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The History of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Uniqueness of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Almost every national park in America has an interesting story as to how it became one. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is no exception. But Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s history has aspects to it that are probably unique among the country’s national parks. For example, one of leading proponents in creating the park protected an important Hawaiian natural and cultural treasure. But, at the same time, he was also an instrumental player in the downfall of the Hawaiian monarchy. Also, the park might be the only national park that was later divided into two separate national parks.

Today, visitors from all over the world can still see constant volcanic activity within the park. This is especially prominent in the form of continually flowing lava. The flow has been ongoing since 1983 and adding new land mass to the island. The ancient Hawaiians treated Kilauea volcano and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera as the sacred home of the fire goddess Pele. The high frequency of its spectacular volcanic eruptions and lava flows have fascinated and intrigued the ancient Hawaiians. But it has also done the same to non-native residents and visitors who were fortunate to see them.

The People Behind the Creation of the Park

One of those individuals was Lorrin A. Thurston. Thurston was a powerful player in Hawaiian politics who was one of the leaders behind the overthrow of  the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. He was also a successful businessman as well as the  founder and publisher of the Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser daily newspaper. This newspaper was the forerunner of today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Thurston had a vested interest in making the area a national park. This is because he had purchased a hotel near the rim of Kilauea Volcano, called the Volcano House. But, he also loved the area and even discovered a lava tube which today bears his name, the Thurston Lava Tube. Thurston leveraged his ownership in the newspaper by publishing editorials in favor of establishing a national park. Such actions would help to protect as well as promote the area. He was the leader of the Territory of Hawaii’s lobbying efforts in Congress, including paying for travel expenses of 50 congressmen to visit the volcano.

However, it was not until volcanologist Dr. Thomas Jagger arrived in 1912, who founded and directed the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, that Thurston’s lobbying efforts became successful. Together, these two individuals were able to convince Congress of the value of creating a national park in the then Territory of Hawaii.

Lava Flow

Freshly hardened lava flow in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Official Establishment of the Park

After 10 years of lobbying efforts, Congress passed legislation to create the park. This Congressional action was subsequently approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The park which, was first named Hawaii National Park, became the nation’s 13th national park and was the first that was established within a territory, rather than within a state, of the country. At the time, the park initially only included the summits of Kilauea, Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii and Haleakala on Maui. Later, the Kilauea caldera area was added to the park. In 1960, through an act of Congress, the Haleakala section of Hawaii National Park on Maui became a separate national park, known as Haleakala National Park. While the section of the park on the Big Island then became known as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Worldwide Recognition of the Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is famous domestically as well as internationally. It very popular among the nation’s 59 national parks, often referred to as “America’s Best Idea.” Prominent  international organizations have recognized Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as a scientifically and culturally important site. In 1980, UNESCO named it as an International Biosphere citing it for its important volcanic sites, unique influence on the island’s ecosystem and cultural and historic sites. In 1987, UNESCO also designated the park as World Heritage Site.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Areas along the Chain of Craters Road.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

View of Hanauma Bay.

Hanauma Bay, on the southeastern tip of Oahu along Kalanianaole Highway, is one the most popular beaches in Hawaii. Some websites even recognize it as one of the best beaches in the entire US. While many consider it as one of the best places in Hawaii to observe pristine underwater Hawaiian marine life. The bay’s popularity as a beach stretches far back into ancient Hawaii when it was an exclusive recreation spot for Hawaiian royalty.

The Bay’s Legend

According to Hawaiian legend, a battle between two suitors fighting for the hand of Princess Keohinani formed this area. Because the battle went on and on without a victor, Keohiani begged her father, a magician, to end the struggle. Keohiani’s father ordered the men to end the battle, but neither obliged. In anger, he used his magic to turn the combatants into lizards with interlocked tails. But Keohiani, who loved both men, appealed to the gods. The gods then turned the lizards into two mountains overlooking the bay Keohiani loved so much. That bay was Hanauma Bay.

View of Hanauma Bay.

Another view of Hanauma Bay.

The Creation of Hanauma Bay

In addition to such colorful ancient legends, the bay’s geologic make-up contributes to its overall appeal. Over 40,000 years ago a series of volcanic cinder cones erupted in the area.  Six separate cinder cones created the crater that forms the bay today. The ocean then eroded the seaside walls of the crater. And this eventually created the scenic semi-circular bay and its picturesque beach. Its shape and reefs contributes to the calm waters in most parts of the bay. But visitors should be aware of strong and sometimes dangerous currents on the outer rims.

Designation as a Conservation Area

Not only has the bay been a great beach since ancient times, it was once a popular place to fish. It eventually became too popular a place to fish. In response to overfishing, in 1967, the bay became a Marine Life Conservation Area. This prohibited fishing and protected all forms of marine life in the bay. Hanauma Bay is now also a breeding ground for the rare Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu.

Even with the ban on fishing, Hanauma Bay became so popular, the City had to introduce an admission fee for non-residents to control crowds in 1997. The bay, like many popular parks throughout the county, was literally being loved to death. During the 1980s, there were over 10,000 visitors coming to Hanauma Bay each day. Visitors were unwittingly killing its reefs by walking on them. And the amount of sunscreen in the water was also doing the same to the parts of the reef closest to the beach.

Visiting the Bay

The admission fee for non-residents did help to control the crowds and the City used the money to improve park facilities. One visitor actually tried to sue the City in a class action lawsuit in 2001 because she and her attorney thought it was discriminatory to do so. The admission fee at the time was $3.00. The City won the case in Federal court. The ruling was that the fee was only incidental to the plaintiff’s enjoyment of the park. Appeals court even upheld the ruling in 2004.

Today, the entrance fee is $7.50 per person for each non-resident 13 years or older. While the parking is only parking is $1, there are only 300 parking spaces available. So it is important to arrive early to get a parking space. As parking space become available, cars are allowed into the lot. First timers must watch a 9 minute video about the bay before entering the park. Depending upon crowds, it can take up to an hour or longer to see the video. Except on Tuesdays, the bay is open daily from 6:00 am to either 6:00 pm or to 7:00 pm, depending upon the season.

Things to See Driving on Oahu

Things to See on Oahu

The Arizona Memorial, one of the things to see driving on Oahu.

Examples of Things to See Driving on Oahu

If you have a day to spend, have a rental car and want to see as much of the island of Oahu as possible, you might want to try out this travel itinerary. It might be a little ambitious; so it’ll be important to get an early start. But if somehow you don’t, get behind schedule or get stuck in traffic, you can make up some or all of the time by leaving some stops off your travel agenda. So here are our recommendations on things to see driving on Oahu.

Arizona Memorial

Start your day bright and early by arriving at the Arizona Memorial when it opens at 7:00 am. As it is one of the most visited attractions and most historic in all of Hawaii, you can easily spend a couple of hours and more at the memorial. Plus, there’s the famous battleship, USS Missouri, on display on nearby Ford Island and a World War II submarine, the USS Bowfin, that you can also visit. Without doubt, this has to be one of best things to see driving on Oahu.

Dole Plantation

After Pearl Harbor, head past the town of Wahiawa to the Dole Plantation complex. Here, you can sample all sorts of pineapple related treats from fresh squeezed juice to frozen treats, candies and preserves as well as get a glimpse of the wide range of pineapples that have been grown in the 50th State. The plantation also claims to have the world’s largest maze as well as a pineapple train ride.

The Dole Plantation, one of the many things you can see driving on Oahu.

The Dole Plantation.

Matsumoto Shave Ice

Continuing your drive north, head out to the historic town of Haleiwa and stop by the Matsumoto Shave Ice store for one of the Aloha State’s most iconic treats, shave ice. Unlike frozen ice treats served at convenience stores on the US mainland, shave ice is uniquely different because the ice used in this confection is shaved, not chopped or ground. This might arguably be Hawaii’s most famous stop for shave ice; so don’t pass up this opportunity to try it here.

North Shore Surf Spots

Continue along Kamehameha Highway and you’ll drive by world famous surf spots such as the Banzai Pipeline, Chun’s Reef, Laniakea and Sunset Beach. During the summer when the surf is down, you can also stop by picturesque Waimea Bay where you can relax on a large sandy beach and even enjoy a nice swim. If you have time, you can visit nearby Waimea Valley to see its beautiful botanical gardens and waterfall directly across Waimea Bay.

Waimea Bay in the summer, another one of the things to see driving on Oahu.

Waimea Bay in the summer.

Kahuku Food Trucks

You might now be working up your appetite as you continue your drive to the town of Kahuku. As you approach the town, you can see some lunch trucks on both sides of the highway. Here, you can stop by for a late lunch or early dinner. These mobile roadside food establishments might just serve some of the best cuisine ever served by a food truck. Of course, they’ll all feature locally grown Kahuku shrimp. In the next town of Laie, there’s the world famous Polynesian Cultural Center. But unless this your last stop, you’ll probably won’t have time to fully enjoy what the center has to offer.

Chinaman’s Hat

As you head towards the town of Kaneohe, you will see the hat shaped islet of Mokoli’i, popularly known to most local residents as Chinaman’s Hat. Stop to take a picture here. There’s a popular park and white sand beach fronting Chinaman’s Hat as well as the Kualoa Ranch where, if you have some time, you can do horseback riding, zip-lining, go on ATV expeditions and visit locations where a number major motion pictures were filmed.

Chinaman’s Hat, one of the things to see driving on Oahu.

Chinaman’s Hat.

Pali Lookout

If it’s not too late, stop by the Pali Lookout for a panorama of the windward side of the island. Coming from the windward side, the road to the lookout will be a few miles past the tunnels. To avoid theft, be sure not to leave your valuables in your car when you head out to the lookout. This area not only affords the best views of windward Oahu. But it was also the site of a historic 1795 battle. Here, King Kamehameha’s army defeated the warriors of Oahu in his goal of unifying the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. It’s definitely one of the things to see driving on Oahu.

View of windward Oahu from the Pali Lookout and of the things to see driving on Oahu.

View of windward Oahu from the Pali Lookout.

Major Motion Pictures Shot on Maui

Hana, one of the places of motion pictures shot on Maui.

Hana Highway, one of the sites of major motion pictures shot on Maui.

The Few Motion Pictures Shot on Maui

The State of Hawaii has provided the beautiful backdrop of a number of great Hollywood blockbuster movies. They included Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Descendants and more. However, most of those films were either filmed on the island of Kauai or Oahu. But were there any major motion pictures shot on Maui? Here is an overview of the relatively few that were.

The Devil at 4 O’clock

This 1961 disaster epic is about a priest’s efforts to rescue children with Hansen’s disease from an exploding volcano. It had all of the essential components for a successful major motion picture. It had arguable two of the biggest name stars in Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra. The special effects in the movie, set in a fictional island in French Polynesia, were leading edge for the times. Last but not least, it featured a great setting, Maui. Most of the movie was shot on location in the town of Lahaina.

The Hawaiians

This 1970 movie starred Charleston Heston and Geraldine Chaplin. The story came from the later chapters of the best-selling James Michener novel, Hawaii. The movie had a number of scenes shot on Maui in addition to covering key historic events in Hawaii. One example was the Chinese and Japanese immigration to the islands. Another one was the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The spread and control of Hansen’s Disease and the development of the pineapple industry in Hawaii were also covered in the movie. The movie’s depiction of how the pineapple industry started in Hawaii is ironically appropriate. This is because as Maui was one of the last places in Hawaii to grow pineapples.


You have big name stars like Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. You also have Maui as a backdrop in this 1973 Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winning movie. What more do you need? This movie is about life in the infamous penal system in French Guiana. It had a number of key scenes shot in Hana, Maui. Here, the climactic scene where Papillon jumped off a dangerous cliff to escape imprisonment was shot. Steve McQueen, being Steve McQueen, actually did the dangerous cliff jumping scene himself.

Despite such major motion pictures, it’s a mystery why Hollywood doesn’t shoot more films on Maui. Millions of tourists throughout the world know and appreciate Maui’s enticing charms. Hopefully, the movie industry will one day rediscover it as well as utilize it more fully.

The Ukulele

The ukulele.

The ukulele. Photo courtesy of John Cheung.

The Story of the Ukulele in Hawaii

Residents of Portuguese origins only comprise a relative small percentage of Hawaii’s population. But their contributions to the Aloha State’s culture have been immense. As examples, Hawaii repertoire of culinary options would certainly not be the same. Such dishes have included Portuguese bean soup, malasadas and Portuguese sausage. It would be hard to imagine everyday life in Hawaii without them.

Their Biggest Contribution

But perhaps, the biggest contributions of the Portuguese in Hawaii is the unique musical instrument, the ukulele. This magical string instrument has greatly affected Hawaii’s cultural heritage. But it has also impacted music lovers throughout the world.

Most Portuguese immigrants arrived in Hawaii during the late 1800s to early 1900s to work on sugar plantations. Most came from the Portuguese islands of the Azores, Cape Verde and Madera. They also brought their music and later made adaptations of musical instruments from their home country.

The First Ukulele Makers

Wanting to perpetuate the rich musical heritage of their homeland, Hawaii’s Portuguese immigrants fashioned instruments. Three Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo and Augusto Dias, were the first ukulele makers. The design of the ukulele was similar to number of small guitar-like instruments from Portugal. These included the machete, the cavaquinho, the timple and the rajão.

There are several stories how ukulele got its name. One of them was that its name roughly translates to “jumping flea.” This was a tribute to the rapid movement of the fingers in playing the instrument.

Popularizing the Ukulele

Probably the most important person in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was King Kalākaua. A patron of the arts, he incorporated the ukulele into performances at royal gatherings and functions.

Hawaii’s musicians first made the ukulele popular at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Here, the Hawaiian Pavilion featured an ensemble of George E. K. Awai and his Royal Hawaiian Quartet. It also featured ukulele maker and player Jonah Kumalae. Most people today attribute the ukulele’s worldwide appeal to celebrity Arthur Godfrey. He personally played and showcased the ukulele on his popular television shows during the 1940 to 1950s.

The Ukulele Today

After the 1960s, the ukulele declined in popularity until the late 1990s. This was when interest in the instrument reappeared. Legendary Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole helped re-establish the instrument in his songs. Films, television programs and commercials used his song like Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World. More recently, Jake Shimabukuro established himself as the world’s leading ukulele virtuoso. National television has showcased his masterful rendition of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This show has also gone viral on YouTube.

Today, the ukulele is played by many and its melodious tunes are appreciated by many more. We can thank Hawaii’s Portuguese immigrants for creating this wonderful musical instrument. It’s a gift enjoyed not only by the people of Hawaii, but also by millions throughout the world.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Queen Lili'oukalani Gardens, one of the hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden, one of the hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Finding the Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Like to take the path less taken whenever you travel? If so, the Gathering Place of Oahu has many such locales. Looking for a less crowded, out of the way attraction or some great eating place that only the local residents know about? If so, this Hawaiian Island definitely has them. Here are our recommendations for such hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden

Right outside downtown Honolulu in the middle of a secluded residential area is an idyllic botanical garden. It once served as the private park of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’oukalani. In an area shaded by monkeypod trees and Hawaiian plants, you can find a small but beautiful waterfall and pond. They are surrounded by a small but picturesque park. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and some scenic picture taking. But you’d better bring some mosquito repellent. Plus, parking is here very limited.

More hidden hotspots on Oahu

View from Diamond Head summit.

Diamond Head Lookout

Conveniently situated near Waikiki, there is a trail that starts from inside Diamond Head Crater that leads to its summit. The stimulating hike up the trail can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, which will take you through a winding maze of old World War I coastal defense fortifications, dimly-lite tunnels and steep, long stairwells. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded by some of the best commanding views of Waikiki and its surrounding areas. It’s also a favorite place to watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

One of the hidden hotspots on Oahu

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park on Tantalus

Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu, this state park offers arguably the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. To get here, you’ll have to drive through winding road lined with homes perched on hillside properties. After you see the gate to the park, drive past it up the hill. Once you reach the parking lot, walk a few feet to a covered observation area and then take in the majestic views of Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city. As this place is higher up in elevation and blessed with cool winds, it’s a great place to hang out on a warm and humid summer day.

Ka’ena Point

Found on Oahu’s most extreme northwestern point, Ka’ena Point is an isolated spot on the island and features some of Hawaii’s most rare endemic coastal plant life. It’s also a great spot to view native Hawaiian seabirds as well as to catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking on the seashore. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking as the paved road ends as you get closer to the point. Be aware that you should not enter the water here as the surf is very rough and because there is a very dangerous rip current offshore.

Eat the Street

Since 2011, on the last Friday of each month from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the who’s who of Honolulu’s food trucks vendors converge in the Ka’akako area, which is conveniently located near Waikiki, to offer a wide range of prepared foods. The food types on display here range from your typical Hawaii plate lunch fare to fancy gourmet dishes. This monthly has grown to become one of the most popular food gatherings in town.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

This iconic hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in Hawaiian food has been prominently featured on national TV. Why? Because if you like Hawaiian food, many locals will tell you that this is the place to go. It’s located in the Kalihi area of town an older unassuming wooden building on School Street. However, be aware when you go here that parking is very limited and service is first come first served. Plus, it only opens from Tuesdays to Fridays until 7:30 pm.