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“Overwhelmed with too much info about the philosophy of multiculturalism” 4 of 5 bubbles
Review of Hawaii Plantation Village

Hawaii Plantation Village
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Aloha Plate Food Tour
Ranked #3 of 10 things to do in Waipahu
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: A sugar cane plantation village with 30 homes open to the public for viewing.
Cleveland, Ohio
Level Contributor
159 reviews
62 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 101 helpful votes
“Overwhelmed with too much info about the philosophy of multiculturalism”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 22, 2013

We decided to take the tour to see the real Hawaii. As a walk-in--you are assigned to a tour "on the hour." You can't walk around the site on your own. We were the only ones in our group and were very interested in seeing what it must have been like as an immigrant to Hawaii brought to the island for a sugar contract. Our tour took 2 1/2 hours. The first 30 minutes was a lecture by our very learned tour guide while we sat at a picnic table. We thought that we would never start walking. We walked thru the tunnel and it was explained to us that we were going back in time to 1913 and would be walking for 27 years. (The last house was a depiction of what a house would have been like in 1940 for an immigrant family.) And yes--it felt like we were on the tour for 27 years--our guide talked and talked and talked about why Hawaii was not a melting pot, but was rather "multicultural." Despite the fact that my mother in law is 80 something and despite the fact that the tour could have been tailored individually to our group--our guide continued to expound on this topic until we started feeling like hostages. My mother in law--finally told him that she had to sit or else she was going to collapse--and even that didn't stop the lecturing. She then dragged out the orange juice and told him that she was dying of thirst and he still kept on talking. We would have preferred hearing more about the historical objects in the houses we went into, but frankly--I was afraid to ask any more questions for fear of making the tour even longer. This is an incredibly interesting site--but the tour was geared more to the sociology/history of the groups of immigrants who came to work on the sugar plantation rather than to what their day to day lives were like. This is absolutely not a site that children or teenagers would enjoy. (Or maybe they give the school groups a different type of tour.) The price was reasonable and after the tour I now feel qualified to deliver a lecture on the difference between a melting pot and a multicultural type of society.

Visited January 2013
4 Thank sierradog1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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154 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Japanese first
  • Polish first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Culver City, California
Level Contributor
63 reviews
30 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 153 helpful votes
“See the important living history plantation museum of how Hawaii became multi ethnic in the spirit of aloha.”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 12, 2013

While this attraction is open during construction, with plenty of things to view, the main visitor’s center is closed. Only SOME of its items are on display, in the Chinese social building. We would have benefited from seeing the unavailable, 20-minute introduction video.

Here is some information to help make your experience more enjoyable:

Before going, to avoid being disoriented, familiarize yourself with the attraction by watching youtube videos, about the plantation. Also, read the literature on the plantation website, ahead of time.

Bring sun block, insect repellant, a hat, sun glasses, extra water, a heat resistant snack, a notepad and don’t forget your camera.

Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be walking in and out of buildings, up some stairs and standing. There is no place to sit, once the tour starts. Also, the beautiful taro crops, in the working farm, are grown on land containing underground springs, so your shoes may become muddy.

Allow for extra time to see this attraction!!!!! The website stated each tour is 1 and ½ hours long, but our tour lasted at least 3 and ½ hours.

The best time to go would be the 10:00 a.m. tour, as the weather will still be relatively cool and there is no air conditioning inside the plantation village.

Plan where to have lunch ahead of time because the picnic table area maybe closed, due to construction.

If possible, go by car with a g.p.s. or take a MapQuest printout, instead of by bus.

We met our tour guide outside the trailer housing the gift shop and administrative office. Before entering the village, we passed by flags from each plantation laborer’s country of origin, representing the work force. There is a memorial stone dedicated to people who died, without families, while working on the plantation.

By this area, there are two smiling Korean totem poles, erected to symbolize peace and happiness for everyone. The totem guardians are believed to ward off evil and disease.

Next, there is a display of sugar cane stocks, contained inside four wooden posts in a square, to show how tall the crop can grow. Our guide said sugar can reach a height of 12 feet, but there are records of growth at 20 to 30 feet, in different parts of the world.

Nearby is the, “time travel tunnel”, created out of concrete and metal and imbedded into a dirt embankment. It was fun to suspend disbelief and pretend to travel 100 years, back in time, to the early 1900s.

Although exploitation was mentioned briefly, the emphasis is on life styles during different time periods, (1900s to 1940s for ethic housing), religious freedom and how the people peacefully coexisted and shared despite different cultures, beliefs, cuisines, customs and languages. In an effort to communicate with one another, Pidgin Hawaiian developed. This hybrid language stumped the Germans, during World War II.

People coming to the plantation for a new start and better way of life were met with harsh conditions, little or no pay and long hours of hard, manual labor. This speaks to the fortitude of the immigrants, to endure abuse, through a strong work ethic and make the best of a bad situation. A sense of community developed in the camps that, sadly, no longer exists in some places today. There was an emphasis on education, in some of the cultures, which later helped in overcoming adversity and creating skills.

Forced to live on low income, the laborers became efficient, innovative and creative. Flour sacks were used as a baby’s hammock bed, as seen in the Puerto Rico house and there is a luggage trunk used for a hope chest. Different homes used empty flour bags, as curtains, for windows. A book case is utilized as a shoe rack, in the Korean home. Each dwelling had a sewing machine and women would make extra money as seamstresses. Works of art were made with needle point and oil paint or a combination of both. People created their own entertainment at home and social dances, by playing musical instruments, from their different countries of origin.

A botanical garden is incorporated into the out-door museum, between houses and the grounds. Living frugally meant living off the land.

Here are some flora examples as follows:

Food: People eat fruit and vegetables from trees such as papayas, Gandule peas, grapes from vines, leaves from the Ben tree, seasoning from the Pias tree. Berries were eaten from the Naupaka Kai shrub, which has large leaves and a half-flower bloom that is connected to a legend of unrequited love.

Perfume: Room scents were made from Plumeria and Pak Lan trees’ flowers.

Food dye, spice, cosmetics: The lipstick plant’s seeds are used as food coloring and spice. Its ground seeds can be used for rouge or actual red lipstick.

Religion: The Bodhi tree is an important symbol in Buddhism and is a good source of shade.

Household and personal items: Haha tree leaves can be woven into hats, mats and parts of the fruit can be made into paint brushes. Silk Oak wood can be used to carve bracelets and polished for jewelry. The Calabash tree’s fruit shell was used to make cups, bowls and containers. Canes were made from bamboo palms.

Medicinal purposes: Popolo berries are used to treat asthma and the mashed leaves treat inflamed eyes. Juice from both the berries and leaves were used to treat coughs. Aloe plants were used to prevent scarring, treat burns, cuts, scrapes and athlete’s foot. The periwinkle flower was used for anemia.

Workers, who were able to pool or save their money, started businesses outside the plantation, such as barber shops, mainly dominated by Japanese. Some of the plantation descendants still have family bakeries and restaurants on the islands.

Here are some, limited, general, examples of some of cuisine the immigrant groups bought to Hawaii:

Japanese: Tofu, tempura style (deep fry) cooking, sashimi, and noodle soups.
Okinawan: Spicier food than Japan, goya, (bitter melon or squash), rice shaped like tacos.
Chinese: Char su, stir fried style cooking, chow main, dim sum, sweet and sour sauce.
Puerto Rican: Meat pies called pastels, dough with green bananas called masa.
Portuguese: Forno, (beehive shape) ovens, sweet bread, malasada, tomatoes, chili peppers.
Filipinos: Peas and beans, adobo style cooking with vinegar, garlic.
Korean: Kimchi, barbeque pits for marinated meats, bulgogi cooking style

The upper level of the Chinese social building, (1900s), contains ornately carved wood shines. Downstairs is the community kitchen and a bed.

The Portuguese home, (1918), has moveable slats for cooling in warm weather, so look up at the ceiling. The Puerto Rican house has a very primitive looking kitchen, (1900s), and a guiro with a scratcher on the wall. The Filipino home has a 1927 refrigerator.

One of the Japanese dwellings, (1910 to 1930s), has a shire to Buda, another has a kimono doll. The Okinawan home has a beautiful flower-robed doll, sword, and Sanshin box for music.

The Korean house has the custom of baby’s first birthday, where items are placed on a table and the baby chooses one. If the baby touches the doll, it indicates she will be a good parent or if thread is picked, she will be a seamstress. If a boy and he touches coins, he will be a banker, a hammer indicates a builder and choosing a small hoe means he will be a farmer. Also, there is a life-sized boy and girl doll, in native Korean clothes, on display.

Each building is very authentic looking with attention to detail, time periods, customs, religions, kitchen’s appliances, utensils, foods, household items, tools and personal items, like board games, reading glasses, family pictures, etc. Some of the places could use more paint and dusting.

On site there is a community bath, with the women’s side smaller, because there were fewer females. Another building is the company store, from the 1900s, complete with an old-time cash register. The dentist office and the infirmary look brutal, from a medical standpoint, of modern times. The camp office has, among other items, a saddle, an old typewriter, a hat and a horn.

Usually, only the foreman’s house had a telephone. At the end of the tour, I was glad to have all of the conveniences of modern day technology.

Since only my husband and I were in the tour, the docent personalized the information, asking what we were interested in and making sure to comment on those topics. Our guide, Cassie, was extremely informative and knowledgeable, with a sincere desire to preserve invaluable Hawaiian history, for future generations.

We left understanding more about the people and culture of Hawaii of the present day. We will return when the main visitor’s center is open.

Visited May 2012
3 Thank catnewman
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New Haven, Connecticut
Level Contributor
39 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“Now THIS is what I expect from a "village"”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 31, 2012

After the $150 disaster of an evening at Polynesian [Mormon] Cultural Center yesterday, we struck out in a different direction today. We visited the Hawaii's Plantation Village, where, as out-of-state seniors, we paid ten bucks apiece for a small group tour that lasted about three hours. Our docent, Lorene, was personable as well as knowledgeable, weaving in her own (interesting) family lore and personal knowledge with the village narrative. We learned more than we'll be able to remember, and we had a great time.

Visited October 2012
3 Thank Dick M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
29 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“A visit to the past”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 26, 2012

The Waipahu Plantation Village, not to be confused with the one sponsored by Dole, offers the visitor a brief glimpse into the life styles of the different cultural groups who migrated to Hawaii to work in the sugar plantations at the beginning of 19th century. Each group is represented by a house (as well as additional structures like the portuguese oven and the japanese furu), which is iappropriately furnished according its traditions and practices at the time. These include typical costumes, linens, ceramics, toys and games, photos, books and other memorabilia. The tour is conducted by a volunteer docent and includes Japanese and Chinese temples and a plantation store. The bus connection from town takes about an hour and will require two transfers, but it it well worth the effort and time. The last visit is scheduled for 2 p.m. so plan to be there well ahead of time.

Visited August 2012
3 Thank glitterix
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
88 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“Geeky Fun at Hawaiian Plantation Village”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 12, 2012

Took my parents and boyfriend to Hawaiian Plantation Village this week. Let me say you have to be into history and culture to enjoy this, so if you are keep reading. If that is not your thing, then you should not go. That being said, I loved this place! It is bit outdated in terms of needing new placards and signboards describing what you are looking at, but I loved that it is a bit out of date, and anyway the information is still relevant. It is set up to be a replica of a sugar plantation in Waipahu back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There are houses to represent all the different ethnic groups who worked at the sugar mill: Chinese, Filipino, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese. There is also a replica store, infirmary, social hall, and various shrines. I love the grounds with the different plants, flowers, and birds, but this part could be detailed better. We started out on a tour, but to be honest it is too long. It lasts for about two hours, so after 30-40 minutes we decided to walk the rest on our own and just read the signboards. I actually love tours and listening to guides and learning from the guide, but in this case the guide was sweet but long winded. I recommend giving the guide a try, and then if you are not into it just walk and read on your own. Go when the weather is nice since it is all outside. The entrance fee goes to keep the place running so that is a good thing. There is a small gift shop with some nice handy crafts that the proceeds also go to the shop and village. So buy some stuff! Great gifts like green shopping bags, pot holders, and tee-shirts. Enjoy your day learning about the sugar plantations of Hawaii!

Visited October 2012
4 Thank Nicole G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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