1. Iolani Palace, Oahu
Located in the heart of Honolulu, Iolani Palace was the royal residence for the Kingdom of Hawaii from King Kamehameha III’s reign to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, with Queen Lili’uokalani. The building was then used as the official capitol building until 1969, and was opened to the public as a museum in 1978. The palace is not only a National Historic Landmark, but it is the only palace on United States soil.
2. Kaunakakai, Molokai
The largest town on the small island of Molokai, Kaunakakai is full of history. When pineapple and sugar exports were huge in Hawaii, Kaunakakai was a bustling port town. King Kamehameha V’s royal summer residence was once in this ancient canoe landing, and now the Old Western-style storefronts paint the picture of a town stuck in time.
3. Waioli Mission House, Kauai
Built in 1912, the green, spired church is often regarded as the most photographed building in Hanalei, Kauai — and no one is questioning why. The church’s landmark green shingles and stained glass windows have become synonymous with Hanalei. In 1837, the house was the home of early Christian missionaries, and was restored in the 1920s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, inside the home you’ll find a wall clock that was installed in 1866, and still keeps perfect time.
4. Iao Valley State Park, Maui
Located within the 6.2-acre Iao Valley State Park is this famous landmark — a fern-covered lava formation rising approximately 1,200 feet from the valley floor. In the late 15th century, Maui’s ruler, Kaka’e, designated the valley as an ali’u burial ground. It is also the site of the Battle of Kepaniwai, in which Kalanikupule and the Maui army were defeated by Kamehameha the Great — in his quest to unify the Hawaiian Islands.
5. Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historic Park, Hawaii Island
Located on the Big Island is this park, full of archaeological sites and reconstructions of an ancient Hawaiian "place of refuge." The historic site, which features a self-guided tour, preserves the location where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a law would flee to in order to avoid certain death.
6. Polynesian Cultural Center, Oahu
Located on the northern shore of Oahu is the Polynesian Cultural Center, a Polynesian-themed attraction and living museum known for eight simulated tropical villages and phenomenal luau. A royal celebration of Hawaii’s cultural heritage, the Alii Luau features live entertainment as well as some scrumptious Hawaiian food. For the full experience, make a day of it and explore the Polynesian Cultural Center’s many exhibits during the day and see Ha: Breath of Life after the luau. Fun fact: the center is owned by neighboring Brigham Young University, and seventy percent of the staff are students at the school.
7. Kalaupapa Leper Colony, Molokai
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.
8. Old Koloa Town, Kauai
Home to Hawaii’s first ever commercially successful sugarcane plantation, Old Koloa Town is a relic of days gone by. The Koloa Sugar Mill opened in 1935, and by 1898, was producing approximately 225,000 tons of sugar each year. The mill moved in 1912, but production remained strong until 1996.
9. Kahakuloa Bay, Maui
The beautiful Kahakuloa Bay is home to an isolated community absolutely incredible scenery, and little else. This is easily one of Hawaii’s most remote towns — as well as one of the most charming. Tucked into a valley, the old fishing village is home to approximately 100 residents, most of whom are direct descendants of the village’s original inhabitants. Most of the village’s residents also work here, and the coastline is populated by modest homes and taro fields. Kahakuloa has been occupied by Hawaiian people since approximately 300 B.C.: in fact, it was a city of refuge for the Maui kanaka maoli.
10. Waipio Valley, Hawaii Island
The sacred Waipio Valley was once the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I and is an important site for Hawaiian history and culture. But history aside, "The Valley of the Kings" certainly appears as though it was made for royalty — the valley is surrounded by tropical vegetation and 2,000-foot high cliffs.
11. Hawaiian Railway Society, Oahu
Dedicated to saving, restoring, and protecting Hawaii’s railway history, the Hawaiian Railway Society is not only the only historic railroad on the island, but the only operating railroad museum in the state as well. The railroad is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Sites, and is a stunning slice of history many people have never visited. This narrow gauge heritage railway operates three restored diesel locomotives to operate on approximately 6.5 miles of restored train tracks from Ewa to Nanakuli. The restored portion of track is part of a 12-mile remnant of track that ran from the city, Honolulu, to the country, Kahuku, and was once used for passenger and freight service between 1888 and 1947.
12. Alekoko Fishpond, Kauai
Also known as Menehune Fishpond, Alekoko, located near Lihue on the island of Kauai is a historic Hawaiian fishpond that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It is said that the Menehune — a mythical people who inhabited the islands before Hawaiians arrived — are responsible for the fishpond construction.
13. Old Lahaina Luau, Maui
This popular Lahaina luau is located on the beach, and was opened in 1986 when the four owners felt that there was a need for more culturally sensitive entertainment. Often considered the best luau on Maui, the Old Lahaina Luau is dedicated to showcasing traditional Hawaiian music, dance, and food. It is one of our favorite tourist attractions for when visitors want to experience authentic, old Hawaii charm.
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