History and Culture on The Big Island

Click here to purchase vintage Hawaiian postershttp://affiliates.allposters.com/link/redirect.asp?AID=1580762952&PSTID=1&LTID=5&lang=1&startat=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eallposters%2Ecom%2F%2Dst%2FHawaiian%2DTravel%2DAds%2DVintage%2DArt%2DPosters%5Fc50099%5F%2Ehtmhttp://livepage.apple.com/shapeimage_2_link_0

It is generally believed that voyagers from Polynesia made the first landfall in the Hawaii islands at Ka Lea on south end of The Big Island about 1,500 years ago. Those voyagers and their descendants established cooperative farming and fishing systems, a religious culture with strictly enforced laws, and a system of government that lasted for 15 centuries. Hawaiian culture is strongly evident on this, the youngest Hawaiian island. Here are some things you can do to learn more about it:

Island Breeze Luau

Rated the best luau on the Big Island by visitors, locals, and travel writers, Island Breeze Luau is held under the stars upon the beachfront grounds of Kamehameha the Great's former estate. Sunday, Tuesday thru Friday at the King Kamehameha Beadh Resort, Kailua-Kona.

Royal Kona Luau - Legends and Legacies

The Royal Kona Resort in coordination with Tihati Productions presents 'Lava - Legends & Legacies,' an Island-style celebration of the best Hawaii has to offer! Mon. Wed. and Fri. at the Royal Kona Resort, Kailua-Kona.

Gathering of the Kings Luau

The newest theatrical luau production, the "Gathering of the Kings" is a fusion of both traditional Polynesian and modern dance choreography, retelling the story of the settlement of the Pacific. Saturday nights at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel, Kohala.

Haleo Luau at Sheraton Kona Resort

Come and experience Firenesia! A colorful and fascinating journey throughout Polynesia, filled with excitement and incredible danger. Mondays at the Sheraton Keauhou Resort, Keauhou-Kona.

Big Island Horseback Riding

Experience the nostalgic days of the Hawaiian cowboys, the paniolos, and saddle up on a horseback ride to an incredibly beautifulvalley, a private waterfall or on a private 220-acre ranch!

Segway Tours of the Botanical Gardens

Nothing can beat the unique experience of a Segway adventure through the lush, vibrant rainforest, complete with an introductory tour!

Mauna Kea Summit Adventure

Stand atop the clouds and witness the breathtaking Hawaiian sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea.


On-Your-Own Touring

Printer-friendly Version

Kailua Village Walking Tour

The 90-minute guided stroll includes a 24-page booklet with over 40 archival photographs of Kailua Village. To make reservations or for more information call (808)938-8825 or email khs@konahistorical.org.

Place of Refuge Walking Tour

In old Hawaii, laws, or kapu, governed every aspect of Hawaiian society. If you had broken a law, the penalty was death. Your only option for survival was to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest pu`uhonua, or place of refuge. To learn more about Hawaiian culture and customs take a self-guided walking tour at this National Historical Park, or better yet visit during a cultural festival (click here for a schedule of events).

Coffee Farm Walking Tour

Coffee is an important cash crop on The Big Island. Stop at the Greenwell Coffee Farm for a tour that explains how coffee was processed ‘back in the day’. Tours run continuously from 8am through 4:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

Guided Petroglyph Tour

Walk back through Hawaiian History on this narrated guided tour of a Hawaiian petroglyph field. The free tour leaves from the King’s Shops at the Waikoloa Village daily from 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

King Kamehameha’s Hotel

View the cultural displays in the lobby and hallways of this historic Kona hotel, then take a self- guided tour of the adjacent Ahuena Heiau, one of The Big Island’s most important cultural and historic sites.

Hulihe`e Palace Self-Guided Tour

Every Hawaiian monarch from Kamehameha III to Queen Liliuokalani spent a good part of each year at Hulihe`e. Today the Palace is a museum filled with historical treasures from Hawaii’s past.

Mokuaikaua Church Tour

Directly across the street from the Hulihe`e Palace is the first Christian Church built in Hawaii. Dating from 1837, the coral and lava structure sits on the site of an ancient Hawaiian heiau. The church houses a small museum. Guided tours are available upon request.

Lapakahi Self-Guided-Tour

The remains of a 600 year old Hawaiian fishing village line the shore and climb the hillside at this cultural site. Stop at the visitor center for the self-guided-tour brochure (or download it here).
  1. You are here: Activities  > History and Culture


Every society has multiple superstitions that reach back to oral histories. Here are a few examples of the more widely accepted Big Island superstitions.

Never take pork over the Saddle Road.

This superstition is purely Hawaiian and its origins come from a turbulent relationship Pele, the Fire Goddess, had with the strong willed half man, half pig, demi-god Kamapua`a. According to the superstition, transporting pork over the Saddle Road will not only anger the fire goddess, but it will disable any vehicle until the pork is removed.

Always stop along the Saddle Road to offer a ride to a hitchiking old hag or a beautiful white haired woman with a white dog.

The fire goddess Pele is supposed to appear to travelers on the Saddle Road in the guise of either an old hag or a beautiful white-haired woman with a white dog just prior to the eruption of Kilauea Volcano.

Never take home rocks from the Volcano.

Removing rocks from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as a memento of your visit may leave you cursed with bad luck. If you take a rock home by accident, you can return it to: Pele, c/o Headquarters, Volcanoes National Park, Volcano, HI 96785.

Beware of Night Marchers.

Late at night the sound of distant drums and the sight of a line of torch-carrying marchers signals the return of huaka'i pō, the spirits of hawaiian warriors and kings, to bathe once more in sacred ponds. One is supposed to bow in deference to the Ali`i at the sight of the night-marchers.