Guide to the amazing museums of Hawaii's Big Island.
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A trip to Hawaii's Big Island shouldn't be all beaches and shave ice. Why not take a little time to learn about the Hawaiian culture, explore the Big Island's lava filled past and present, and see what life was like here many years ago. Here's our top museum picks for Hawaii's Big Island.
The Lyman Museum & Mission House is one of the Hawaii Island's most popular museums and is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands and its people. This nationally accredited and Smithsonian-Affiliated museum was originally built in 1839 as the home for missionaries David and Sarah Lyman. Today, it's the oldest wooden building on the island and houses a collection of artifacts and natural history exhibits. More at: Lyman Museum & Mission House
The Pacific Tsunami Museum is dedicated to tsunami history and education. It's located right in Hilo where the infamous tsunami of 1946 struck, caused large amounts of damage, and took human lives. Come and get educated on all things tsunamis and bring the kids who will enjoy some of the hands on exhibits. More at: Pacific Tsunami Museum
The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is the only living history coffee farm in the United States and tells the story of Kona’s coffee pioneers during the early 20th century. Stop in for a self-guided tour that allows you to talk among the coffee tree, see how farmers used the kuriba and hoshidana to mill and dry coffee in the early 1900's, and meet a Kona Nightingale. Costumed interpreters allow you to get a taste of what life was actually like many years ago. They'll show you how various tasks were performed and talk story with you along the way. More at: Kona Coffee Living History Farm
The Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii is located on the Big Island's east side in the city of Hilo. The center opened in 2006 with the goal of being a place of gathering, inspiration, and connection in the astronomy community. Inside the 12,000 square foot gallery you'll find over 100 exhibits on the subject of astronomy. More at: Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii
Hulihe'e Palace, located on Kailua Bay on the Big Island, was built by John Adams Kuakini, who was the Governor of the island, and completed in 1838. The Palace was built using native lava rock, with walls that are 3 feet thick, and is two stories tall with six rooms. This was Governor Kuakini's home until his death in 1844. More at: Hulihe'e Palace
Parker Ranch, located in the city of Kamuela (locally known as Waimea), is a working cattle ranch with 130,000 acres of grazing land with around 17,000 head of cattle. If you've enjoyed a "Big Island Beef" steak or burger during your Hawaii vacation then it probably came from this ranch. More at: Parker Ranch
The Laupahoehoe Train Museum is located on the northeast coast of the Big Island in the city of Laupahoehoe. Their mission is to preserve, promote, and protect the historic, cultural, educational, social, civic and economic, interests of the North Hilo and Hamakua districts, while highlighting the history of the railroads on the island of Hawaii. More at: Laupahoehoe Train Museum
The Jaggar Museum is a volcanology museum located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, about two and a half miles from the Kilauea Visitor Center, and named after American volcanologist Thomas Jaggar. More at: Jaggar Museum
The Mokupapapa Discovery Center serves to interpret the natural science, culture, and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding marine environment. Since visiting these remote islands in the Hawaiian island chain (known as The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument) is virtually impossible for most, the center helps bring those islands to the people right in Hilo. More at: Mokupapapa Discovery Center
The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum is located right next to Greenwell Farms Inc. and offers a living history program centered around a historic general store. Travel back to the 1890's when times were simpler and get a small taste of "ye olden days" in Hawaii. More at: H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
The East Hawaii Cultural Center is an art gallery located in downtown Hilo. In addition to displayed art, they also offer various art shows, events, and other performances from time to time. More at: East Hawaii Cultural Center / HMOCA
The Anna Ranch Heritage Center is located in Kamuela (also known as Waimea) and is still a working ranch today. This history 110 acre ranch was once the former training grounds for Kipu'u pu'u Warriors run by King Kamehameha. In 1848 the property was acquired by James and Ka'ipukai Fay who were the great-great grandparents of Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske, which the ranch is now named after. More at: Anna Ranch Heritage Center
In ancient Hawaii if you broke a Kapu (sacred law) it was punishable by death. And breaking a Kapu could be as simple as entering an area that was reserved only for chiefs or just eating a forbidden food. So what do you do to avoid death? Your only chance for survival was to make it to Pu'uhonua (place of refuge), where a ceremony of absolution would take place and you could return to society. Today you're allowed to take a self guided tour of this sacred place. There are cultural demonstrations, hiking trails, fishing, and places to enjoy a picnic. More at: Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site is located at Spencer Beach Park and is a temple built by King Kamehameha (also known as Kamehameha the Great). It was built in 1790 and is one of the last major temples built in the Hawaiian Islands. Kamehameha built this temple after a prophecy that came through a kahuna (priest) known as Kapoukahi. The prophecy said that if Kamehameha built the heiau on the hill known as Pu'ukohola and dedicate the heiau to Kuka'ilimoku (his family's war god), then he would be able to conquer and unite the islands. In addition to the actual heiau itself, there is also a museum full of artifacts, information, and exhibits. More at: Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
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