EXPLORING HAWAII'S HISTORY AND NATURAL HISTORY
Click on the Oahu Insights tour name listed below that explores the periods of history or natural history of most interest to you.
Each Oahu Insights tour is led by a naturalist/historian.
Driving tours include a full time driver and GMC Yukon (up to 6 guests).
On walking tours, the guide will meet you at the tour site. Need a lift to the tour site but don't want to take a taxi or Uber? Hotel pickup or drop off is available at additional cost, please inquire.
Oahu Insights does not accept commissions or kickbacks of any kind for recommendations we provide, as well as for any concession, restaurant or store we visit during our tours.
Want to include other sites or subject matters not listed on a tour? Listed tours are fully customizable including visited sites, covered subject matter, start time and length. Please visit our Request Info page if you need assistance or you can call us at +1 (808) 762-1500.
HAWAII'S NATURAL HISTORY
Hawai'i has the most active volcanoes in the world, the highest mountains in the world and is the most remote island archipelago in the world. Those volcanoes are still at work enlarging the Big Island while older Oahu is collapsing into the sea at breakneck speed. However, Oahu is not extinct yet: explosive volcanoes have erupted in Honolulu itself perhaps as recently as 7,000 years ago.
Hawaii is blessed with the best climate on the planet. Located in the tropics but cooled by the trade winds with high mountains that capture the rain, lush tropical rain forests blanket the slopes of the mountains of Oahu. This fragile ecosystem is under assault from foreign invaders introduced to Hawaii by people, starting with the Polynesians who brought with them from the South Pacific their pigs, golden fowl and stowaway rats as well as canoe plants such as taro, bamboo, breadfruit, sweet potato and the coconut. Western whalers and traders brought disease and the mosquito.
HAWAII'S HISTORICAL EPOCHS
As the crossroads of the Pacific, Hawai has a rich human history spanning 1,500 years. Oahu Insights historical tours are categorized into the following periods:
Polynesian Exploration and Settlement 500AD to 1300AD
After spreading the Polynesian civilization on over a thousand islands across 10 million square miles of the Pacific, the first group of explorers from the Marquesas Islands using wayfinding by stars and following migrating birds reached Hawai'i in the 5th c. AD and created an idyllic agrarian society for almost a thousand years.
The Ancient Hawaiian Kapu (Taboo) Society 1300AD-1779AD
The Tahitian priest Pa'ao arrived in the 14th century and introduced the idea of mana (divine power) which was inherited from your parents but could also be enhanced by killing your enemies and taking their mana.
This was also the period of kapu law, strict codes that forbade touching an ali'i chief or even their shadow, disallowed females from eating coconuts and certain types of fish or eating with men. The only sentence for breaking a kapu law was death by human sacrifice. However, kapu law strictly enforced environmental practices which allowed between 250,000 to 400,000 Hawaiians to live in balance with nature using limited island resources.
Hawaiian Monarchy 1795AD to 1893AD
The arrival of Captain Cook in 1778 coincided with Hawaii's greatest chief who would unite the islands for the first time, King Kamehameha the Great. Adapting European royal traditions, he founded a dynasty that within 100 years transitioned Hawai'i from a traditional Polynesian society to a modern society while western diseases killed 80%-90% of the Hawaiian population. The Hawaiian monarchs were dethroned by American missionary descendants who built a massive sugar industry and steered Hawai'i to become part of the United States.
Territorial Days 1893 to 1958
The decimated Hawaiian population required the importation of large groups of immigrants from Asia to work the sugar cane fields, forever changing the character of Hawaii to become the world's greatest melting pot of different cultures from all around the Pacific.
The United States' victory in the Spanish American War and the acquisition of the Philippines from Spain in 1898 made Pearl Harbor a strategic military position, accelerating Hawai'i to be a U.S. territory the same year. By WW II Pearl Harbor was the United States' largest military presence in the Pacific Theater leading to its bombing by Japan on December 7th 1941,"The day that will live in infamy".
Statehood and Modern Hawaii 1959 to today
The arrival of statehood to the United States sparked massive infrastructure development including the development of the Waikiki and Ala Moana districts we know today.
The successful voyage of Thor Heyerdahl from South America to Tahiti on the outrigger Kon-Tiki proving how Polynesians navigated the Pacific Ocean ignited new Hawaiian pride in Polynesian traditions, culture and the arts leading to the Second Hawaiian Renaisaance in the 1970's.