The History of a Kingdom and American History in the 50th State

Experience Hawaiian history, American history and global history on Oʻahu

Full of rich culture and history, the Hawaiian Islands has a story unlike any other state in the U.S. As an ancient nation, Hawaiʻi’s people were lead by aliʻi – the royal ruling class who guided their people with the mana (power) of their ancestors. Over time, Hawaiʻi transformed into a monarchy with kings and queens including King Kamehameha, King Kalākaua and Queen Liliʻuokalani, each ruler leaving an indelible mark on Hawaiʻi's people and culture. It was the plantation era of Hawaiʻi's history that transformed the islands into the cultural melting pot it is today. Through a variety of museums, attractions and destinations, Oʻahu offers some of the most diverse cultural and historical experiences concentrated within a single destination.

Visitors experience the sweep of Hawaiʻi history at Bishop Museum, from the kumulipo - a chant that tells the Hawaiian creation story - to the Polynesian voyagers who landed in the Hawaiian Islands, to the aliʻi of Hawaiʻi proud kingdom. The museum focuses on perpetuating the living culture of the Hawaiian people and preserving priceless historical and cultural objects. Offering a vast collection of more than 25 million objects and specimens representing nine disciplines, guests can learn not only about Hawaiʻi's treasured culture and history, but also about its unique environment.  

Travelers can dispatch to East Oʻahu to see a replica of a 950-year-old Buddhist temple. The Byodo-In Temple is nestled in the lush landscape of Kahaluʻu where visitors can wander through its gardens, sit beside peaceful ponds of Japanese Koi and spot wild peacocks that roam the grounds.

ʻIolani Palace is a living restoration of the royal palace of the Kalākaua Dynasty, belonging to Queen Liliʻuokalani before the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. Restored in the 70’s, ʻIolani Palace tells the story of Hawaiʻi’s monarchy and its transition from a kingdom down the path that eventually led it to becoming the 50th state.  

The Mānoa Heritage Center is a 3.5-acre living classroom dedicated to promoting an understanding of the cultural and natural heritage of Hawaiʻi. Founded in 1996 by Sam and Mary Cooke, it is a non-profit organization that reflects the Cooke family legacy of stewardship and preservation and is guided by a shared vision of inspiring people to be thoughtful stewards of their communities. Mānoa Heritage Center features Kūka‘ō‘ō Heiau, the last intact heiau (ancient temple) in the greater ahupuaʻa (land division) of Waikīkī, Native Hawaiian gardens and Kualiʻi, the Cookeʻs 1911 Tudor-style home. 

Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside is a site of deep historical significance and offers panoramic views of the sheer Koʻolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Named “Pali” meaning “cliff” in Hawaiian, the Pali Lookout is the site of the Battle of Nuʻuanu, where in 1795 King Kamehameha I won the struggle that finally united Oʻahu under his rule. This fierce battle claimed hundreds of soldiers’ lives, many of which were forced off of the Pali’s sheer cliffs.

Relive significant moments from U.S. history at Pearl Harbor. Five historic sites comprise Pearl Harbor today: the WWII Valor in the Pacific USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, USS Oklahoma Memorial and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that took place on the Battleship Missouri, an event that signaled the end of WWII. With the Missouri docked at Pearl Harbor, festivities on Oʻahu will include an education symposium, legacy of peace aerial parades, 75th WWII commemoration parade, international wreath ceremony, and more.

Hānaiakamalama, “Hānaiakamalama” was the mountain-home of Queen Emma, King Kamehameha IV and Prince Albert Kamehameha I. Located in Nuʻuanu Valley, the home was a summer retreat for the family to relax at. The palace is now listed on the National Historic Registry and houses a collection of belongings and royal regalia belonging to Queen Emma. The palace is preserved and protected by the Daughters of Hawaiʻi

Shangri La was the estate of American heiress and philanthropist, Doris Duke. Today, the historic property serves as a museum to educate visitors and showcase the exquisite Islamic art collected by the heiress throughout her travels in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Tours begin at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s “Arts of the Islamic World Gallery,” then proceed to the property perched above Oʻahu's southern coast with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Lēʻahi Head. Visitors are escorted through the stunning property and learn about Islamic arts through the architecture of the house and the priceless artifacts within.

Tucked away on Oʻahu's North Shore, Waimea Valley is one of the last intact ahupuaʻa – a traditional Hawaiian land division extending from the uplands to the sea. Here, visitors can view ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites, botanical gardens, wandering peafowl and a 60-foot waterfall. 

Washington Place belonged to American trader Captain John Dominis which later became the royal palace of King Kamehameha III in 1845. Soon after, it became the home of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1862 who became the bride of John Owen Dominis, son of the captain. Located on Beretania Street, the historic home represents the preservation of Hawaiian culture and is maintained by the Washington Place Foundation.

Family enjoying shaved ice

Oʻahu Story Ideas