The history of Hawaii before it became a U.S. state is rich and diverse. Hawaiian history and culture reflects a complex interplay of Polynesian settlers, European contact, missionary influence, and geopolitical changes that ultimately led to its integration into the United States. The legacy of this history continues to shape the cultural, social, and political landscape of Hawaii today.
Hawai’i Island, also known as the Big Island, offers a variety of historical and cultural sites to explore. Here are some of the best historic and cultural sites to visit on Hawai’i Island:
Historic and Cultural Sites
- Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge):
- This ancient Hawaiian site served as a place of refuge for lawbreakers, where they could seek absolution. The park features reconstructed temples, fishponds, and wooden images.
- Hulihe’e Palace:
- Located in Kailua-Kona, this palace was a vacation residence for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it serves as a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
- Imiloa Astronomy Center:
- Located in Hilo, this center combines astronomy with Hawaiian culture. It features interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and displays that explore the connections between traditional Hawaiian navigation and modern astronomy.
- Akaka Falls State Park:
- While the main attraction is the stunning Akaka Falls, the park also offers a pleasant walk through lush rainforest where you can find traditional Hawaiian plants and learn about the island’s flora.
- Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park:
- This park preserves traditional Hawaiian culture and features fishponds, petroglyphs, and reconstructed ancient Hawaiian dwellings. It’s a great place to explore the island’s history and natural beauty.
- This is also a great place to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles munching peacefully on algae.
- Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay:
- This monument marks the spot where Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer, was killed. The bay itself is a marine life conservation district and is excellent for snorkeling.
- Lapakahi State Historical Park:
- This park preserves an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, allowing visitors to see the remains of traditional houses, walls, and agricultural terraces. There’s a self-guided tour that provides insights into the daily life of the native Hawaiians.
- Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site:
- This historic site features a massive stone temple built by King Kamehameha I in the late 18th century. It played a significant role in his quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
- Mookini Luakini Heiau:
- Located on the northern tip of the island, this ancient temple is one of the oldest and most significant on the island. It played a crucial role in early Hawaiian religion and is surrounded by a unique landscape.
Heiau, the ancient Hawaiian temples or sacred sites, hold significant cultural and spiritual importance. Climbing on heiau or engaging in any form of disrespect can be seen as culturally insensitive and disruptive to the spiritual energy of these places.
Step back in time to explore Hawaiian history and culture
Visitors to Hawaii, or any location with sacred sites, should be aware of and adhere to local cultural guidelines and practices. Many heiau are protected as historical and cultural sites, and it is important to treat them with reverence. Most sites have signs and guidelines indicating appropriate behavior, which often includes not climbing on the structures, removing rocks or artifacts, or engaging in any activities that could disturb the site.
Respecting the cultural heritage of a place contributes to the preservation of its history and allows visitors to appreciate the significance of these sites without causing harm or offense to the local community.
Check our blog for information about local events in the Kailua-Kona area.