To immerse yourself in the history, culture, environment and arts of Hawaii and its peoples, the exhaustive exhibits of the Bishop Museum are considered the best collection of Polynesian culture in the world. The five exhibition halls house over 25 million items which relay the tales of Hawaii and its Pacific neighbours.
The museum was originally established in 1889 to house the Hawaiian artifacts and royal heirlooms of Charles Reed Bishop's late wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. The collections have now expanded to include millions of artifacts, documents and photos of the cultures of Hawaii and Polynesia. The three-storey 19th-century Hawaiian Hall takes visitors through the different realms of the Hawaiian Islands through state-of-the-art and interactive displays. The first floor focuses on the ancient Hawaiian gods, legends, myths and beliefs; the second floor delves into the relationship of land and nature with everyday life; and the third floor is the realm inhabited by the gods where visitors can learn about ali'i (chiefly descendants of the gods) and Hawaiian history. For more info on the ali'i and Hawaiian monarchy, the Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kahili Room displays treasured artifacts and regalia. The Pacific Hall, due to reopen in September 2013, is a two-floor gallery devoted to the cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.
The newest addition to the Bishop Museum is the 1,533sqm Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center with immersive and interactive exhibits that highlight Hawaii's environment and contribution to cutting-edge research into volcanology, oceanography and biodiversity. Of note are the three-storey simulated volcano centrepiece and the daily Lava Melting Demonstrations in the Hot Spot Theater. Don't miss the twice-daily live Planetarium Show in the J. Watumull Planetarium for some serious star-spotting.
General admission to the museum is US$19.95 for adults, US$14.95 for children aged four to 12 years with free entry for kids aged three and under. To visit Bishop Museum from Waikiki, take the 2 bus to the School and Kapalama Streets stop. From here, it's a four-minute walk down Kapalama Street and right onto Bernice Street.