From ancient Hawaiian settlements and now-abandoned sugar mills to historic lighthouses and royal residences, the Hawaiian Islands are home to some truly magnificent historic landmarks that remind us of our island chain’s great history. These 12 landmarks are truly one-of-a-kind, and should be on everyone’s Hawaiian historical bucket list.
1. Aloha Tower
Located on Pier Nine in Honolulu, the Aloha Tower is both a lighthouse that has guided countless ships to shore, as well as one of Hawaii’s most well-known landmarks. It was built in 1926 at the then astronomical price of $160,000. At 10 stories and 184 feet of height with an additional 40 feet of flag mast, the Aloha Tower was the tallest building in Hawaii for four decades.
2. Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement
Located on the tiny island of Molokai, with the ocean on one side and giant 1,600-foot cliffs on the other, are the Kalawao and Kalaupapa Leper Colonies – described by Robert Louis Stevenson as a “prison fortified by nature.” Kalaupapa is now a U.S. National Park, and home to a dwindling population, those of whom are outnumbered exponentially by those in the cemetery – where an estimated 2,000 graves lie unmarked, in addition to those with headstones.
3. Kawaiaha’o Church
Popularly known as Hawaii’s Westminster Abbey, Kawaiaha’o Church was once the nationa church of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the chapel for the royal family. The curch, located in downtown Honolulu, is one of the oldest standing Christian places of worship in Hawaii.
4. Old Sugar Mill of Koloa
Located on the southern coast of Kauai, the Koloa Sugar Mill was built in 1835, and was a part of the first commercially successful sugar plantation in Hawaii, though it was eventually replaced by the current structure to the east in 1912. The Koloa Sugar Mill continued production until it was closed in 1996, and now sits abandoned.
5. United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941: A day that will live on in infamy, the Japanese airstrike against the Hawaii naval base killed 2,400 service members and civilians, and injured another 1,200. All eight United States Navy battleships were damaged, and the attack is considered the event that triggered America’s involvement in WWII.
6. Captain Cook’s Landing Site
British Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii in 1778, and named the islands the “Sandwich Islands” after the Earl of Sandwich. The British brought many new infectious diseases to the islands, and Captain Cook died during a fight the following year.
7. Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau
Located on a hillside overlooking Waimea Bay, this heiau – an ancient Hawaiian temple – is the largest on the island, and might have been constructed as early as the 1600s. In the late 1700s, during a period of political upheaval, it is suspected that there was human sacrifice at the temple, perhaps to encourage war success.
8. Honokohau Settlement
Situated on Hawaii Island’s Kona coast is this famous national historical park established in the 1960s, once the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement. The archaeological site is home to ancient Hawaiian aquaculture fishponds, petroglyphs, house site platforms, and sites with religious significance.
9. Washington Place
Located in Honolulu, this home is the site where “Queen Lili'uokalani was arrested during the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.” The residence later housed 13 Hawaiian Governors before being converted into a museum.
10. Lahaina Banyan Tree
Is there really anything more stunning than an old, big, and beautiful tree? Located near Lahaina is the largest banyan tree in Hawaii, and one of America’s largest as well, with its trunk and aerial root system covering 0.66 acres. The seedling was approximately eight feet tall when it was planted in 1873, and is the oldest banyan tree in the Hawaiian Islands.
11. National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Informally known as the Punchbowl Cemetery, the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic places, and serves as a memorial to honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces, and those who have given their lives doing so.
12. Iolani Palace
Iolani Palace was the royal residence for the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1845 to 1893. After the monarchy was overthrown, the building served as the capitol building until 1969, and then in 1978, restored and opened as a museum.
Which of these Hawaiian historical landmarks have you experienced? What other landmarks would you add to this list?