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Big Island Historical Sites

As the birthplace of King Kamehameha, and hence of the idea of a unified Hawaiian Kingdom, the Big Island is rich in history. From lush valleys to sacred temples, come learn about Big Island, Hawai’i history and the places and peoples of our island.

Ancient Days

To imagine Hawaiʻi’s past, just stand at the rim of Waipiʻo Valley and gaze directly into Big Island history. The valley floor is still patchworked with loʻi kalo (taro paddies), and the river and wild black sand beach speak to the life of a people intimately familiar with water. Often referred to as the valley of kings, Waipiʻo was a seat of royal power for many centuries, and was the place where Kamehameha grew up. There are several tour companies operating in the valley; whether you prefer ATV or horse travel, you’ll be accommodated by friendly tour guides who can enlighten you as to the history of this very sacred and special place. For the safety of all, obey road signs at the top of the valley; all-wheel drive vehicles are NOT PERMITTED. Driving down is not recommended.

The Unification of the Islands

Many visitors are curious about how Kamehameha came to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. The story is well told at Puʻukoholā Heiau, a National Historic Site. This heiau was constructed with the belief that it would allow Kamehameha to conquer all the islands, and it seems to have worked. Incredibly, the rocks for the heiau were passed in a human chain from Pololū Valley, some 20 miles away! Admission to this Big Island historical site is free, and there is a small informational center at the entrance to help you get oriented. Please note that the climate here is extremely hot and dry, so bring adequate sun protection, water, and good walking shoes. Take a swim afterward at adjacent Spencer Beach Park, or nearby Hāpuna Beach.

Summer Home of Royalty

If you stroll down Aliʻi Drive, you can’t miss it: yes, it’s a royal palace! Right on the water! Huliheʻe was a favored summer residence of the kings and queens of old Hawaiʻi. Though it’s only four rooms, each is filled to the brim with amazing treasures belonging to the aliʻi, such as the ukulele upon which Liliʻuokalani composed the famous “Aloha ʻOe.” There are truly outstanding pieces of woodwork on display here, as well as artifacts of daily life. The museum is run by the Daughters of Hawaiʻi, and they’re happy to help answer any questions you may have.

Place of Refuge

Another fascinating National Historical Park, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau was a sanctuary for those who broke the law in ancient days. Those who were able to make it inside the walls would have their crimes forgiven. It was also a place for families to take refuge in the event of war. The interpretive center provides excellent information about the different activities that would have once taken place here in this safe haven. Park entrance is $5.00 per vehicle.

Big Island Hawaiʻi’s history is calling; plan your visit today!

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