The Big Island’s Most Intriguing Historical Sites

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

Even a quick look at the Big Island’s history should tell you the unique significance of the state’s largest island. The birthplace of the unified islands and the native leaders who achieved that feat, the Big Island was also the first site of both Polynesian settlers and European explorers and remains a place of great discovery.

For history buffs and those fascinated by culture, the following attractions are sure to please:

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau
State Hwy 160
Hōnaunau, HI 96726
(808) 328-2326
Website

A place of ancient significance throughout the many rulers of Hawaiian territories where the penalty for breaking the law was almost certain death, Hawaiian religious leaders established the pu’uhonua, or place of refuge. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau is a preserved site of an original pu’uhonua, with large walls that represented the boundaries between royal property and the sanctuary within. Large wooden carvings, a royal burial site, and a massive lava rock foundation are within easy view of the walking paths here, but the site’s cultural importance restricts visitors from accessing many areas or engaging in recreational activities.

Pu’ukohola Heiau
62-3601 Kawaihae Rd
Waimea, HI 96743
(808) 882-7218
Website

The ruins of the last major Ancient Temple, Pu’ukohola Heiau was a massive structure built by hand in less than a year. Meaning the “Temple on the Hill of the Whale,” the temple held important significance as one of the major battle sites on the way to King Kamehameha I’s unification of the Hawaiian islands. Today, visitors can travel partway up the hill to see the base of the temple as well as the underwater ruins in the bay below, but access to the temple’s ruins is prohibited.

Kaloko-Honokohau
HI-19 (Mile Marker 97)
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
(808)329-6881 x1329
Website

An area combining two historical ruins in the ancient man made fish ponds along the bay and the fishing village further ashore, Kaloko-Honokohau is an excellent opportunity to view an ancient fishing community and Hawaiian craftsmanship. The foundations of many structures are still visible, as is the fishing sea wall in the bay and the remains of a massive rock slide, upon which ancient Hawaiians would ride a wooden sled down the slopes and race one another to the ocean.

Lapakahi State Historical Park
HI-270
Waimea, HI 96743
(808)961-8311
Website

Consisting of several ruins, this ancient Hawaiian fishing village is an educational and enlightening trot through the remnants of an ancient community. Between canoe houses, dwellings, and temples, it’s an interesting and impressive look at how life in ancient Hawaii was organized and constructed before the islands were unified.

Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
600 Imiloa Pl
Hilo, HI 96720
(808)932-8900
Website

An astronomy and cultural education center located in Hilo, the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is associated with the University of Hawaii – Hilo (which also coordinates a series of telescopes atop Mauna Kea). Offering multiple exhibits that delve into Hawaiian culture and myth, the center also provides a planetarium with a fulldome video projection system to better explore our relationship with the stars.

Kona Historical Society
82-6199 Mamalahoa Hwy
Captain Cook, HI 96704
(808)323-3222
Website

One of the longest-running historical societies in Hawaii, the Kona Historical Society aims to preserve and protect what makes the region so special and historically significant. With multiple attractions and lectures located along the Kona Coast, highlights include the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum, rural Jeep trips, and the gorgeous, quaint Kona Coffee Living History Farm, which offers tours and tastings on this active coffee farm.

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