The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum is a cultural gathering place and education center that actively engages people in the presentation, exploration, and preservation of Hawaii's cultural heritage and natural history. When visiting Honolulu, it is a must see for those seeking a deeper understanding of what makes these islands and people so unique and special. A collection of 2.4 million Pacific Island and Hawaiian cultural objects, 1 million historical photographs, artworks and archival materials are the backbone of the museum. However, modern science exhibits, planetarium programs and temporary traveling exhibits engage learners of all ages make this facility a great family destination for those wanting to spend some time exploring knowledge.
At a Glance:
Highlights: An active learning environment for discovering Hawaii's culture, geology, and history with planetarium shows, science demonstrations featured in five distinct different museum buildings, and a learning garden.
Location: Honolulu, Oahu
Activity level: Easy
Options: Allow 2 to 3 hours to explore the museum and demonstrations.
Reservations: None needed
Cost: $19.95 adult Youth (4 to 12) $14.95, 3 and under are free.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays. Closed Tuesdays
Founded in 1889 by Charles Reed bishop in honor of his late wife Bernice Pauahi, the original collection housed royal heirlooms of the dynasties of King Kamehameha and Kalakaua. By 1988 this museum was deemed the official Hawaii State Museum on Natural and Cultural History and the expanded facilities now foster many areas of learning.
The striking stone built Hawaiian Hall was constructed in 1889 to 1903 has a classic Romanesque Revival style exterior that shelters the main artifacts of pre-contact Hawaiian culture within. From the first voyagers to the islands all the way through the present day era, the exhibits in this building give such a great sense of the people who originally inhabited this paradise.
The 3-story tall main hall was renovated in 2006 and designed to give visitors a journey into the many levels of Hawaiian culture while changing floors. The realm of the gods, ocean and creation stories are found on the 1st floor, with the daily life of Hawaiian's and their interplay the natural world is featured on the 2nd floor. On the top or 3rd floor the "Ali'i" (Alee-ee) or chiefs of the islands stories are told side by side with royal artifacts and some interpretive videos explaining historic evolution of Hawaiian culture. A huge replica whale hangs high above, dwarfed by this whale of a building whose ornate wooden floor to ceiling details create grandness in this expansive space.
An adjacent gallery focuses on the connection between the other Pacific island cultures and their influence in Hawaii. Don't miss the "Kahili Gallery" on the downstairs near the entry to Hawaiian Hall. The painted portraits and royal feather staffs are extremely rare artifacts representing the Hawaiian monarchy.
The J. Watumuli Planetarium building on the Museum campus is the dome that is visible above the red-bricked entry building. Recently renovated in 2012 with state of the art digital systems the planetarium rotates between programs daily. The schedule is posted at the entry, and seating is first come first served with a line forming by the entry before each show. Free with admission.
1:30 pm -"Explorers of Polynesia" 45 minutes
11:30 am and 3:30 pm -"The Sky Tonight" 25 minutes
2:30 "Planetarium Fun Show"
Awaken your inner child and activate your young learners in the family at the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center which is the modern steel and glass building to the southern end of the center courtyard. Featuring a 26 foot tall multi-story erupting volcano that you get to walk and slide through, that illustrates the source of the construction of these islands. Go under sea and pilot the remote control subs that explore our newest islands along the ocean floor. The rooms here are very kinetic and active so be aware the noise level is higher then the rest of the more somber halls. Check the "Lava Melting Demo" at 12 and 2:30 pm (25 minutes) downstairs in the "Hot Spot".
The Castle Memorial Building between the science center and the Hawaiian Hall, houses the seasonal touring exhibits, usually featuring lots of hands-on for the young learners. There is usually a very engaging contemporary theme to these shows. The museum has been able to lure big national traveling exhibits over the years making for a surprising fun additive to the Bishop Museum mix.
Make this a destination for a few hours peace and quiet away from the hustle of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki. The many galleries are air-conditioned so this is a great destination to duck out of the mid-day heat.
1525 Bernice Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
- From the H-1 freeway take exit 20A onto the Likelike Highway/ HI-route 63 N
- Turn right onto Bernice Street and look for museum entrance on right.