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Hawaii For History Enthusiasts: Discover The Top Historical Sites

Connect to the history and heritage of the islands with these Hawaiian vacation ideas

The Vacationeer
Stunning aerial images, lush green cliffs, turquoise waves crashing, Big Island, Hawaii.

Hawaii is a tropical paradise and a year-round playground for relaxation and adventure. But there’s more to experience beyond the picture-perfect landscapes, sun-kissed beaches and modern attractions. The Hawaiian Islands have a rich history and age-old culture that’s very much alive and worth exploring.

Couple admiring lush rainforest, hiking, Big Island, Hawaii.    

From ancient sanctuaries to royal palaces and stirring World War II memorials, each historic site offers you a unique glimpse into a fascinating past that’s sure to leave a mark on your memory.

Use this Hawaii travel guide to connect to the history and heritage of the islands on your next getaway to the Aloha State with Hilton Grand Vacations.

Uncover Ancient Hawaiian Civilization

Traveling through historic Hawaii is like stepping into a time machine — where ancient traditions, royal legacies and a storied past have helped shape a vibrant cultural identity.

Tribal sculptures, palm trees in distance, Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Big Island, Hawaii.    
  • Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens. Visit the sacred site of Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island, where beautifully restored temples, royal fishponds and traditional thatched structures stand as enduring reminders of Hawaii’s history. Insider tip: You can explore the park’s many cultural sites on a self-guided walking tour. The trail is about a half a mile long and lasts 30–60 minutes.
  • See mysterious carvings etched in lava rock. The Pu'uloa Petroglyphs Trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park features more than 23,000 engravings — most of which date back to the 13th15th centuries. You can take the popular out-and-back hiking trail to get the best views of these extraordinary images.
  • Schedule a guided tour of Iolani Palace — the only royal palace on U.S. soil. Built in the 19th century, the Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu served as the residence for Hawaii’s monarchs and their courts. Enjoy a guided tour through its grand halls for a glimpse into the opulence and grace of Hawaiian royalty.

Remember And Reflect At Pearl Harbor

No visit to Hawaii’s historic sites is complete without a trip to Pearl Harbor. It’s a hallowed place that serves as more than a national landmark. It’s a living history lesson — and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

When you arrive, there are a few principal attractions that help tell the story of the war in the Pacific and commemorate the accomplishments of those who served.

USS Arizona, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.    
  • Visit the USS Arizona Memorial. Perhaps the most iconic attraction at Pearl Harbor, this memorial stands above the sunken remains of the battleship USS Arizona. As you enter, you’ll be guided to a contemplative deck that offers a close view of the ship as it rests beneath the waves. Budget-friendly travel fact: Admission to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and the USS Arizona Memorial is free.
  • Explore the Battleship Missouri. Board the “Mighty Mo” for an immersive experience that’s steeped in historical significance. Marvel at the colossal gun turrets, stroll the expansive teak decks and glimpse into the sailors’ quarters below.
  • Head over to the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Discover what it was like to be a World War II pilot as you explore an impressive collection of authentic aircraft — from the legendary P-51 Mustang to the infamous B-17 Flying Fortress.

Go Where History Lives On

Beautiful mature tree, Hawaii.    
  • Plan a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center. This lush 42-acre retreat sits along Oahu’s famous North Shore and features six authentic villages that immerse you in the music, dance and unique cultures of the Pacific islands. Spend your day exploring the grounds and engaging in hands-on activities, then wrap the evening with an authentic Polynesian luau.
  • Experience the Kona Coffee Living History Farm. Nestled in the hills of Hawaii’s Kona region, you’ll find a hidden gem that delivers an experience unlike any other. At the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, you can interact with costumed performers as they demonstrate how to mill and dry coffee, wander through the farm’s meticulously restored buildings and sample world-famous Kona coffee products.

Consider The Cultural Festivals

Hawaii’s culture comes alive with various festivals that celebrate the islands’ historical roots.

Dancers performing hula, Oahu, Hawaii.   

The Merrie Monarch Festival  

  • Where: Hilo, Hawaii
  • When: March or April
  • What: This annual post-Easter festival is a vibrant celebration of hula and Hawaiian culture that captivates locals and visitors alike. For a week, the island comes alive with dazzling performances, intricate costumes, parades and a traditional craft fair.

Aloha Festivals

  • Where: Oahu
  • When:  September
  • What: Aloha Festivals is a statewide, month-long, multi-cultural festival that spans across the Hawaiian Islands. It features over 100 events — from floral parades and lively block parties to captivating music and dance performances.
Father and daughter enjoying Hawaiian cuisine, Oahu, Hawaii.    

Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival

  • Where: Maui, Big Island, Oahu
  • When: October & November
  • What: This annual event is a proper foodie affair. Spanning three weeks across three islands, the festival is a celebration of culinary excellence. Internationally renowned master chefs, winemakers, sommeliers and mixologists come together to showcase their talents in grand tastings, gala dinners, beach cookouts, food battles, cooking demonstrations and more.

For more Hawaii vacation ideas, check out “How To Spend 3 Unforgettable Days On Hawaii's Big Island.”


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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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