The Hawaiian islands were first colonized by Polynesian settlers, then ruled as separate island kingdoms. The first documented European visitor was a world-famous explorer who was killed when he tried to abduct a chief. Visit sites that commemorate this time in Kona on Hawaii Island.
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History’s Gathering Place
Hawaii is where deep Polynesian cultural heritage and iconic U.S. history meet.
Relics from every time period in Hawaiian history stand to this day. No matter where you are on the islands, an ancient heiau (holy temple), petroglyph, or modern-day memorial is sure to be nearby. If you're a history buff, get ready to take it all in. Your itinerary is about to fill up fast.
Kingdom of Hawaii
The Kingdom of Hawaii officially formed in 1810. Two royal houses ruled the kingdom until it was overthrown by the U.S. in 1893. Fortunately, the important legacy of the kingdom lives on in the many royal homes that you can tour, like Iolani Palace on Oahu.
Hawaii is a significant state in U.S. history. The U.S. entered World War II when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, and the 44th (and first African-American) president of the U.S. is from Honolulu. Spend a day visiting Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Aviation Museum to learn about Hawaii’s role in World War II.
If you see a sign that says kapu, then you’re at an important site. Please treat it with respect.
Take a cultural tour while you’re in Hawaii. You’ll learn about Polynesian customs, listen to ancient stories, and even try your hand at ulu maika (Hawaiian bowling).
The Puako Petroglyphs are an ancient site on rough grounds. Wear closed-toe shoes and stay on the trails.
Hawaii Island is where you’ll find the best records of Hawaii’s earliest settlers and the unified Kingdom of Hawaii. The City of Refuge (Puuhonua O Honaunau), Hulihee Palace, and the birthplace of Kamehameha the Great all serve as fascinating reminders of Hawaii’s profound history.
On Oahu, the royal past is just a stone’s throw away from notable sites in modern U.S. history. Explore both on a Pearl Harbor and Historic Honolulu City tour, then check out the Bishop Museum. Visit the Pali Lookout to learn about how Kamehameha I united Oahu.
Maui holds both the site of a great battle to unify the islands (Iao Valley), and the former capital of the Hawaiian kingdom (Lahaina). To this day, Lahaina is full of missionary homes, sacred sites of worship, and significant landmarks from the 19th century that you can visit.
On Kauai, you’ll learn about the the meaningful history and legacy of Hawaii’s sugarcane industry in places like the Waioli Mission District. Take “a journey through time” at the Kauai Museum, or visit the 1,000 year-old Menehune Fishpond.
"You gotta check out the Puako Petroglyphs. The trail is a serene and powerful reminder that you are in a land with rich history and culture."