Travel insights from O’ahu Visitors Bureau

Discover Oahu’s Rich Art, Cultural, and History Attractions

Did you know that Hawaii was once a royal kingdom and that surfing originated in the islands? Oahu’s unrivaled array of attractions and experiences showcase the history of Hawaii, the cultural traditions of the Hawaiian people, and Oahu’s pivotal role in World War II. This one-of-a-kind island is perfect for today’s heritage and culturally minded travelers who seek authentic local experiences as well as multigenerational vacationers, particularly grandparents, who want to share significant historical moments and destinations with their children and grandchildren. Discover Oahu’s many cultural and historic gems so that you can create inspiring customized itineraries for your clients. 

Oahu: The Heart of Hawaii

Oahu’s extraordinary museums, palaces, and attractions bring the art, culture, and history of Hawaii to life like no other island. No wonder Oahu is known as “The Heart of Hawaii.” Discover the artistry and ingenuity of the Hawaiian people and you’ll understand why the past resonates so powerfully here today.

Bishop Museum Founded in memory of a beloved Hawaiian princess, Bishop Museum is the world’s premier destination for Hawaiian and Pacific natural history, heritage, and culture. Explore everything from life in ancient Hawaii to Polynesian voyaging, the origins of surfing, volcanoes, Hawaii’s alii (royals), and ocean life.

Iolani Palace Magnificent Iolani Palace – the only palace on U.S. soil – celebrates Hawaii’s time as a royal kingdom. King David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s second to last reigning monarch, completed the Palace in 1882 with the latest amenities and entertained world leaders in this elegant residence. Learn about the Palace’s fascinating history including the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. 

Queen Emma Summer Palace This charming, seven-room Greek Revival home in the mountains overlooking Honolulu was the summer retreat of Queen Emma of Hawaii and her family in the mid-to-late 19th century. Filled with family heirlooms, portraits, and possessions, Queen Emma Summer Palace enables visitors to feel an immediate connection to those who once lived here.  

Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (HMH) Now celebrating its 200th anniversary, HMH illuminates the history of the Protestant missionaries and their relationship with the people of Hawaii and the royal family during the 19th century. This National Historic Landmark in Honolulu’s Historic Capital District preserves Hawaii’s two oldest houses, a cemetery, archives, collections, and a library.

Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) Groundbreaking international exhibits and permanent art collections from Europe, Asia, and Hawaii can be seen at HoMA which is housed in two of Honolulu’s most beautiful buildings. Lively film festivals and special events also fill the yearly calendar.

Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) Contemporary works by Hawaii artists are the focus at HiSAM which is also known for wonderful free, live events. At the monthly First Friday, the museum stays open late for a family friendly evening of art and live music. On the monthly Second Saturday, guests drop in for a hands-on “make and take” art activity.

World War II Comes to Life on Oahu

The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor – “a date which will live in infamy” – propelled the U.S. into what became World War II, changing life on Oahu and across the world forever. Pearl Harbor Historic Sites is home to several of the nation’s most profoundly moving memorials.

USS Arizona Memorial Few experiences rival a visit to the iconic white landmark suspended over the sunken hull of the USS Arizona which was hit during the December 7, 1941 attack. Witness the names of the 1,177 seamen who perished that day and honor the service and sacrifice of these heroes.

Battleship Missouri Memorial History comes full circle on board the “Mighty Mo,” moored just a ship’s length away from the USS Arizona Memorial. Experience the historic significance of the end of World War II on the Surrender Deck, the spot where the Japanese signed the official documents while the battleship was docked in Tokyo Bay, Japan on September 2, 1945.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park Launched December 7, 1942 – a full year after the Pearl Harbor attack – the USS Bowfin was a fleet attack submarine that went out on nine war patrols between 1943 and 1945. See what life was like on this authentic WWII submarine while touring this completely restored engineering marvel.

Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum Housed in two WWII airplane hangars and the control tower that still carry the scars of the December 7, 1941 attack, Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum showcases that fateful day through film, exhibits, authentic aircraft, and interactive hands-on experiences.

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