Oahu’s History

Have you ever wondered just how far back into time the history of a place like Oahu goes? Was it always an incredible getaway or was it once the home of ancient civilizations? We’d like to take you through the lengthy history of Oahu, going back to long before you ever considered setting foot on its golden coastline.

The Crater

Vintage view of Diamond Head from Waikiki

Over 150,000 years ago, the southeastern shoreline of Oahu received a striking new physical feature – a volcanic crater that now stands over 760’ tall. The crater, known in English as Diamond Head, is known to the Hawaiians as Le’ahi.

Diamond Head’s most important use throughout the years was as a lookout for the port in Honolulu. Continuing the Hawaiian tradition of lighting fires at the summit to help canoes navigating the coast, there is now a lighthouse, built to prevent inbound ships from running aground on the shoreline.

Today, the lighthouse is a National Natural Landmark, but the historic crater can be scaled, up to its summit, through an informative and moderate hike.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout

Not far from Downtown Honolulu, inquisitive travelers will find the Nuuanu Pali lookout. This historical landmark offers panoramic views of the cliffs of the Koolau and an unimpeded sightline of the windward coast of Oahu. Mostly untouched by man, the lookout retains much of the incredible natural properties that have survived the test of time.

The lookout earns its importance in Oahu’s history thanks to King Kamehameha I, who, in 1795, engaged in the Battle of Nuuanu. It’s believed that hundreds of soldiers were pushed over the edge of the sheer cliffs, securing his victory.

Downtown Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu

The streets of Downtown Honolulu are where you find an abundance of Oahu’s history. Amidst the concrete of the city of today, Downtown Honolulu is home to Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on United States soil, the statue of King Kamehameha I, the Aloha Tower, and the Kawaiahao Church.

A stroll through Downtown Honolulu is like a trip through time.

 

Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace shortly after its construction

Once the home of Hawaii’s monarchs, the palace stands today as a National Historic Landmark, a symbol of the island chain’s royal history. After the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, the palace was used as the capitol building for the Provisional, Republic, Territorial, and finally, in 1959 after Hawaii’s transition into the 50th state of the United States the state capitol.

By 1978, the palace was renovated and opened to the public. Today, the historic structure can be toured by anyone who wants to see how Hawaiian royalty lived in the 19th century.

Pearl Harbor

By far the most notable event in Oahu’s history was the December 7th, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Claiming the lives of over 2,400 sailors, the attack was what finally caused the United States to enter World War II.

Aerial view of the USS Arizona MemorialHistory buffs and those wishing to know more about America’s World War II involvement will love touring through the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which houses a multitude of exhibits and the unforgettable USS Arizona Memorial. The wreckage of the mighty vessel can be viewed from the pristine white structure that looks into the depths of sunken ship.

Many tours of Pearl Harbor also include visits to some of the other sites mentioned here.

 

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