Why is Honolulu the capital of Hawaii?

Why is Honolulu the capital of Hawaii?
Why is Honolulu the capital of Hawaii?

Known for being the state’s principal port and its bustling tourism, the capital of Hawaii, is the city of Honolulu.

In the rest of this article, I’ll be going over everything about Honolulu, including some surprising historical facts you probably didn’t know!

Where Is The Capital Of Hawaii Located?

Where Is The Capital Of Hawaii Located
Where Is The Capital Of Hawaii Located

The state of Hawaii features eight major islands. Many might expect the state’s capital to reside on Hawaii’s biggest island, Hawai’i. However, Honolulu instead sits on the island of Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest island.

Brief History of Honolulu

Honolulu, Hawaii. Waikiki beach and Honolulu's skyline.
Honolulu, Hawaii. Waikiki beach and Honolulu’s skyline.

Historians cannot pinpoint the exact era that Polynesians first stepped foot onto the beaches of Honolulu. Still, they have found artifacts that show their presence on the island since the 12th century. 

Captain William Brown, an English seaman, was the first from the western world to step foot on its sandy beaches in 1794, sixteen years after Captain James Cook claimed to have found Hawaii for the western world. Cook passed by the island of Oahu at night, missing the small Polynesian fishing village that made up Honolulu at the time. 

After Brown’s discovery, trade began to dock in Honolulu, growing the village into a bustling port town. King Kamehameha III conquered the island of Oahu in 1804 and moved his palace to Honolulu in 1809. 

Honolulu quickly became a bustling city and continued to grow even after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. The city still did not stop growing even after the US government annexation five years after the dismantling of the monarchy.

Honolulu became a key asset during WWII after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, thus officially launching the United States into the war. The tourist industry boomed for Honolulu after the war and grew further into the 1970s and beyond.  

When did Honolulu become the Capital of Hawaii?

Stunning sunset view of downtown Honolulu
Stunning sunset view of downtown Honolulu

Honolulu became the capital of Hawai’i around 1850. King Kamehameha III declared it the capital of his kingdom in 1850 after fighting with the British and French over the coveted Honolulu ports. 

In 1959, Hawaii officially became a state, and Honolulu remained listed as the capital. 

Why is Honolulu the capital of Hawaii?

Honolulu, Hawaii. Diamond head Lighthouse view from the top
Honolulu, Hawaii. Diamond head Lighthouse view from the top

Honolulu became the capital of Hawaii due to its important location for trading. 

Honolulu is in a great position for ships participating in pacific trade routes. The harbor had convenient ports for large ships, which was why King Kamehameha III had to fight with Britain and France over who got the rights to the city. 

The gold rush in California played a big part in why King Kamehameha III declared Honolulu the capital. Located only 2,532 miles from California, the city became a key stop for goods and food or miners heading to stake their claims on riches. 

After becoming a state, the harbor of Honolulu still functions as the key port for receiving and sending goods and servicing fishing vessels and passenger ships. 

Best Places to visit in Honolulu

If you’re planning a trip to the historic and gorgeous shores of Honolulu, here are the top five must-see places to visit: 

1. Pearl Harbor Memorial

Step onto a page of history and honor those who lost their lives during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

This memorial is stunning and will take your breath away as you stare out at the water, or visit the underwater site of the USS Arizona, now forever a burial ground for the men who lost their lives during the attack. 

There is plenty to do at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and many recommend that you make a whole day out of the experience if you want to visit all the sites. Admission to the memorial is free, but you should make a reservation if you want to step on board the USS Arizona memorial. 

2. Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head is a dormant volcano crater. Nestled on the eastern side of Waikiki, Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable landmarks and a favorite among hikers. The state monument is mostly known for its historic hiking trail and gorgeous views of Waikiki and surrounding beaches. 

The crater was formed 300,000 years ago after the volcano let loose a single explosive eruption. As the materials that spewed from it settled, they created the crater. Hikers can get a great viewpoint of this amazing crater from the top. 

Entry into the park costs $5 per person or $10 for a vehicle. Parking reservations are required.  

3. Waikiki Beach

Located on the southern shore of Honolulu, Waikiki Beach is the heart of the bustling capital city. It first became famous for being the playground of Hawaiian royalty. 

Waikiki has remained a top tourist destination and is well known for its incredible surfing and gorgeous views. Along the Waikiki area, you will find everything you might need or want within walking distance- including shops, hotels, restaurants, and beaches. 

The beaches at Waikiki do tend to get busy and crowded. If you want to swing by one of the beaches, it’s best to go either before 10 am or after 5 pm while everyone else is at dinner. 

4. Iolani Palace

Built by King Kalakaua in 1882, Iolani Palace became home to all of the remaining Hawaiian monarchs until the end of the monarchy in 1893. 

While visiting the Iolani palace, you’ll be fully immersed in the history of Hawaii, learning all about the time of King Kalakaua and his sister and subsequent successor, Queen Liliuokalani.

The palace is an iconic Hawaiian landmark, acting as a living restoration of Hawaii’s cultural and national identity. It was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and has remained a popular hotspot for tourists and locals alike. 

5. Makapu’u Lighthouse trail

Similar to Diamond Head, the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is another hotspot for hikers because of the outstanding views it offers at its peak. 

At the top of the trail, you can check out the historic Makapu’u lighthouse, built in 1905. The lighthouse’s red roof paints a stunning photo against the brilliant blue ocean. 

The trail is on the easier side and completely paved, making it a great stop for novice hikers who want a bird’s eye view of Honolulu and the island of Oahu. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!