. We've updated the packets with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and for those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide
- 60+ Pages -

Highlights

- 100+ Pages -

Deluxe

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

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