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Historic Hawaii

Exploring Hawaii's Past

From Outrigger Canoes to Captain Cook

Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers excellent views of Oahu's windward side
Nuuanu Pali Lookout offers excellent views of Oahu's windward side

The richness of Hawaii's history is easily accessible to visitors, and the rewards of a journey based around the Islands' fascinating past are not to be underestimated. From the ancient voyaging canoes to the Hawaiian monarchy to modern statehood, the stories are spellbinding. The cast of characters ranges from royalty to rogues to saints and includes Kamehameha the Great, Capt. James Cook, Queen Liliuokalani, Father Damien (now Saint Damien of Molokai), Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson. Spend five days immersed in Hawaii's incredible history.


The Royal Hawaiian is located on Waikiki's bustling beachfront
The Royal Hawaiian is located on Waikiki's bustling beachfront

Your adventure starts in Honolulu at a classic Hawaiian hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort. Once the playground of Hollywood celebs like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the resort was leased to the United States Navy as a rest and recreation center during World War II, and reopened to the public in February 1947. In 2009, the "Pink Palace of the Pacific" underwent a major renovation. The resort sits on ten acres of prime Waikiki beachfront, boasts a private strip of beach and lush gardens with tropical flora. Nostalgic folks and devotees of 1920s chic favor the original, six-story main building of Spanish-Moorish design, built in 1927, while those in need of more modern levels of comfort stay in the Royal Tower. A must here is a Mai Tai at the beachside Mai Tai Bar, which has the reputation of having invented the cocktail. It is served with an orchid floating in the glass, and sipping it with Diamond Head in the background, you will feel like you are in paradise.


The Coronation Pavilion at Iolani Palace in Honolulu
The Coronation Pavilion at Iolani Palace in Honolulu

Drive downtown and park on the street or at the State Capitol parking lot and get your tickets for the tour of Iolani Palace first, because you must have them half an hour before your tour begins. While waiting to see the only royal palace in the United States, wander across the street to admire the statue of Kamehameha the Great and envision the company of U.S. Marines camped there in 1893 during the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. You may also encounter the cast and crew of "Hawaii Five-0" at work, since this is one of their regular shooting locations. Afterwards, pay a visit to the Mission Houses Museum just a few blocks away. This is the site of the first Christian mission in Hawaii, which housed the New England missionary families who forever changed the lifestyle of the Native Hawaiians.

After a quick lunch from one of the area lunch wagons, drive to the Queen Emma Summer Palace, the New England-style summer home of one of Hawaii's most revered monarchs. Then drive up to the Nuuanu Pali Lookout and imagine King Kamehameha's forces pushing the defenders of Oahu off the steep cliffs ("pali" in Hawaiian) in the decisive battle for the unification of the Islands. Finish the day with a short drive to Bishop Museum, where the history of both ancient Hawaii and the monarchy days comes alive.

Continue to Day 3


Travel Guide Hawaii
Hawaii 101
Hawaii Volcano Tours
Hawaii Adventures
Hawaii Honeymoon

* Nuuanu Pali Lookout photo courtesty of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Chuck Painter; Royal Hawaiian and Iolani Palace photos courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

(Updated: 02/22/12 SG)

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