Bishop Museum

From lava flows to a whale skeleton and the regalia of ancient royalty, you’ll find aspects of Hawaii’s unique heritage on display at this gallery with planetarium.

Learn how the ancient Polynesians navigated using the stars, watch a volcano erupt and browse the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. Established in 1889, the museum features collections designed to educate the public on the cultural, geographical and natural history of the “Aloha State.”

The centerpiece of the museum is the stunning Hawaiian Hall. This was the first part of the museum to be built, and its classical Victorian architecture stands in stark contrast to the wooden pillars carved in Polynesian style. Admire the colorful Hawaiian capes hanging on the walls and check out the extensive collection of traditional artifacts.

The hall also impresses visitors because of the 50-foot (15-meter) skeleton of a sperm whale that hangs from its ceiling. Only partially covered with a papier-mâché skin, the installation allows you to inspect the bone structure of these magnificent marine creatures.

Attached to the Hawaiian Hall is the Polynesian Hall, which contains traditional clothing, weapons and musical instruments from the state’s surrounding islands.

From here, head to the Science Adventure Center. Five floors of exhibits, many of them interactive, are designed to give a comprehensive account of Hawaii’s environment. Control the lava flow from a volcano or guide yourself through the ocean floor with a hand-held controller. Children will love the volcanic eruption displays, which take place several times each day.

Don’t miss the planetarium, where over 8,500 bright stars and planets replicate the constellations of our galaxy. Visit one of the daily shows or just wander through the displays at any other time.

The Bishop Museum is located in the Kalihi district of Honolulu. Several bus routes service the area, and there is free parking on the museum grounds. A large lawn area provides a picnic opportunity, and the museum café serves up a tasty menu of brunches and lunches as well as lighter snacks. The museum is closed on Tuesdays and Christmas Day. Allow at least 2–3 hours for a visit.

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