Skip to main content.

Tracing Honolulu’s Arts and Culture From Hawaiian Kings to World War II

Find a place to stay

Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is a city with a famously diverse history and culture. You'll find an array of museums showcasing items from Hawaii’s dynastic past, landmarks celebrating past kings, and galleries that focus on local artists. From Christian missionaries to World War II bombings, Honolulu is filled with thrilling tales and visually stunning artifacts.

Historic landmarks


Honolulu's history is vast and intriguing, and the city has landmarks that celebrate its life both as the Kingdom of Hawaii and an American state. You can explore the residence at Iolani Palace, used by Hawaii's royal rulers in the 19th century. Also a must-see, Pearl Harbor is the site of the World War II bombing that changed the course of America's involvement in the conflict.


Pearl Harbor


On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed an American naval base here, leading the U.S. into World War II. Today, you can see the haunting USS Arizona and USS Missouri memorials that pay tribute to the lives lost that day.


1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu 96818Tel: +1 808 422 3399


Pearl Harbor website


Iolani Palace


Built in 1882, Iolani Palace is the only official royal residence in the U.S. You can take a tour and see the thrones of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, as well as a collection of royal jewelry.


364 South King Street, Honolulu 96813. Tel: +1 808 522 0832


Iolani Palace website

Historical institutions


Honolulu is home to a plethora of museums that offer insights into various facets of its history and past. You can learn about the history of the American military or even explore the plantation culture of the islands. Other museums outline the influence Christian missionaries had on Honolulu and Hawaii.


Bishop Museum


Founded in 1889, this museum was originally used to preserve the belongings of King Kamehameha's last direct descendant. Today it houses a collection of approximately 25 million artifacts that document the cultures of Hawaii and other Pacific island nations.


1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu 96817. Tel: +1 808 847 3511


Bishop Museum website


Hawaiian Mission Houses


Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820 determined to spread the Gospel to the natives. This museum showcases their involvement and achievements. You can tour their original buildings, including the oldest wooden structure in Hawaii.


553 South King Street, Honolulu 96813. Tel: +1 808 447 3910


Hawaiian Mission Houses website


Art museums


In addition to the city's cultural and historical museums, you'll encounter a wealth of art museums and collections in Honolulu. Notable institutions include the Hawaii State Art Museum, which celebrates Hawaiian artists. There's also the Honolulu Museum of Art, which houses an impressive collection of Hawaiian, American, and European art, including pieces by Renaissance masters.


Hawaii State Art Museum


Opened in 2002, this museum spans 12,000 square feet and contains a collection of Hawaiian artwork. It also houses multiple galleries, including the Diamond Head Gallery and the Ewa Gallery.


250 South Hotel Street, Honolulu 96813. Tel: +1 808 586 0300


Hawaii State Art Museum website


Honolulu Museum of Art


The permanent collection at this museum includes Japanese prints, Renaissance paintings, and Hawaiian art. You can also tour Shangri-La, the estate of heiress and art collector Doris Duke.


900 South Beretania, Honolulu 96814. Tel: +1 808 532 8700


Honolulu Museum of Art website


Notable sculptures


In addition to Honolulu’s impressive natural landmarks, like Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, it also features notable sculptures throughout the city dedicated to its historic heritage as well as more modern heroes. You’ll find an impressive sculpture of King Kamehameha I, the king who united the Hawaiian Islands in the 18th century, outside the Supreme Court building. The second notable statue pays homage to a king of a different sort, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimmer and famous surfer.


Kamehameha I Statue


Located outside Aliiolani Hale, the home of the Hawaii State Supreme Court, this iconic sculpture is the work of American sculptor T. R. Gould. It is adorned with fresh lei every year on the king's birthday.


417 South King Street, Honolulu 96813.