Most of those who travel to Hawaii or are planning a vacation to the islands don’t have education and learning set at their main goals; however, Hawaii has a wealth of learning opportunities for those inclined to expand their horizons and knowledge, while at the same, time enjoying the natural beauty and relaxation opportunities that the Aloha State has to offer.
Even if your initial travel plans were not made around educational opportunities, you can participate in some basic tours which offer historical and cultural learning about Hawaii. Hawaii’s natural beauty is undeniably its biggest draw for travelers, and rightly so. There are plenty of opportunities to experience Hawaii’s beauty while at the same time gaining a deeper knowledge of Hawaii’s unique nature, history, culture and geology.
One of the most famous attractions is the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument where you can visit Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial. The sunken remains of the USS Arizona battleship is the final resting place of over 1,100 sailors and marines who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Nearby, you can also visit the battleship USS Missouri, the ship on which Japan signed the formal instruments of surrender to Allies on September 2, 1945 which ended World War II.
Another important, and older historic site, is the culturally significant Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, a heiau or temple located on the Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. The temple construction was initiated by King Kamehameha in the late 1700s to help him gain favor with the war god, Kuka’ilimoku, and as a prerequisite to fulfilling a prophecy of ruling all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. It must have worked because Kamehameha did eventually gain control of all of the islands in 1810.
The remains of the ancient village Kaunolu can be found on the southern coast of the island of Lanai and is the largest surviving archaeological site in all of Hawaii. The village, abandoned in the 1880s, was a favorite fishing site for King Kamehameha who made his local residence at the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay. The well preserved archaeological is said to cover almost every phase of Hawaiian culture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Diamond Head State Monument located on the eastern edge of the coastline of the island of Waikiki. Diamond Head, or Leahi in Hawaiian, is an extinct volcanic cinder cone and arguably the most famous and recognized of Hawaiian landmarks. The cinder cone is known for its hiking trails, indescribable views and military significance. Diamond Head was used as a strategic location for the defense of Oahu’s southern shoreline in the early 1900s. As a result, the crater is honeycombed with military observation points, old canon battery posts, underground fortifications and tunnels. The Diamond Head hiking trail incorporates stairs and tunnels from that era which leads to the summit of the crater, offering amazing views of Waikiki, the surrounding areas and the Pacific Ocean.
Located on the island of Maui, magnificent Haleakala National Park is a 33,000-acre wilderness area situated on a dormant 10,023-foot shield volcano, which was designated as a national park in 1916. Heleakala National Park is the home to many endangered species, such as the rare and endangered silversword plant and the Hawaiian nene goose, both of which exist nowhere else in the world except in Hawaii. The national park is open around the clock on a daily basis and the summit offers spectacular above-the-cloud views of Maui and the neighboring Big Island of Hawaii as well as a stunning colorful panorama of the volcano’s huge dormant crater.
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is located on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. This park preserves a sacred heiau where Hawaiians who broke a kapu or law could avoid certain death by fleeing behind the walls of this place of refuge, as recent as the early 1900s. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find safety here during times of war. The heiau is surrounded by a complex of massive large stone walls referred to as the Great Wall and an area outside the walls was also home to several generations of powerful Hawaiian ali’i or chiefs.