Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be

Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be

The Hawaiian Island; a land full of history, culture, and romance…and a little terror. The Hawaiian Islands got their start over 1500 years ago when Polynesians arrived in the islands after navigating the ocean using the stars. Originally known as a kingdom, it was sovereign from 1810 to 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by Americans and European capitalists. But some of the earliest habitation dates to around 81,000 to 1200 by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas Islands.

The history of the Hawaiian Islands is marked by steady growth in population and the size of the chieftains which grew to encompass the whole island. Things were thriving, natives were enjoying the wealth of the islands and vast resources when in 1778 Capt. James Cook lands at Waimea Bay on Kauai becoming the first European to make contact with the settlers on the Hawaiian Islands and the islands themselves. Cook named the stretch of islands the “Sandwich Islands” after the Earl of Sandwich. But, Cook attempted to kidnap the ruling chief of the island and hold him in exchange for stolen Longboat. This turned out to be a fatal choice even after years of bartering with the Hawaiians and learning about their culture.

The chieftain's sons surrounded James Cook and confronted him on the beach. After some heated exchange and aggressive confrontation, Cook was fatally stabbed in the neck which caused a violent, close-quarters melee between the townspeople and Cook’s men. Four of the Royal Marines were killed and two were wounded and the remaining soldiers continued to fire as they retreated to their small boat rowing back to their ship killing several Hawaiian natives on the beach. While this isn’t the best of stories, it is one of the most prominent pivot points in Hawaiian history.

After Cook’s visit and publication of several books relating to his voyages, the Hawaiian islands attracted many European and American visitors, explorers, traders, and whalers, even though sunbathing and surfing really wasn’t on the list just yet. Unfortunately, a lot of these “visitors” brought with them a slew of infectious diseases that Native Hawaiians never had to deal with. Naturally, this took quite a few of them out and during the 1850s, measles killed 1/5 of Hawaii’s population.

Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be


In 1887, after the death of King Kamehameha V, there was a popular election where Kalakaua was elected the last king and penultimate monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii raining from 1874 until 1891. In 1887, he was forced to sign the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii stripping the king of much of his authority. Now, simply reduce to a figurehead, he reigned until his death in 1891 when his sister Queen Lili’uokalani succeeded him and she was the last monarch of Hawaii. In 1893, she announced plans for a new constitution to proclaim herself as an absolute monarch but instead, a group of Euro-American business leaders and residents formed the Committee of Safety to stage a coup against the kingdom and seek annexation by the United States. Unfortunately, the monarchy was unable to protect itself, and days later, she was overthrown and replaced by a provincial government composed of members of the Committee of Safety.


The Queen tried to regain her throne but only cause controversy the following years. Lawyer Sanford B Dole, a citizen of Hawaii, became president of the Republic of Hawaii. After this,, the US president-elect in 1896 advocated annexing the Republic of Hawaii and by 1900, the Organic Act Establishes the territory of Hawaii.

Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be


Here’s where it starts to get more tropical. In 1901, the first hotel was built on Waikiki Beach. The Moana Hotel was affectionately named the “First Lady of Waikiki”. Things were still not the tropical vacation spot we’ve known for the last few decades but were definitely getting there. Despite several attempts to become a state in the early 1900s, Hawaii remained a territory for 60 years.


The day that will live in infamy – December 7, the Japanese launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. This launched the US into the war which lasted another four years for America. It wasn’t until September 2, 1945, that Japan signed its unconditional surrender on the USS Battleship Missouri. The ship is part of the Museum and Memorial complex at Pearl Harbor and is visited by millions every year.

Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be


1959, Hawaii finally becomes the 50th state of the United States of America. Well, it was all over by then. This is the place to be, the vacation to end all vacations, the closest spot to paradise from the US. Visitors and tourists flock to the area and when Don Ho released his signature song “Tiny Bubbles”, his music and style become synonymous with the Hawaiian culture.

The History of Volcanoes

Hawaii is definitely known for volcanoes. There are actually five in the Hawaiian Islands: Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, Lo’ihi, and Haleakala. The Big Island has the most active volcanoes in the area and one that is continually erupting. Mount Kilauea is the youngest and most active Hawaiian shield volcano nearly constantly erupting from vents either on its summit or on the rift zones. It’s also one of the most long-lived eruptions on earth starting back in 1983.

Mauna Loa is the 1984 lasting 22 days and produced lava flows which reached within about 4.5 miles of the Big Island city of Hilo. Hualalai is the third most active volcano on the island and has erupted three times in the past 1000 years. The most recent eruption in 1801 generated a lava flow that reached the ocean and now underlies the Kona International Airport.

Mauna Kea is the highest volcano on the island and even gets its fair share of snow occasionally. However, there’s not a lot of risk of irruption since its most recent irruption was about 6000 years ago. Lo’ihi is the only known active Hawaiian submarine volcano, which started erupting in 1996 during an earthquake. The summit is about 969 miles below sea level eventually.

Haleakala is the only active volcano on Maui, erupted most recently between 600 and 400 years ago. It too doesn’t pose too much of a threat but does have some great snow in the wintertime.

Hawaii History - How Paradise Came to Be

Recent Years

Since its incorporation into the United States as an official state, Hawaii has continued to grow to become one of the most diverse states in the US. Hawaii also has named the Hawaiian language as the official language of Hawaii, something you won’t find in any other US state.

Making up over 130 total islands, Hawaii is really only bound to eight major islands, several atolls, and numerous smaller islets and seamounts. The entire chain extends 1500 miles to the south.  The major islands are The Big Island, Maui, O'ahu, Kaua'i, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Ni'ihau, and Kaho'olawe. Ni'ihau is the only island that is purely restricted to Native Hawaiians. This is also known as the "Forbidden Island" and has been privately owned by the same family since 1954.

Its current population is about 1.4 million, partially due to a number of military personnel and tourists residents both on Oahu and spread among the other 6000 mi.² of land. After attaining statehood, Hawaii quickly modernized through construction and a rapidly growing tourist economy. Many state programs promote the Hawaiian culture and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs promotes indigenous language and culture keeping the history and spirit of Aloha alive and well.

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