Rainy Day? Too sunburned for the beach? Looking for an educational experience? Whatever your reason for wanting to visit a museum on your trip to O’ahu, the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum needs to be on your itinerary.
Since opening in 1889, the Bishop Museum has been home to traditional Hawaiian objects and royal heirlooms. Today, it is Hawaii’s largest museum and a hub for natural and cultural history of the islands. If that still isn’t enticing you, let’s dig deeper and talk about 5 reasons why you need to visit the Bishop Museum.
1. To Learn About Hawaiian Culture
Arguably one of the most important things to do on your trip to Hawaii is learn about the culture. The earliest Polynesian settlers of the islands date back as far as 300 to 600 AD. You might suspect a few momentous events have happened here and there over the last SEVENTEEN THOUSAND years *insert winky face emoji*.
When you visit the Bishop Museum, your family will learn a wealth of information on the culture. Take a stroll through the Hawaiian Hall Complex for a beautiful visual representation of significant historical events and traditions of Hawaiian culture. Between learning about Hawaiian Gods to seeing documents from the first European and American interactions with the islands, you will undoubtedly walk out with a heck of a lot more knowledge than you came in with.
The Hawaiian Hall Complex also houses the Pacific Hall and Kalihi Room. Between these two areas you will see artifacts from both Hawaiian royalty and Polynesian settlers. There is also a new interactive exhibit in the hall that teaches you all about oceanic voyagers. To put that in a way that your kids will appreciate, they will learn how to sail like Moana!
2. To Get Hands On With The Featured Exhibit
If you are worried the kids will get bored at a museum full of old relics, fear not. The Bishop Museum is so much more than just a walk through Hawaiian history. When you are done learning about the culture, hop one building over into the Castle Memorial Building to check out that month’s featured exhibit. You do have to pay an extra small fee at admission, but trust me it is worth the cost.
Upon entering the building, you feel like you are at a totally different museum. Whereas the previous building was mostly looking, no touching, this building is all hands on. The exhibits are always changing so it’s hard to say what you will see on your trip. We have personally visited for the Biomechanics Exhibit and the Expedition: Dinosaur Exhibit.
Our latest visit to the dinosaur exhibit was a huge hit with the kids. To be honest, there were some points where Patrick and I were having more fun playing than the kids. All of the rooms were jam packed with hands on activities for all ages. Some of the highlights were remote controlling a giant dinosaur, digging for bones, and operating a dinosaur egg hatchery. Can you guess which one’s we had more fun with than the kids? (Hint: That was a trick question. It was all of them. We’re both still kids at heart).
3. To Play Inside A Volcano
You’re obvs not going to be playing inside of a real volcano when you visit the Bishop Museum, but it’s still pretty freaking cool y’all. This 3-story display inside of the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center is the definition of interactive learning. Starting from the top, your children will learn how differences in magma and gases cause the volcano to stir and begin to erupt.
On the middle floor, or ground level, you get to go inside of the volcano. Here the kids will get to see different types of sand and volcanic rock samples. My kids tend to pass over that part in favor of going down the slide 100,000 times.
I saved the best for last: the bottom floor. To get here, I recommend skipping the elevators in favor of taking the Hawaiian Origins Tunnel located on the right side of the ground level. When you get to the end of the tunnel, head left for a live show which features actual lava being poured from a cauldron. The show is really entertaining and educational so be sure to pop by at 12 pm or 2:30 pm to catch it.
4. To Learn About Native Hawaiian Plants
Between your walk from the Castle Memorial Building to the Science Adventure Center, you will notice a small garden on your right. A word of advice, don’t just wander past it. This garden was planted for more than just aesthetic value. It’s also full of educational content.
The Na Ulu Kaiwi’ula Native Hawaiian Garden is home to over a dozen species of both endemic and canoe plants. I know both those words sound made up, I thought the same thing too the first time I heard them. Through our time volunteering at the zoo, I’ve learned that endemic plants are found nowhere else on Earth and canoe plants were brought over by Polynesian settlers. Take some time to explore the gardens and try to guess which plants were brought over vs. which one’s originated here.
5. To Catch A Show At The Planetarium
Who doesn’t love a trip the planetarium? Not rhetorical, it’s my son Zayne. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy it, but the sitting still part turns an internal crank that makes him want to wander. To be respectful of other patrons, we’re putting this feature of the museum off until he’s a bit older.
That being said, the Bishop Museum Planetarium shows 5 unique programs at 8 different times throughout the day. Some of the programs they show are a night sky exploration and a wayfinder journey through the ocean. There is also a special 60 minute night sky showing every first Saturday of the month. Obviously we haven’t been to any of them, but I would not doubt this experience matches that of the rest of the museum.
Want More Reasons To Visit The Bishop Museum?
I will throw in one bonus reason to visit the Bishop Museum before I sign off and that is for the café. Typically when you think of museum café, you think crazy over priced and cold food. That is not the case at the Bishop Museum. The prices are actually very reasonable (which says a lot considering how ridiculously overpriced things can be on island) and the food is really good.
With all of that being said, I hope you plan to visit the Bishop Museum. If you come up with your own reasons why it’s worth the trip, I would love to hear about it. If you have already visited before, leave a comment on what your favorite exhibit was. As always, don’t forget to share this post if you love what you’ve read and follow me on social if you want in on behind the scenes action. Thank you so much for reading about our adventures out in Our Happy Place 🙂