Museums off the Beaten Path

These historical treasures on Maui and Oʻahu tell stories of the islands.

Text by Sarah Ruppenthal, Harrison Patino, and Anna Harmon | Images by John Hook

Heading up Lahainaluna Drive en route to Maui’s Hale Pa‘i Museum, it seems like you are going any way but the right one, having left the busy thoroughfare of Lāhainā for a dusty hill, and passing residential homes, and fences hung with signs cheering on Lahainaluna High School students. Then, you arrive at the shady campus, and pull up at a small, restored, two-bedroom building built in 1837. History was made here. Step inside, and you will discover an antique printing press, and ephemera of an influential era in Hawai‘i. Deeper understanding awaits at museums across the islands. In these seven spots on Maui and O‘ahu, visitors can learn about everything from the plight of native bird species to what makes a Hawaiian Tree horseback saddle unique to the islands.


museum_judiciary002King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center
If you’ve ever watched the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, you’ll recognize Ali‘iōlani Hale as the intrepid task force’s headquarters. In truth, the stately historical building houses the Judiciary History Center—as well as Hawai‘i’s Supreme Court. Inside the center, you’ll find a detailed history of Hawai‘i’s many legal systems, spanning from the pre-colonial kapu system to the adoption of a Western court system, and continuing into the state of martial law that was adopted during World War II. The museum is even home to an original courtroom built in 1913, though now you’re more likely to find visitors taking selfies in the judge’s chair rather than witnessing any proceedings.

Judiciary History Center 417 S. King St., Honolulu
Free admission 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Tuesday–Friday

The Home of the Brave Brewseum

The walls of the Tomlinson family’s Kaka‘ako brewpub and museum are lined with pin-up girls, vintage beer cans, and old black and white photos. Here, you can just as easily get a lesson in WWII history as you can a craft beer from the bar. Of the many brews offered, including six rotating draft microbrews from Hawai‘i and the mainland, you can also choose one of the Tomlinsons’ own creations. They brew their concoctions right next door to the Brewseum, in the back of their Home of the Brave WWII museum, which serves as base for their historical tours. Up until the 1940s, this neighbor building to the Brewseum was actually used as a horse barn, the Kaka‘ako Stables. The Brewseum, which is open to the public, also houses some of the Tomlinsons’ private collection of military memorabilia, complete with an array of vintage weapons, supplies, and authentic uniforms from WWII. While visiting, be sure to get a picture of yourself in the 1942 Willys Jeep, which is the same year and model that Admiral Nimitz drove in WWII.


The Home of the Brave Brewseum, 901 Waimanu St., Honolulu
Free admission (drinks not included)
5–10 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 5–11 p.m. Friday–Saturday


U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i 

Looking down at Fort DeRussy from the Waikīkī hotels and high-rises that flank the old military reservation, you’d think the beachside battery was still fit for active service, with its imposing twin artillery guns perched atop the roof, and row of tanks lining the entrance. While the fort hasn’t been active since 1944, it does still house the largest private collection of military history and memorabilia in Hawai‘i.

U.S. Army Museum of Hawai‘i 2131 Kalia Rd.,
Honolulu Free admission (donations welcome), $2+ parking with validation
9 a.m.–4:15 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday


The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
Less obscure than the rest, this museum is a veritable Hawai‘i institution. Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop as a museum of natural history and science, the Bishop Museum is now a display of all things Hawaiian, with exhibits covering subjects like astronomy, anthropology, and prehistoric plants and animals. Its newly renovated Pacific Hall houses the largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts in the world. The museum also regularly hosts interactive experiences, such as live shows at its planetarium and its Native Garden tour. In addition, the museum hosts rotating exhibits, such as Sweet: A Tasty Journey, an interactive exhibit about the history and making of candy, on display through May 30, and Lele O Nā Manu: Hawaiian Forest Birds, an exhibit about the diversity, history, and culture of Hawai‘i’s gorgeous and highly endangered native bird species, on display through July 31.


The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu
Adults, $22; seniors, $19.95; ages 4–12, $14.95; ages 3 and under, free (plus kama‘āina and military discounts)
Parking is $5, 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Sunday


Makawao History Museum
Upon entering the Makawao History Museum, expect to be greeted by a horse of a different color, literally. Renowned local artist Darrell Orwig regularly repaints a pony-sized equine cutout that stands in the entryway. It’s one of the many charming things you’ll find in this one-room museum that brims with old photos and artifacts. Rotating exhibits explore the history and heritage of Makawao’s settlers, including Hawaiians, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Filipinos, as well as the town’s paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture. Visitors can purchase a historical walking map of Makawao Town for $2, or the Look What’s Cooking in Makawao cookbook for $20, which is filled with family recipes from local residents.

Makawao History Museum 3643 Baldwin Ave., Makawao
Free admission (donations welcome)
10 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday–Sunday

Bailey House Museum
Visitors and local residents often proclaim, “I didn’t know this was here!” when stopping by this museum for the first time. The former mission home was built in 1833 on the royal compound of Kahekili II, the last ruling chief of Maui, and was once home to missionary teacher—and namesake—Edward Bailey and his family. The Bailey House opened as a museum in 1957, and was placed on both the National and Hawai‘i Registers of Historic Places in 1972. Found inside is Maui’s largest collection of pre-contact Hawaiian artifacts, 19th century missionary domestic goods, paintings of Hawai‘i, and koa furniture. Outside is a garden with missionary-era plants, a 100-year-old canoe, and a surfboard that belonged to Hawaiian sports legend Duke Kahanamoku.


Bailey House Museum 2375A Main St., Wailuku
Adults, $7; seniors and kama‘āina, $5; ages 7–12, $2; ages 6 and under, free
10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday–Saturday

Hale Pa‘i Museum
In February 1834, the first edition of Ka Lama Hawaii was printed on a wooden press in a tiny, thatched-roof hut on the Lahainaluna Seminary (now Lahainaluna High School) campus. Not only was it the first Hawaiian language newspaper, but it was also the first newspaper published west of the Rocky Mountains. Eventually, a pitched roof, two-room house was built, which became the home of the school’s press for more than a century. Today, the house is known as Hale Pa‘i, or the “house of printing.” Hale Pa‘i Museum has the entire history of Ka Lama Hawaii, as well as one of the paper’s original 1838 publications, on display, as well as a vintage printing press. Visitors may also peruse some of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s first paper currency and a collection of original manuscripts.


Hale Pa‘i Museum 980 Lahainaluna Rd., Lāhaina (Lahainaluna High School Campus)
Free admission 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday–Wednesday

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