5 Must-Visit Historic Sites on Oahu
Although Hawai’i is part of the United States, it has a unique culture; it’s part of the Polynesian Islands, has a royal history, and has its own language. A visit to one of Oahu’s many historic sites allows you to develop a deeper connection to the island. We’ve rounded up five of our favorites — these are just a few of the many historic sites you can visit while you’re here.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Do not miss the Polynesian Cultural Center on your trip to Oahu! This isn’t the typical museum — it’s an immersive opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture. Walk through six villages representing Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga to get a taste of each island’s diverse way of life.
Throw a spear while visiting Tonga, dance with the Islanders of Tahiti, watch a warrior climb a 40-foot tree at Samoa, honor the chief of Fiji, learn the Haka dance at Aotearoa, and learn how to fish in Hawaii. And, be sure to stay until evening to catch the Ha Breath of Life show.
Visit Iolani Palace
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
Iolani Palace is the only royal residence in America. That’s why it’s a a top historic site in Oahu to check out! The last monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, was overthrown in 1893. Learn about her reign and love for the Hawaiian people during a palace tour. If you’re taking the Shaka Guide Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour you’ll visit this National Historic Landmark.
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The Bishop Museum gives visitors an in-depth history of the state. Signature exhibits include a picture gallery with 19th-century Hawaiian art and a garden with native plants. At the museum, you’ll learn about Hawaiian values and how they relate to the other Polynesian islands. Added bonus! This is a great historic site in Oahu for the whole family. There’s a Science Adventure Center with lots of hands-on activities to keep kids engaged.
Free Waikiki Hula Show
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds
What better way to enjoy an evening in Waikiki than to see a hula performance? Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday dancers perform this historic dance in Waikiki. Visit the Kūhiō Beach Hula Mound at 6:30 p.m. on any of these nights for a free performance. The evening starts with the lighting of the torch and traditional blowing of the conch shell, followed by hula. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the cultural immersion.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Legend is a huge part of Hawaiian culture and the land is rooted in folklore. That holds true for Makapu’u — an extinct volcano on the eastern tip of Oahu. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail isn’t just a two-mile hike with an amazing view… it’s a legend! Makapu’u was a supernatural being who had eight big, bright eyes. The lighthouse is named after her as she watches those at sea. Coincidentally, the Makapu’u Lighthouse is also home to the biggest lighthouse lens in the United States.
What would a trip to Hawai’i be without experiencing the state’s special culture? Oahu may be known for it’s bustling capital and award-winning beaches, but the historic sites tell the island’s story.
In Hawaiian the word malama means “to take care” and the word aina means “land.” When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you practice this and pick up your trash; respect the marine life, plants, and animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources for generations by respecting the aina when you visit.
SHAKA GUIDE OAHU TOURS: Visiting Oahu? We have several tours for the island! Download our Circle Island Driving Tour, Legendary North Shore Loop Tour, East Oahu Shoreline Drive Tour, Honolulu's Backyard Rainforest Tour, Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour, and Historic Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour!