Top 10 Places to Experience Hawaiian Culture on Oahu

Hawaiian Culture

Bishop Museum

With the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts, the esteemed Bishop Museum is a fascinating destination that deserves a good part of your day. Several aspects make it ideal for the entire family, including live lava demonstrations, world-class planetarium shows, science exhibits and entertaining cultural events. Don’t miss the giant sperm whale skeleton that hangs in the Hawaiian Hall, which spans nearly 60 feet and has been one of the museum’s most popular attractions since it was first installed more than a century ago.


Hawaiian Culture

Polynesian Cultural Center

Visit all of Polynesia in a day at the world-famous Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. The 42-acre center is home to individual island villages that will introduce you to the unique cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Tonga, Samoa, New Zealand and Fiji. This is another attraction that the entire family can enjoy, with hands-on discoveries and memorable musical entertainment.


Hawaiian Culture

Iolani Palace

The central jewel of Honolulu’s Capitol District, the palace was the royal residence of King David Kalakaua, from 1882 till his death in 1891, followed by Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom. Hawaii is the only place in the United States with royal palaces and residences.


Hawaiian Culture

Queen Emma Summer Palace

Located in lush Nuuanu Valley, this was the summer retreat of King Kamehameha IV, his wife, Queen Emma Kaleleonalani Rooke, and their son, Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa a Kamehameha, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Hawaii during his tragically short life. Prince Albert had the distinction of being the godson of Britain’s Queen Victoria. The scenic home and surrounding grounds are popular for weddings and other gatherings.


Hawaiian Culture

Waimea Valley

Ancient Hawaiians recognized Waimea as a place of spiritual power and natural beauty. Today, visitors spend time on the bay’s beautiful beach and at the botanical gardens that lead up to Waihi Falls. The story of Hawaiian culture is told in part by the incredible array of plants and flowers that thrive in this environment.


Hawaiian Culture

King Kamehameha Statue at Aliiolani Hale

The regal 18-foot-high bronze statue honors King Kamehameha the Great, the first alii (royal chieftain) to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule, which was partially achieved with the 1795 Battle of Nuuanu. The island of Kauai was eventually brought under Kamehameha’s rule when Kauai’s King Kaumualii signed a treaty in 1810. One of Hawaii’s most photographed landmarks, the statue is located in front of Aliiolani Hale, home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court. On June 11, the king’s birthday, hundreds of flower lei are placed on the statue in a ceremony that attracts thousands.



Honolulu Museum of Art

Founded in 1922 by missionary descendant Anna Rice Cooke as the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the museum has one of the most impressive collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the United States, with more than 50,000 works of art. Art After Dark, held on the last Friday of the month, is the happening spot for young urbanites who come to celebrate the arts, live entertainment and each other.


Hawaiian Culture

Kawaiahao Church

Known as the “Westminster Abbey of the Pacific,” the Congregational church was commissioned by Queen Kaahumanu and designed by the Rev. Hiram Bingham. It was constructed of massive blocks of coral that were hand-chiseled out of nearby reefs at depths of nine to 18 feet below sea level. Construction began in 1836 and was completed six years later. On July 21, 1842, 5,000 worshippers joined King Kamehameha III in the dedication of this “Church of the Alii.”


Hawaiian Culture

Hawaii State Library

The flagship of the Hawaii State Public Library System was built in the Neo-classical style with the financial assistance of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, and opened on Feb. 1, 1913. The open-sky interior courtyard was designed in 1929 by C.W. Dickey, one of Hawaii’s most renowned architects. Another of the library’s special features is the Hawaii and Pacific Section, an important resource for Pacific Basin researchers.


Hawaiian Culture

Mission Houses Museum

Christian missionaries erected this structure beginning in 1821, and you can still see some of the original timber that was shipped around Cape Horn to construct what is now Hawaii’s oldest frame house. Ironically, the house—whose materials had been cut and readied for assembly in Hawaii—was designed for the climate of New England, with small windows to retain heat and a roof with short eaves to withstand heavy snow. Ten years later, the Chamberlain House was built from local materials, including coral blocks cut from nearby reefs and lumber salvaged from ships.


Photos by Michael Gordon, Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock; Brett Uprichard; Darrell Ishii





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