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Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

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Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

I'm interested in learning about the history of Hawaii. I'd love to visit museums, historical homes, or any other places to give me insight into the history of Hawaii.

Also, are there any "older" historic hotels on the Big Island, like in Honolulu?

Any suggestions?

Paradise, California
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1. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

I don't quite know how to frame this, but I'll do my best. James Michener's Hawai'i, is not historical fact, but it's historically factual. He told stories about the major times in the history of Hawai'i, starting with the formation of the islands. (A lot of folks got bogged down in the first dozen or two pages. I did, but after I waded through them, I was entranced with them and reread them with interest.) He told a story of the Polynesians who came to settle the islands; he told a compelling story of the missionaries who came. (That's the part that was made into the movie, "Hawai'i.) The characters are composites of several of the missionaries, but the storytelling is fascinating and true in spirit. He goes on to tell a story about the Chinese that came, and the leper colony on Molokai. He tells of modern day Hawai'i.

The book will give you a feel for the islands that no mere history can do, I think. Two or three times I've opened it to look up something, and ended up reading the rest of the book.

After my first visit to Hawai'i, I went home and picked it up where I'd bogged down. When I get absorbed in it, I'm living in the islands! I've never quite recovered, but it's a good ailment to have...

Kauai, Hawaii
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2. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

There's an excellent book, The Shoal of Time - A History of the Hawaiian Islands by Gavan Daws. It's a bit of hard-going but well worth it. I frequently use it for research.

Waikoloa, Hawaii
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3. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

The Jagger museum at the Volcano National Park describes how the volcanoes have affected history on the Big Island. There's also the tsunami museum in Hilo. The Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo describes how the ancient Polynesians used astronomy and other scientific knowledge to navigate through the South Pacific and find the islands of Hawaii.

I loved "Hawaii". It was the first thick book I ever read. I have yet to find another source of info on Hawaii's past that is so comprehensive.

Qld Australia
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4. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

Mitcheners Hawaii is the best read telling of first journies you wont be able to put it down

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for Maui
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5. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

To add to your research read Tony Horwitz's book "Blue Latitude's" But Quite frankly, putting "hotels" in the history of the islands is a bit offensive...the real history of the islands has nothing to do with tourism or "hotels"...these islands are an amazing place with vast history all on their own! Long before we mucked them up!

Los Angeles...
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6. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

Hi Wintersummer,

The Lyman residence in Hilo has interesting artifacts from the missionary period while the adjacent museum is home to several fabulous exhibits, including a mock erupting volcano. Hubby, 12-year-old son, and I spent quite a bit of time in the museum, learning quite a bit about Hawaii's history and culture. From what I remember, tours of the home were given infrequently, so be certain to time your visit so you can tour the house.

In Parker Ranch, there are two homes related to the paniolo period.


Check out AlohaAdeline's trip report for the Anna Ranch


I echo Boulders' suggestion about visiting the Tsunami Museum in Hilo. If you are planning to see the magnificent coastline/beach area at Laupahoehoe, learning about the tsunami that devastated the area will make that experience even more meaningful (and somewhat sobering).

Have fun delving into Hawaii’s history!

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7. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

Reading about the voyages of Captain Cook would give you some perspective on recent Hawaiian history, and the impact of Europeans. Especialy as you have posted on the Hawaii Island branch.

Kona, Hawaii
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8. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

You have some excellent suggestions..

Petroglyphs is a great place to start. k'i'i pohaku "images in stone":

Panau-nui Pu'u Loa petroglyph field in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Puako Petroglyphs at Holoholokai Beach Park (Mauna Lani Resort)

Waikoloa Petroglyph

Maybe Heiau's: Mo'okini, Ahu’ena, Ke'eku, Hiki Au

Of course Pu'uhonau o Honaunau (Place of Refuge National Park)

Hulihee Palace

Kona Historical Society’s Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Denver, Colorado
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9. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?

Dear summerwinter: Def. stop my at the Manago Hotel on your way thru Captain Cook. Older building in the front gives you a good taste of Hawaii yester years.

A great place to get a nice breakfast or check out the famous pork chops for dinner. You'll feel like one of the family. Ladies who serve the dining room really make you feel at home.

Def. stop at Borders books on your left on your way into Kona. Typically a great selection of Hawaiiana stuff and new music too :)

Lots of really good historic sites especially Place of Refuge, Lapakahi State Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site plus Puako Petroglpyhs and National Park Petropglpyh trail.

Lots of really good local historic sites and museums:

Lyman Mission House and Museum (Hilo), Laupahoehoe Train Museum, Royal Kona Coffee Mill & Museum, St. Benedict'S (The Painted Church) near Captain Cook, Star of Sea (Painted Church) near Kalapana, Hulihee Palace (Kona), Mokuaikaua Church (Kona).

Here's good guide to Hawaii Special Places:


Shoot you could do a whole trip just doing the historic stuff :)

Aloha, TheodoreJay

Portland, OR
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10. Re: Where to Learn about history of Hawaii?


Others have mentioned the Lyman Museum, that is an excellent stop. I also suggest the tsunami Musuem for a more recent history. In Laupahoehoe there is a very small train musuem that is a good place to check out the history of the Hilo Railroad. In Kailua-Kona there is Hulihe'e Palace, and across the street is the oldest Christian Church in Hawaii the Mokuaikaua Church. In Kealakekua there is Pu'uhonau o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) a well preserved example of the old kapu system.

In Kawaihae there is Puukohala Heiau an ancient temple site. A little further north is Lapakahi Historical Park.

Further north still is the lonely and eerie Mo'okini heiau.

In Waimea the Parker Ranch has a visitors center and museum about the paniolos.

As for books I usually suggest Shoal of Time.

A couple of good websites:



A bit of recent discovery:


Good luck and happy travels!