Hawai'i Island has a broad spectrum of museums for those of you who enjoy delving into the history and culture of a new location. Here's a brief description of most of them:
Lyman House Memorial Museum, Hilo
Take a look at what life in Hawai`i was like during the missionary era by touring the 1839 missionary home here. Also browse thru the photo and library archives, which provide an in-depth history of the establishment of the sugar industry, Hawaiian royalty, the immigrant experience and much more. There is also a collection of artifacts of Hawaiian and other major island ethnic groups. 935-5021 or www.lymanmuseum.org.
Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hilo
Tidal waves are fascinating and often deadly. Hawai`i has had her share of experience with them, and in addtion to scientific information pertaining to these dramatic natural events, there is recorded first-hand testimony from survivors to be found here. The museum is a memorial to those who lost their lives in Hawaiian tsunamis, and it hopes to educate people about them in preparation for future occurances. 935-0926 or www.tsunami.org
'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i, Hilo
Located on a nine-acre campus above the University of Hawai`i-Hilo, with spectacular views of Hilo Bay, `Imiloa Astronomy Center's planetarium and exhibits provide a unique experience for visitors, students, and families seeking to explore the connections between Hawaiian cultural traditions and the science of astronomy. Phone: 969-9700 or visit
Laupahoehoe Train Museum, Laupahoehoe
In the heyday of sugar plantations on the Big Island, the railway was the main way of transporting the crop, and the Hamakua portion of the railway was the most expensive section of railway in America at the time. The museum is housed in the old Laupahoehoe Railway Station, and has photos, memorabilia and tales of the times. It is marked by a RR Xing sign on Hwy. 19 on the Hamakua Coast. 962-6300
Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, Mauna Kea Visitor Center
This is a great place to stop on your way up to the Mauna Kea summit. A lot of people stop here - around 9200 ft. elevation - to acclimatize for an hour or so before heading up to see the observatories on the peak. There are videos and displays about the observatories, astronomy, and the geography and ecology of the mountain at the Visitor Center. Often in the evenings there is a telescope set up with a helpful ranger or two pointing out features in the night sky. It can be chilly and windy, so we recommend that you take a hooded jacket with you for stargazing. 961-2180 or www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/
Natural Energy Laboratory Hawai'i Authority (NELHA), North Kona
Not a museum, but a very interesting place to visit! NELHA serves as a business incubator, research facility, and economic development agency. It offers the opportunity for organizations using sea water, sunshine, and ingenuity to perform research, engage in conservation and education activities, and produce sustainable commercial products. This is a one-of-a-kind science and technology site focused on ocean science and technology. For info about tours, visit http://friendsofnelha.org.
Hulihe'e Palace, Kailua-Kona
The Palace was a hub of Kailua-Kona when Governor John Adams Kuakini built it in 1838. Among the many things to see inside, there is a fascinating collection of local artifacts, which includes some from the reign of Kamehameha the Great, and some beautiful koa furniture. Outside on the lawn, near the royal fishpond, you may well see hula lessons taking place. The free monthly music events, sometimes with hula, continue on the Palace grounds continue (see Konaweb's Big Island Calendar of Events for details.) Visitors can choose from a 45-minute docent-guided tour, a self-guided tour (detailed brochure provided), or they can use a personal mobile telephone to access a free "On Cell" audio tour (regular mobile fees may apply). Museum hours: 9am-4pm Mondays (except for the Monday following the monthly concert event, when the Palace is open from 1-4pm) thru Saturdays. There is also a gift shop on the grounds, which is open 9:30am-4pm, Mondays-Saturdays. Contact the palace at 329-1877, the palace office at 329-9555 or visit the Hulihe'e Palace website for more info. Caretakers of Hulihe`e Palace are the Daughters of Hawai`i. The organization was founded in 1903 and opens membership to any woman who is directly descended from a person who lived in Hawai`i prior to 1880. Helping the Daughters in its efforts since 1986 are the Calabash Cousins; membership is available to all.
Kona Historical Society and Kona Coffee Living History Farm, Captain Cook
The historic Greenwell family store, a stone and coral mortar building built in 1875 as a general merchandising store, post office and meeting place, serves as the Museum. Ranching and coffee farming artifacts, photo exhibits, and a book and gift shop featuring locally made crafts. On Hwy. 11, one quarter mile south of Kealakekua. The coffee farm, also known as Uchida Coffee Farm, is a working farm in the midst of a coffee plantation, and was built by Japanese immigrants in 1925. Guides are dressed in clothes from the early 20th century, and they show visitors the original farmhouse, the Japanese (furo) bath house, the coffee processing mill and drying platforms, and talk of the immigrant farmworker experience. To reserve a spot on a tour, call 323-2006. For more info, go to Kona Historical Society's website