Polynesian paradise prepares to celebrate 50 years of statehood.
AAA National

Hawaii is not only one of the world’s youngest geological formations, it’s also the youngest of all 50 U.S. states. As it prepares a Golden Jubilee, Gov. Linda Lingle has organized the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission that will educate visitors about Hawaii’s history that goes back well beyond its entry into the union.


Above: Guests on Tauck’s “The Best Of Hawaii” tour enjoy ocean-view rooms during their three-night stay at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel on the Big Island’s Kohala Coast.

Below: Honolulu’s Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in honor of his late wife, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of Hawaii’s royal Kamehameha family. It’s both the largest museum in the state, and the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific.

Bishop Museum

Statehood steeped in controversy

The first visitors to Hawaii were Polynesian explorers who navigated by the stars, sailing more than 2,000 miles in ocean canoes from the Marquesas Islands to Hawaii’s Big Island more than 1,500 years ago. Tahitian settlers came ashore 500 years later, bringing their influences to Hawaii’s developing culture. British explorer Capt. James Cook was the first Westerner to come to Hawaii when he sailed into Waimea Bay in 1778.

Hawaii’s long march toward statehood started with the illegal overthrow in 1893 of Queen Liliuokalani’s kingdom. Five years later, Hawaii was annexed to the United States. Arguments for and against eventual statehood were substantial as the complex history of the islands played a major role, and when acceptance came in 1959, it was after about a century of debate and conflict.

The commission’s task for the statehood commemoration is to depict Hawaii’s history with accuracy and sensitivity. An interesting project to assist in this kicked off in August. Called 50 Voices of Statehood, these filmed vignettes will feature a different “voice” each week from individual interviews. The stories will be aired on radio and television stations across the state giving the community, as well as visitors, a chance to learn more about Hawaiian history.

Events will be a big part of the commemoration, including a public event on March 18, 2009 at the state Capitol. The observance of the day the U.S. Congress passed the bill admitting Hawaii into the U.S. as the 50th state will include a special joint session of the state legislature followed by speakers, food and entertainment. A conference planned on Aug. 21, 2009 will close out the event. Other events throughout the islands are in planning stages.

Natural beauty and a rich culture

Hawaii continues to be discovered by travelers. Known for its beaches, Hawaii’s waters attract legions of swimmers, surfers and scuba divers. The balmy climate is remarkably steady, making Hawaii a great year-round destination. Local geography is also awe-inspiring, from the world’s tallest sea cliffs on Molokai, to Waimea Canyon on Kauai, to both the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea, and the world’s largest dormant volcano, Mount Haleakala, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The islands’ remarkable culture is a blend of Polynesian and Western influences, shaped by centuries-old traditions and more recent developments. Hawaiian culture is a complex tapestry, but its culture and natural history are celebrated at the wonderful Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

Commerce and agriculture also shaped Hawaiian culture, and attractions involving whaling, cattle ranching, plus the cultivation of coffee, pineapples and sugar are plentiful. Of course, Pearl Harbor is etched forever in Hawaiian and U.S. history.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy a vacation exploring both the natural and cultural sides of Hawaii is to enlist a reputable tour operator. Tauck World Discovery, for example, offers a “Best of Hawaii” package that visits the most popular sites on Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. The 12-day itinerary also goes off the beaten path and includes private guided tours of a working coffee farm and a restored sugar plantation, a visit to the former whaling village of Lahaina, and even an exclusive after-hours evening inside the celebrated Bishop Museum.

Travelers can also upgrade to a select number of “Royal Departures” Tauck packages. These trips include private limousine airport transfers in Hawaii, upgraded hotel stays and a maximum of just 26 travelers. Both Tauck packages include all accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, gratuities to restaurant and hotel staff, admission to attractions, and the services of a trained, professional Tauck Director throughout the journey.

Some information to this article was provided by the AAA Southern Traveler staff.

Sept/Oct 2008 Issue

For more information about Tauck World Discovery and its packages to Hawaii, contact your local AAA Travel professional or call (888) 366-4222.

For updates on Hawaii’s Golden Jubilee, visit hawaii.gov/statehood.

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