Culture & History

© HCVB / Linda Ching
In a tiny cemetery behind Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu stand the grave stones of early missionaries and their families. Of particular poignancy is one battered, weather-worn marker identified simply as 'Baby Boy.' While one may agree or not with the missionary zeal that brought the faithful to these islands, one thing is clear: Hawaii was no paradise for them.

The history of Hawaii in all its joy and sorrow is all around us. Obscured by modern life though it may often be, it is as real and accessible as ever to those who seek it out.

Hearty Hawaiian

Enjoy a traditional luau ceremony at the Polynesian Cultural Centre, Oahu.

No Hawaiian vacation is complete without a proper Hawaiian luau, and not just for the marvellous food — the savoury Kalua Pig and kiawe-smoked steaks, the Lomi Salmon and grilled Mahi Mahi — but also for the exciting entertainment experience, with music and dance reflecting the history of Hawaii from ancient times to present day.

Long ago a luau could last for weeks, and people ate and danced until they literally collapsed. Today, all the fun is crammed into one terrific evening with the setting usually the beach. As the sun goes down, the torches light up and the magic begins.

If you are staying in Waikiki, for example, you can see the birthplace of Hawaii tourism, the famed and refurbished Sheraton Moana Hotel. The first hotel on Waikiki Beach is still shaded by the very banyan tree around which it was built in 1927. The interesting little museum in the hotel is a time capsule of that period.

Across Kalakaua Avenue, the broad boulevard that is Waikiki's main drag, stands the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel on a piece of ground known as “Ainahau.” This was the home of the beautiful and tragic Princess Kaiulani and also where the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson loved to relax. A short way up the beach stands a statue to the memory of Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's most renowned waterman, who led a truly remarkable life.

History is everywhere. Iolani Palace is an obvious historic site as are the mission houses and the aforementioned Kawaiahao Church. Chinatown is an exotic treasure that has existed in Old Honolulu since the first immigrants were enticed ashore. And we haven't even mentioned Pearl Harbour. Or the Battle of the Pali. Or the Summer Palace...

History is culture. Hawaii's greatest blessing is the dynamic blend of peoples that live together, astonishingly, in peace and harmony. Our histories are commemorated in our public rituals and our private ceremonies and celebrations. When you watch the hula, you are seeing a real story told in a real language.

History and culture forever fused.