Although not at first evident to visitors and new residents, the Big Island has a fascinating natural and cultural history. Over the past 600 or so years West Hawai‘i in particular has been a focal point for numerous key events in the history of the state.
These include the development of a highly-complex and structured Hawaiian civilization; the site of Captain James Cook’s grand reception and later his untimely death; the arrival of the first Christian missionaries; the launching pad for a military campaign that melded the island chain into one kingdom; and finally, the place where Hawaiian royalty first broke the ancient Polynesian kapu religious system, precipitating cultural changes that would spin the island nation into the modern era.
The Kona-Kohala Coast has also been the birthplace and home to a number of history-making individuals over the centuries, from King Kamehameha the Great, who united the Islands under a single rule, to Ellison Onizuka, the state’s first astronaut.
Numerous historical/cultural sites and museums throughout West Hawai‘i provide a perspective on developments that are the legacy of present-day Hawai‘i. These range from Hawaiian archaeological sites such as Puukohala Heiau National Historic Site in South Kohala to graceful Hulihe‘e Palace and Moku‘aikaua Church in Kailua-Kona to Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park in South Kona.