Yes, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States in 1959. It’s also famously known as the Aloha State and is definitely one of the most incredibly stunning US states to exist.
Of course, there is so much to see here, but in this article, we are doing a bit of a deep dive into the history of Hawaii long before it entered statehood.
Recommended reading: Best Hawaiian Islands to Visit
Early History Of Hawaii
Historical records indicate that Hawaii had inhabitants as early as 300 CE; inhabitants that may have travelled all the way from the Marquises islands.
Tahitians settled in these lands around the 9th century CE. Hawaiians grouped and lived in smaller tribal communities, each with an appointed chief. They mostly engaged in farming and fishing to help sustain the communities.
The European Settlers
The arrival of Captain James Cook – the first British explorer to step foot on the land, also known as the founder of Hawaii.
Historical records reveal that Capt. Cook landed on Kauai Island in 1778.
By then, Hawaii had further evolved into a plethora of rich and diverse tribes. Upon the return of Capt. Cook in the year after, he was killed on Hawaii’s Big Island by natives during a conflict. After his passing, a new king emerged – Kamehameha I (a.k.a. Kamehameha the Great).
Under the power of Kamehameha I, all the islands under the Hawaiian archipelago were brought under one rule. After that historical incident, the monarchs ruled Hawaii for 85 years.
Was Hawaii A British Colony?
There has been much debate in this regard. But history shows that there was a more peaceful and possibly strong relationship between Hawaii and Britain.
Under the careful work done by Capt. George Vancouver in 1792, the Hawaiian Monarchy continued peacefully operating as a resupply point for whalers and traders crossing the Pacific Ocean.
For a short period in 1843, the Hawaiian Islands were under the formal control of Britain by the British Naval officer Captain – Lord George Paulet.
But it was a mere 5 months, and it’s now known as the Paulet Affair.
Establishing US Rule
The last king of Hawaii – King Kalakaua, lost the native’s favour and much power due to his wrongful political decisions.
After his successor Queen Liliuokalani was arrested, Hawaii was ceased by a group of citizens under the Kingdom.
With the help of the US Marines, president Grover Cleveland managed to exert total power over Hawaii which would eventually lead to Hawaii entering statehood.
Historical Timeline Of Hawaii
1500’s – the arrival of Polynesians
1778 – Arrival of Capt. Cook the first European Settler
1790 – The Kepaniwai Battle (Hawaii vs Maui)
1795 – Kamehameha’s (King) ‘s key battle campaigns (to unite the islands) were fought on the shores of Oahu
1810: Hawaii is brought under one rule
1819: The abolishment of Kapu – the taboo system of men and women eating separately.
1820: The first missionaries’ arrival
1830 – 1848: The Great Mahele Kamehameha III introduces the western allodial system – resulting in native locals getting less than 1% of land as required even by law.
1845: Honolulu becomes the new capital
1850: Hawaiian plantation production rises, and workers are brought from Japan, the Philippines, China, Portugal and Korea.
1874: The Kamehameha dynasty ends and David Kalākaua is elected as Lunalilo’s successor.
1887: The 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii is signed and the Monarchy loses power.
1891: King David Kalākaua dies and Queen Liliʻuokalani takes the throne as successor.
1893: The overthrowing of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi begins. Queen Liliʻuokalani is under house arrest.
1898: Through the Newlands Resolution Hawaiʻi is annexed by the US.
1900: The Organic Act establishes the Territory of Hawaiʻi.
1917: Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last sovereign of the Monarchy, passes away.
1941: The attack on Pearl Harbor
1959: Hawaii becomes a state of America
1978: Hawaiian is made the official language under the Hawaiʻi State Constitutional Convention
1990: Kīlauea – one of the world’s most active volcanoes erupt
2009: Senator Barack Obama- who was born in Honolulu becomes president of the US
2018: Kīlauea volcano erupted, causing massive devastation
Hawaii After Its Statehood
Records show that Hawaii’s economy and population blew up. But natives were challenged with keeping up with the cost of living.
Some natives were driven out of their homelands due to new development projects. Conflicts arose and it eventually led to Bill Clinton apologizing for America’s role in overthrowing the Hawaiian Monarchy.
Now… it‘s a booming tourist destination – a top contender for beach-loving travellers.
Historical Landmarks You Must See In Hawaii
Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement (Molokai)
This place is on a small island. It’s where leprosy patients were sent under the Hawaiian Monarchy to settle in isolation. It was considered the ideal place under the circumstances.
There are over 2000 unmarked graves apart from the marked ones. While the scenery is rather stunning, the place still holds quiet peace. Unlike other famous tourist locations in Hawaii.
Old Sugar Mill of Koloa (South Coast – Kauai)
This ancient mill was built in 1835. It’s one of the most successfully operated plantations in Hawaii. The old sugar mill is part of the Kōloa Heritage Trail; it’s a 10-mile-long tour which can be quite immersive and fascinating.
Captain Cook’s Landing Site (Lucy Wright Park – Kauai)
If you’re a hardcore history buff determined to visit even the smallest landmark that had a defining influence on history, you might not want to miss Captain Cook’s landing site.
Fun fact – Like in Hawaii, Capt. Cook also was the first European to land in New Zealand in 1769.
United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor (Oahu)
This infamous and historic Harbour endured a lethal airstrike by the Japanese in 1941. Along with its destruction, it led to a series of global events that possibly changed the course of history.
You can do various types of Harbour and memorial tours. Learn all about the attack and the US’s involvement in WWII.
Kawaiaha’o Church (Honolulu)
This historic church is famously known as Hawaii’s Westminster Abbey and once served as the chapel for the Hawaiian Royal Family. Located in Honolulu, it’s one of the oldest Christian places of worship in Hawaii.
You can only explore the interior when the church is open for service. But it’s beautiful so definitely worth dropping by.
Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau (Oahu)
Here’s another incredible landmark in Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State’s historic site. Head to the hillside overseeing the beautiful Waimea Bay and visit a super ancient Hawaiian Temple.
It was built in the 1600s it is also rumoured to have been offered a human sacrifice during a political uprising.
This is a very historically significant place. It homed over 13 Hawaiian Governors. It was also where Queen Lili’uokalani was arrested – ending the Hawaiian Monarchy.
Now this nearly 200-year-old structure is a museum and it’s open to the public from 10 – 11. a.m. located in the downtown region of Honolulu.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
This national cemetery is nestled in the Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu. A resting place for veterans who passed during different eras of war.
A popular tourist spot for memorial tours. Since the cemetery is built on the central basin of a dead volcanic mountain famously known as Puowaina (Hill of Sacrifice), it has incredible views of the cityscape of Honolulu.
From 1845 to 1893 this grand building served as the Royal Residence for the King of Hawaii. The building was well preserved even after the monarchy was overthrown. Now it is open as a museum for the public. 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. (closed on Fridays)
Many come to explore the incredible architecture, It’s one of the top tourist spots in Honolulu.
Lahaina Banyan Tree
It’s very rare and precious when a tree is considered a historic landmark. This stunningly ancient, big and beautiful tree is one of America’s largest existing trees, the trunk and the areal root system covering 0.66 acres. It was planted in 1873 and it is now the oldest Banyan tree in Hawaii.
You can find this incredible tree taken root in front of the Lahaina Courthouse, in Maui.