Visit Oahu Historic and Cultural Sites

Hawaii may be best known as a warm-weather destination for snorkeling, sunbathing, and swimming, but the diverse islands have no shortage of culture and history to explore. Oahu has a particularly rich history before and after Hawaii joined the United States in 1959. The following is a list of great historical sites worth visiting during your trip to Oahu!

Polynesian immigrants first settled Hawaii hundreds of years ago, and their varied cultures are still a thriving part of Oahu’s culture. The Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu preserves the history of the island’s Polynesian heritage and showcases how that heritage lives today in modern Hawaiian culture.

Oahu is also home to a significant Japanese population, and you can find a number of cultural sites that honor this heritage: the most popular of these is the Byodo-In Temple, modeled on an ancient Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan.

Contact with European culture in the mid-sixteenth century inspired the formation of the first Hawaiian Monarchy in the earlier nineteenth century. The first union of all Hawaiian Islands was achieved under King Kamehameha in 1810, and his descendants ruled for approximately 60 years. The Queen Emma Summer Palace, who was the wife of King Kamehameha IV, has been preserved by the Daughters of Hawaii and is open to tourists to visit on Oahu.

While not many of the historical sites from the Hawaiian monarchy have been preserved, the Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu remains as a relic from the last days of the monarchy on Hawaii. This palace is a beautiful piece of architecture, modeled after the royal palaces of Europe. Today it is a National Historical Landmark.

There are a number of museums that preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Oahu, such as the Bishop Museum, founded in 1898 to display the collection of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. In addition to the cultural heritage of Oahu, the Bishop Museum also displays information about the unique geological heritage of Hawaii. As an island chain entirely comprised of volcanic islands, the flora and fauna of these islands include several species native to Hawaii that are not found anywhere else in the world.

Travelers with an interest in military history or WWII history will want to pay a visit the Pearl Harbor Historical sites, which include the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument. There is also the Pacific Aviation Museum, which preserves several WWII-era vintage aircraft. These military craft and the associated museums capture the history of the Pearl Harbor bombing of December 7, 1941 as well as the part the Pearl Harbor personnel and ships played in WWII.

Visitors to Oahu interested in exploring these historical sites can consider purchasing a multi-attraction passes to save on admission fees.