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Hawaiian History Lesson: The Islands of Polynesia

Hawaii is a truly extraordinary place. Filled with incredible culture, unmatched beauty, friendly locals, and a history that is as unique as the isolated chain of islands way out in the Pacific Ocean. Dating back for thousands of years, the Hawaiian Islands have gone from a volcanic hotspot, to a desolated lava field, to inhabited islands. All of these elements are part of Hawaiian history, and the islands earliest settlers made such an impact that their traditions and customs are still in place today. 

During your visit to Hawaii, you’re going to encounter the rich traditions, culture, and history of Hawaii, and all of it can be traced back to the Polyneisan Triangle of Island. Understanding these islands is vital, and discovering the trials and tribulations of the earliest voyagers is almost unbelievable. From their voyage to the islands, to settling each island, and creating a thriving Kingdom, the Polynesian settlers will always have a strong presence throughout Hawaii.

Voyagers arrived to Hawaii on ancient voyaging canoes, which consists of up of a canoe base, sail, and just enough room for everyone to fit on board. There were no maps or GPS in those days, and the most impressive aspect of the journey to the islands is that they used only the stars to guide their way across the Pacific Ocean, navigating with only the stars across thousands of miles of open ocean. Continuing this tradition today, local groups keep this method of travel alive, sailing across the ocean to Polynesia using the same stars that were used so long ago.

The Polynesian Islands are made up of thousands of islands, but there are 6 main islands and countries that make up what is generally recognized as the Polyneisa, or the Polynesian Triangle of Islands. Each of these islands have played an integral role in shaping Hawaii, contributing to the place that we know and love today.

Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawaii comprise the islands of Polynesia, and you can find out pretty much everything you need to know about each island’s history, culture, traditions, and customs at Oahu’s Polynesian Cultural Center. Located on the North Shore of the island, the center is a great way to spend a day, and provides a glimpse into ancient Hawaii and the life of the settlers of Hawaii.

Passed down through many generations, the heritage of the voyagers is very important, and is one of the many Polynesian traditions that is carried on throughout Hawaii to this day. These traditions include Hula, poi making, imu cooking, and the games played at Hawaiian luaus, helping to carry on the traditions and customs of Polynesia and ancient Hawaii. The islands of Polynesia will always be a vital part of Hawaii’s DNA and taking the time to understand and respect these traditions is highly recommended for your trip.

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