History a Draw for Hawaii’s Big Island

History and culture come alive on the Big Island.

By: By Marty Wentzel

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Click here for more of Big Island celebrations of history and culture.

The Details

Big Island Visitors Bureau

Hawaii’s Big Island may be the youngest destination in the chain but, thanks to its wealth of history and culture, clients can find themselves easily transported to the distant past.
It might happen during an outing with Warren Costa of Native Guide Hawaii, who speaks of legends and lore as he leads groups to significant landscapes, from the volcanoes to the sea.

“Without some understanding of Hawaii’s unique history and culture, visitors will see Hawaii as merely a vacation playground and not a real place with real people,” said Costa.

Warren Costa (far right) of Native Guide Hawaii with visitors in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. // (C) Native Guide Hawaii

Warren Costa (far right) of Native Guide
Hawaii with visitors in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. // (C) Native Guide Hawaii

Or, clients might travel back in time during a walking tour at Mauna Lani Resort, where cultural affairs director Danny Akaka points out prehistoric fishponds and petroglyphs as he recounts stories of the area.

“If visitors can come to know and understand the Hawaiian culture and its core values, perhaps they will be inspired enough to adopt these values into their own lives and share them with others,” said Akaka.

However clients encounter them, history and culture enrich a vacation on Hawaii’s Big Island, said Big Island Visitors Bureau (BIVB) executive director George Applegate. As more travelers look for ways to add meaning to their vacation, the bureau is making a point of emphasizing its educational offerings, he said.

“While we have the sun and the beach, we exceed the Hawaiian experience through our culture and history,” said Applegate.

The visitors bureau spreads that word through all of its promotional channels, including ads, travel agent presentations, media blitzes and the bureau’s Web site, Applegate added.

“We have the biggest cultural and historical message of any destination, perhaps because we are over the hot spot — Kilauea volcano — that created all the Hawaiian Islands,” he said.

When clients decide to heed the call, they find countless options for sweetening their island sojourn courtesy of ongoing historical and cultural explorations. For instance, on Thursdays at the H.N. Greenwell Store museum in Kealakekua, clients can watch how traditional sweet bread is baked in a woodfired oven, the way Portuguese immigrants did so in the 1800s.

Keauhou Beach Resort, where monarchs were born and warriors battled, immerses guests in the past during free property tours, Hawaiian language classes, ancient games, hula and ukulele lessons, lei making and arts-and-crafts demonstrations by area kupuna (elders).

Hawaii Island Retreat, built where King Kamehameha the Great once held council meetings, offers a Legends and Lore tour that teaches guests about the verbal traditions of the area, significant rock formations and plants long used for medicine during an easy walk through the tranquil valley.

And throughout the year, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park runs free cultural programs such as traditional hula and chanting performed outdoors in a dramatic setting overlooking a crater. For more suggestions, agents should consult the BIVB’s Web site.

While their approaches may vary, the island’s many cultural and historical experts share one common goal: providing clients with a sense of place.

“Every inch of the Big Island has a story to tell,” Costa said. “It’s like an open book. You just have to know how to read it.”

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