Museums and Other Big Island Must-See-Ems
By Paula Thomas
The Polynesians first settled the Hawaiian Islands around 400 A.D. and there are several state parks around the island where you can learn about the ancient Hawaiian way of life.
One of them is Lapakahi State Historical Park, just north of Kawaihae, a 600-year-old settlement. Walk along the park's extensive trails and take time to imagine what it may have been like to live off the land in complete harmony with nature: invent tools, hunt for food, thatch a house and chisel nature in order to protect and preserve.
The Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Park in Kawaihae, or burial ground, is a National Historic site and at Pu‘uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park in Kealakekua you can learn about ancient Hawaiian rituals, customs and lifestyles, especially the Hawaiian's implicit connection with nature.
You'll likely see an abundance of Hawaiian petroglyph designs adorning items ranging from aloha shirts to coasters; the real artifacts were carved hundreds of years ago in stone. Don't miss seeing these genuine native images up close: just off Waikoloa Beach Road where there is a walking trail to the petroglyphs.
Another highlight of Polynesian culture, as many know, is the lu'au - a Hawaiian feast that is named for the tops of the taro always served at one. Several hotels feature lu'au evenings where guests can enjoy a traditional Polynesian revue-style lu'au with fire-knife and hula dancers, or experience a new show that mixes the hula with performance art and modern dance. Either way, visitors will experience Hawaiian history, myth and legend in a way that brings to life Kamapua‘a (the pig-man warrior) and the wrathful volcano goddess Pele.
For those who love the wild, wild West, the Big Island also has its share of ranches and cowboys - called "paniolos" (pan-ee-oh-lows) in Hawaiian, which comes from the word, Espanol (because the first cowboys brought here by King Kamehameha III were Spanish-speaking). The region extending from North Kohala to Honoka‘a is considered paniolo country; and if you can't find a rodeo, visit a ranch to experience the paniolos' lifestyle and their deep-rooted respect for the land.
To delve a bit deeper into the Big Island's history, visit some of the museums around the island that chronicle its land, people and culture.
Hulihe‘e Palace Museum - 329-1877
'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai'i - 969-9700
Thomas A. Jaggar Museum - 985-6000
Kona Historical Society - 323-3222
Lyman Museum & Mission House - 935-5021
Pacific Tsunami Museum - 935-0926
Parker Ranch Visitor Center & Museum
Wailoa Center - 933-0416
Also remember to look at the monthly Calendar of Events which provides a daily known for - diversity - and to sample ethnic food, music and crafts. You might have the chance to watch mochi-pounding, poi-making, mat-weaving or a Bon Dance while listening to local artists playing slack key or performing taiko drumming. All provide an opportunity to interact, to "talk story" (hold a conversation) with the vendors, artists and craftspeople… so don't pass up the chance!