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5 Must-See Museums on the Big Island of Hawaii and How to Visit


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Jen is a Tahoe-based writer who loves traveling, food, and adventures. She has written about food and drink for the likes of Mashed, Tasting Table, and Getaway Reno/Tahoe. Jen spent 20 years living in China and Hong Kong, and has traveled to more than 75 countries. When she’s not out exploring the world or the great outdoors, you can find her curled up with a good book.

The Big Island boasts diverse museums, which range from living history exhibits and science centers to museums dedicated to Hawaii’s cultural history. Here are some of the top museums on the Big Island.

1. Hulihe’e Palace

Palm trees outside Hulihe’e Palace in Hawaii.
Hulihe’e Palace amid the palm trees.Photo Credit: Merrilee Holmes / Shutterstock

For memorabilia from Hawaii's royal past.

Formerly the residence of Hawaiian royalty, today Hulihe’e Palace showcases historic artifacts and personal memorabilia from Hawaii’s royal past. Highlights include King Kamehameha’s giant spears, royal busts, koa wood furniture, kappa (bark) cloth, and original Hawaiian bed frames and quilts.

How to Visit: Visitors can explore independently or opt for a docent-led tour. Several sightseeing tours stop here, including tours of the Kona area by bike and Segway.

2. Kona Coffee Living History Farm

Bright fruits growing at Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Hawaii.
A coffee plant at Kona Coffee Living History Farm.Photo Credit: Mike Kane / Viator

For the history of Kona Coffee.

The history of Kona coffee comes to life at the Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook, the only living history coffee museum in the country. Visit an original 1920s farmhouse, see how coffee was processed, and experience the daily life of farmers through costumed interpreters. Don’t forget to try some of the farm’s coffee.

How to Visit: Open Monday through Friday, most visitors experience the farm on self-guided tours, though fully-guided tours are sometimes available.

3. Lyman Museum and Mission House

The leafy grounds and buildings of Lyman Museum and Mission House.
Lyman Museum and Mission House on a sunny day.Photo Credit: Al Opalchuk / Shutterstock

For interactive exhibits.

Learn about the history of Hawaii and its people at the Lyman Museum and Mission House. The museum features interactive exhibits, original furniture, tools, personal memorabilia, and over 25,000 historic documents and photos.

How to Visit: Visitors can explore the museum on their own, but the Mission House can be viewed by guided tour only, which are available twice daily from Monday through Saturday.

4. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

The pyramids of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hawaii.
The pyramids of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.Photo Credit: Faina Gurevich / Shutterstock

For planetarium shows.

Explore the connection between Hawaiian cultural traditions and astronomy at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. The center offers interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, education and cultural programs, and special events throughout the year.

How to Visit: Visit independently or as part of a full-day sightseeing tour of Big Island highlights, which include Mauna Kea, Volcano National Park, and Rainbow Falls.

5. Parker Ranch Historic Homes

Exterior of the Parker Ranch Historic Homes, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the country, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Parker Ranch Historic Homes is worth the visit.Photo Credit: Claudine Van Massenhove / Shutterstock

For Hawaiian cowboys.

Learn about paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys), and their role in the island’s history and development, at Parker Ranch, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the country. Explore the ranch and explore Puu Opelu and Mana Hale, two historic homes filled with heirlooms and artwork.

How to Visit: The homes can be visited on a self-guided tour, which includes a short film. Many island sightseeing tours combine the museum with other Big Island highlights such as waterfalls and volcanoes. Horseback and ATV tours are also available.

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