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Historic Sites



Every city has its own unique feel and vibe, which is determined by a number of things. The local historic sites are no doubt one of the largest contributing factors to the aura that surrounds a city. When in Honolulu, users recommend paying a visit to USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, in the Pearl City area to get a feel for what truly makes up the city.


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Battleship Missouri Memorial


In commission from 1944 until 1998, this imposing battleship, nicknamed "Mighty Mo," saw her share of protection and peacekeeping missions. However, her most notable presence was in Hawaii in 1945, when the papers formalizing Japan's surrender were signed on her decks and WWII came to an official end. Today, not far from the USS Arizona memorial, she rests in retirement and invites visitors to browse her decks. To reach her mooring point off Ford Island, guests must first purchase tickets at the USS Bowfin Submarine and Museum site. Tours include general admission fees.


Royal Mausoleum


At this serene site, watched over by graceful palm trees, are the final resting places of many of Hawaii's last monarchs. Kings Kamehameha II, III, IV, and V are buried here, along with King David Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, who was deposed by American businessmen. Other notable figures interred at this location include John Young, advisor to Kamehameha I. The mausoleum was created by Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma, following the death of their four-year-old son, Prince Albert Edward.


Queen Emma's Summer Palace
Photo courtesy of daughters of hawaii


Set in the Nuuanu Valley, this simple frame house, distinguished by a colonnade, was inherited by Queen Emma (wife of Kamehameha IV) from her uncle, John Young II. A respite from the city to the south, the home was a Victorian showplace that has since been restored to its 19th-century beauty. Surrounded by lovely gardens, the palace now boasts many of its original furnishings and accessories, including a collection of royal artifacts. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places.


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Nestled in downtown Honolulu is this sacred structure, the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the US. The first Catholic missionaries arrived on Hawaiian shores in 1827, and the construction of the church was completed in 1843. The land on which it sits was given to the mission by King Kamehameha III. In 1864, Father Damien de Veuster was ordained here. De Veuster tended to, and greatly improved, the leper colony on the island of Molokai, remaining in his post even after contracting the disease himself. In 1972, the cathedral was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Kawaiaha'o Church


A monument to the work of Christian missionaries and to the Hawaiian people, this sturdy church was completed in 1842 after five years of effort. Built of 14,000 hand-cut slabs of coral (weighing 1000 pounds each), the church is a tribute to faith and perseverance. Embraced by Hawaiian royalty, it was the first permanent church in the archipelago. Today, it offers English and Hawaiian services and boasts a clock tower, fountain, and mausoleum for King Lunalilo.


Once Oahu's largest religious site, Puu o Mahuka is now a national historic landmark. Covering several acres, the site overlooks Waimea Bay and was likely the locale for sacrificial ceremonies. Some historians have even speculated that three of Captain George Vancouver's men were sacrificed here when the "Daedalus" landed in the late 18th century. These days, the configuration of rocks still has a quiet, reverential air, and islanders come yet to leave gifts of fruit at the altar.




Originally intended as a royal residence, this historic building was reconfigured to house government offices when Iolani Palace was constructed. Today, it is still the home of Hawaii's supreme court. The elegant interiors, complete with graceful curves and ornate trim, are available for touring, and the Judiciary History Center (located on the ground floor) tracks Hawaiian history back two centuries. In front of the building, which faces Iolani Palace, is a statue of King Kamehameha I, in regal costume, arm outstretched.


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Windward Oahu


Mahuahua `Ai O Hai, 404 fertile acres undergoing transformation into the taro lo`i (irrigated terrace) it flourished as from pre-contact times to the early 1900s offers community work days for volunteers to help and experience true Hawaii. It's been three-years since cultural preservation group Kako`o `Oiwi obtained a 38-year lease to cultivate the sacred Hawaiian root crop and the land's evolved into a flourishing lo`i.


World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument


Commemorating the service men who laid down their lives during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this memorial is a sobering experience for visitors. Prefaced by onshore exhibits and a video remembrance of the attack, tours also include a ride to the sunken battleship in the harbor, where 1177 men still lie entombed in the ship's remains. In the visitors' center, a gift shop and food services are available. Visitors are advised to arrive early in order to be assured of tickets.




Built in the early 1880s, this graceful Italian Renaissance structure is America's only royal palace and was home to Hawaii's last two rulers. When American businessmen overthrew the monarchy, they used the palace as the capitol until 1969; after it was vacated by the state government, restoration was begun. These days, three of the building's four floors are open to tours, and visitors can glimpse the ornate throne room, koa-wood staircase, and a wealth of plasterwork and elaborate furnishings. Amazing jewels and artifacts are available for viewing in the Galleries. Guided tours are not open to children under 5 (they are allowed in the Gallery tour). Reservations recommended for guided tours.


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