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The Hawaiian Islands are More Than Sun and Sand

A trip to this remote place transports you to another world.

It will leave you with indelible memories each time you visit.


Whether you are planning your first trip or have explored the islands more than once, knowing some of their history and native culture will increase your understanding and enjoyment of this remote and enchanting place.


Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands are believed to have been the first settlers who began to migrate to Hawaii in double-hulled canoes in approximately the year 500 C.E.
A millennium later, the islands were discovered in 1555 by a Spaniard named Juan Gaetano who is said to have explored the archipelago that are the Hawaiian Islands. These volcanic islands remained isolated for more than 200 years because their longitude had been incorrectly recorded.


Captain James Cook, sailing for the British in search of a northern sea passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic, found the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. He named them the Sandwich Islands, in honor of his patron, the Earl of Sandwich, the first Lord of the British Admiralty. Cook was the first to place the archipelago on charts accurately using an instrument called the sextant, improved telescopes, and marine chronometers to determine their precise location. He wrote a detailed account of the islands and their people. As a result, Cook opened up the islands as a stopping place for provisions and water on voyages to northwest American for furs, according to the Captain Cook Society.


Cook, however, faced a tragic end upon returning to the Hawaiian Islands a year later, when natives killed him during an altercation at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, also known as Hawaii.
In the broader context of Hawaiian history, King Kamehameha I stands out as a key figure in the unification of the Hawaiian Islands.


Believed to have been born in 1758 into a royal family on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kamehameha was a young warrior – approximately 20 – at the time of Captain Cook’s voyage and in the battle of Kealakekua Bay during which Cook died. Most sources attribute Cook’s death to a “skirmish” with Hawaiian natives. Kamehameha was part of the battle. Whatever role he played in the battle, Kamehameha gained recognition among natives. Ultimately, he is best known for uniting the Hawaiian Islands under one rule by 1810.


Hawaiian Highlights
If you’re traveling to the islands in June, you’ll be there in time for the annual King Kamehameha Day celebrations the Hawaii State Council on Culture and the Arts plans on five islands, June 7 through June 15.


On the Big Island, you can visit the Place of Refuge called Puuhonau o Honaunau. Situated on the west coast in South Kona, it has been a National Historical Park since 1961. The site itself is a sanctuary where those who broke sacred laws or kapu were given a second chance. It is still an active religious site for Native Hawaiians. The National Park Service maintains the physical structure of the heiau (temple), lineal descendants of the place serve as caretakers and cultural practitioners. During the year, various ceremonies take place based on a lunar calendar used in Hawaiian tradition. The park is open Sunday through Saturday, 8:15 a.m. to sunset. Cost is $20 per private vehicle. On foot, cost is $10 per person. There are no accommodations in the park, however, there are a few bed and breakfasts and guest houses not far from it.


During our three trips to the Big Island, we stayed at various places including Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club. It is approximately an hour’s drive to the Place of Refuge via HI-29 and HI-11, but seemed shorter.


For luxury accommodations on the Big Island along the northeast Kohala Coast, stay at the Fairmont Orchid, set on 32 acres along the Pacific. The atmosphere is special, and includes open air spa appointments. A Hawaiian tradition takes place each day at sunset when hotel staff members light torches around the property to signal the end of another day. It’s an experience you won’t forget.


On Oahu, visit the Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu. Hawaii’s answer to the White House, it’s a National Historic Landmark that spells opulence, giving you a glimpse into the lives of
Hawaiian royalty.

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