History and Culture of Hawaii's Big Island

Hawaiian Chanters
Hawaiian Chanters
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
The ancient Hawaiians arrived at Ka Lae, or South Point, and developed their civilization for over a thousand years before establishing contact with the western world. Thereafter, Hawaii became a busy seaport for traders and whalers from around the world. The Chinese were the first large group of immigrants to arrive, followed by waves of Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Samoans, Okinawans, Koreans and Puerto Ricans, mainly lured here to work in the sugar fields.

Residents of the Big Island treasure their heritage and you'll see evidence of ethnic pride everywhere — in the food, customs, architecture, language, arts and crafts, and lifestyle.

The multi-ethnic and multi-cultural residents of the Big Island create a fascinating mosaic of arts and culture, foods and festivals, history and a sense of place.

History and Hawaiian Culture

Tikis im Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park
Tikis im Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
The sunny resort town of Kailua-Kona, once a royal seaside Hawaiian village, hosts several historic sites including Ahuena Heiau at Kamakahonu, Hulihee Palace (summer home of royalty), and Mokuaikaua Church, completed in 1837 making it the oldest church in the islands. In South Kona, visit Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, considered a "place of refuge" in the pre-Christian era and now restored to its late 1700s glory. Also there are the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden and the Kona Historical Society to visit.

Time Travel

Several ancient sites are available for visitors to gain an insight into Hawaiian culture and history. Lapakahi State Historical Park is the site of a partially restored 600-year old Hawaiian seaside village, while Puukohola near Kawaihae is a massive heiau that remains very important to Hawaiian culture today.

This National Historic Site was built by King Kamehameha in 1791 and served as one of the last sacrificial temples in Hawaii. The ancient Hawaiian people told stories of their lives through petroglyphs — drawings carved into lava rock. Their art has unlocked some of the mysteries of old Hawaii. Visit these petroglyph fields in Puako and near the Waikoloa resorts.

Historic Homes & Districts

Heiau
Heiau
© HVCB / Kirk Aeder
The Lyman House Memorial Museum offers a rare view of early immigrant life in the islands and houses an impressive collection of Hawaiian artifacts.

Much of Downtown Hilo has been revitalised and visitors can enjoy a wide range of dining and shopping. Check out the impressive displays at the Pacific Tsunami Museum and Wailoa Center.

In Keaau and Pahoa you'll find these old sugar plantation towns have adapted to newer lifestyles and still serve as commercial hubs.