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  • Writer's pictureMonica, Your Travel Gal

Visit Hawaii Like A Tourist from 100 Years Ago

Did you know that Hawaii's tourism industry started about 100 years ago in the 1920's and 1930's? Back then, no one arrived by airplane but instead they came via sea on a Matson luxury passenger liner. Visitors were welcomed joyfully with live music and fresh flower leis. This was a different time and it is referred to as "Old Hawaii" which was less developed, fewer crowds and a generally more laid back atmosphere.

Fun fact: Oceanview rooms were not the most premium rooms like they are today. Instead, the most desired rooms were the ones facing Diamond Head (aka Leahi) because after weeks aboard their ship, they were ready to see land!

Stay in a Historic Hotel

Back in the 1920's and 1930's, there were only two hotels in Waikiki and one was owned by the Matson company. The two hotels were the "Moana Hotel" (now called the Moana Surfrider) which opened in 1901 and The Royal Hawaiian (owned by Matson) which opened in 1927. Later, in the 1950's, Matson built a hotel next to "Moana Hotel" called the "Surfrider Hotel". This eventually became part of the same hotel so you will see they have several wings that incorporate the different versions of this hotel.

Travel Tip: Make sure to stay at one of the original hotels and stay in one of their "historic" rooms. You can also enjoy the hotel's museum-like areas that are full of historical documents and artwork. They even can give you tours on certain days of the week!

Visit the Islands by Ship

Another way to recapture "Old Hawaii" is by sailing by cruise ship which will try to recreate how tourists from 100 years ago visited the Islands of Hawaii. Today, Matson only carries freight between the mainland and Hawaii but you could hop on either Princess Cruises or Celebrity Cruise Lines instead. Celebrity sails one way from Vancouver, BC to the islands and you get to visit several islands before you hop on a flight back to the mainland. Princess, on the other hand, does round trip sailings from either San Francisco, Los Angeles or Vancouver, BC.

Take a Historical Tour

A third option for reliving old time travel to Hawaii is to take a tour that embraces the historical aspects of the islands. A big draw 100 years ago was the volcano and that still exists today. You can take a helicopter tour from Oahu and see the Volcano National Park or you can take one of several tours offered if you are staying on the Island of Hawaii.

Fun Fact: The Haleiwa Hotel on the North Shore was a popular destination 100 years ago. The 14-room hotel was popular with local residents as a respite from the city. The property was closed during the Second World War and demolished a few years later, but Haleiwa Town (which took its name from the hotel) today retains much of the aesthetic of that era.

Another popular activity 100 years ago was visiting the pineapple and sugarcane plantations. Nowadays, you can no longer find sugarcane growing in Hawaii but you can still visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu. It is included in several "circle island" tours. Instead of sugarcane fields, you can find coffee and macadamia nut farms which can be found on Maui and The Island of Hawaii (the Big Island). Kauai offers some great chocolate tasting tours that embrace the old traditions.

Here are just a few tours and lei greetings that come highly recommended but your travel advisor can help select more curated options for you.





Fun Fact: There is one historic Hawaiian tradition that is lost to history. Tourists departing by steam ship were given a lei as a fond farewell, and it was customary to toss them overboard as the ship rounded Diamond Head and Honolulu receded from view. Legend has it that if the lei floated to shore, it meant the visitor would one day return to Hawaii.

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