Experiencing Hawaii’s History through its Iconic Hotels

Hawaii Aloha Travel > Podcast > Experiencing Hawaii’s History through its Iconic Hotels

Many travelers visit Hawaii for the beaches, tropical weather, and beautiful landscapes but few come for the history. Richly steeped in long standing culture and tradition, the islands of Hawaii have maintained timelessness while still leaving room for development. The first people settled on Hawaiian soil between 400 and 900 A.D., who are believed to have sailed from the Marquesas Islands. The 1800’s brought foreigners who sailed to the Hawaiian Islands, bringing with them language, religion, and the influence of their European and American construction.

You can still witness the history of Hawaii in various ways. There are extensive museums that document the modernization of the islands, the missionaries who irrevocably changed history, and the ancient ways of the native Hawaiians. However, the history still lives on through some hotels within the islands. Today we’re going to give you a few brief narratives about the historic hotels of Hawaii, beginning with quite possibly the most famous of all, The Royal Hawaiian.
The Royal Hawaiian, Oahu. Lovingly referred to as “The Pink Palace”, this beach front resort is notorious for being one of the most popular destinations in the world. The property was once used as a playground for King Kamehameha after he conquered the island of Oahu. And Queen Kaahumanu’s Summer Palace was previously located on what is now the resort’s Coconut Grove garden, boasting a majestic lineage for the land.

Developed in the mid-1920’s and opening its doors in 1927, The Royal Hawaiian had celebrities like The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, the Rockefellers, Dean Martin, Shirley Temple, and Natalie Wood frequent its properties. Attracting elite visitors from all over the world, this destination was known as “the first resort hostelry in America”. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Royal Hawaiian closed down its doors December of 1941 and allowed the United States Navy to use the hotel as a rest and recreation center for enlisted sailors. Reopening again in January of 1947 to the public, the world fell in love with Hawaii via the Pink Palace.

The Moana Surfrider, Oahu. Known as “The First Lady of Waikiki,” The Moana Surfrider opened its doors in 1901 and became the first large hotel on Waikiki beach (desolate and neglected at that time). Construction of The Moana marked the beginning of tourism in Waikiki, and the structure was the first hotel amidst the bungalows and beach houses. The very first electric-powered elevator was installed in this hotel, which still runs today and old-fashioned features (such as wide hallways for steamer trunks) have remained at the core of the design and renovations throughout the years. The hotel’s first guests paid $1.50 per night for their rooms, whereas a room today will sell for $235 a night.

Volcano House Hotel, Big Island. The history of Volcano House can be traced back to 1824 when Chiefess Kapiolani and her entourage built a grass shack on the crater rim. Known as a place of worship for the ancient Hawaiians to give offerings to Pele (Goddess of fire), the eruption of Kilauea volcano was recorded in oral history long before the European and American missionaries wrote about it. Given its name in 1846 by Benjamin Pitman, Sr. The Volcano House has transitioned from a grass shack into grass and Ohio poles (visited in this stage of development by mark Twain), wood, stone, and finally what it has become today. Guests can wake up to the view of calderas at the summit of one of the world’s most active volcanoes, located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Waimea Plantation Cottages, Kauai. Hidden along the quiet west side of Kauai, the Waimea Plantation Cottages are a glimpse of what Hawaiian life was like in the 1800’s. Polynesia, Asia, and Europe all blended together to create the unique culture of contemporary Hawaii and these authentic plantation homes have been carefully restored to match an earlier era. Scattered throughout a peaceful coconut grove, the Waimea Plantation Cottages are set along a historical coastline. Waimea is the first place where Captain Cook landed when he reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 and a statue of Cook stands today in Waimea Town in his honor. The first mission house in Waimea was built in 1820, and the Waimea Plantation Cottages help keep this history alive and accessible for visitors.

The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, Maui. Listed on the Hawaii Registry of Historic Places, this bed and breakfast was built in 1924 and known as the “Queen of Wailuku Homes.” Lovingly restored to its original glory, The Old Wailuku Inn was set within a prestigious residential neighborhood. Designed after the ever-popular plantation style of Hawaii, the Inn had additional finer features that set itself apart. Beveled mullion glass entry doors in the living room, broad molding, Hawaiian Ohi’a and eucalyptus wood flooring, curved collar beams and rounded attic vents are just a few interior attributes that give this B&B its historic charm. There are also infamous historic details about the property and former owners that offer interesting stories for guests. Receiving the Historic Hawaii Foundation’s Historic Preservation Honor Award, The Old Wailuku Inn is a charming experience on Maui and holds history in the floorboards of its foundation.