12 Best Museums in Oahu to Visit

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Interested in learning more about the history and culture of Hawaii?

From the Bishop Museum to the Honolulu Museum of Art, there are many different types of museums that will appeal to anyone’s interests.

Here are some of the best museums in Oahu to visit that will teach you something new and help you learn more about this tropical paradise!

Military Museums in Oahu

The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Park
uss bowfin submarine museum & park

1. USS Arizona Memorial

Experience the tragedy of Pearl Harbor’s most famous site, the USS Arizona Memorial.

The Pearl Harbor National Memorial was built on top of the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, which is now a grave for over 1,000 sailors.

Visit the monument to honor those who died in this infamous battle and get a new perspective on America’s history.

2. The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park

A few steps from the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park is a must-see for visitors to Honolulu.

This museum offers an interactive walk-through of the decommissioned USS Bowfin submarine.

The warship was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986 by the federal government for its significance in naval history.

3. Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum

The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum pays homage to the brave aviators who served during WWII.

The museum is located inside two massive hangars overlooking Pearl Harbor on Ford Island.

Housing over 50 aircrafts, including historic planes like the Douglas SBD Dauntless and the Flying Tigers P-40, this museum is a must-visit if you’re interested in learning about aviation’s role in the war that changed many people’s lives.

4. Tropic Lightning Museum

First activated in 1941, the Tropic Lightning Museum is an organization that preserves the legacy of the 25th Infantry Division.

The museum is filled with photographs, memorabilia, and other historical artifacts that showcase the key role this division played in the past.

It’s a great place for any history buff or military enthusiast to visit and learn more about this eventful time in American history.

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5. US Army Museum of Hawaii

A bit of a hidden gem, the US Army Museum of Hawaii is dedicated to the education of Hawaiian military history during WWII and the Vietnam War.

Located in Fort DeRussy Park, you’ll find military artifacts, photographs, and also interactive audio tours that you can take part in.

If you’re near Waikiki Beach and looking for something to do for the afternoon, this non-profit organization is definitely worth a visit.

Cultural History Museums in Oahu

Iolani Palace
iolani palace

6. Iolani Palace

Find out what it’s like to visit the only royal palace in the United States.

Built in 1879, the Iolani Palace was home to Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs, Queen Liliuokalani and King Kalakaua.

It also served as the capitol building for several years after their overthrow.

Today, Iolani Palace is a museum and still serves as an active place of worship for the royal family.

7. Bishop Museum

The Bishop Museum, established in 1889, is one of the world’s largest museums of Polynesian culture.

It houses over 26 million artifacts and specimens from the Pacific islands and other cultures spanning various centuries.

This museum brings together all aspects of Hawaii’s history and cultures in one complete location!

8. Hawaii Plantation Village

Visit the historic Hawaii Plantation Village and enjoy a day of fun and education.

This unique outdoor museum features over 25 historic homes preserved for visitors’ enjoyment and offers a glimpse into the past.

Experience what plantation life was like in the early 1900s and see how sugar was processed.

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9. Queen Emma Summer Palace

The Queen Emma Summer Palace was created as a summer retreat for King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma.

Also known as Hanaiakamalama, this historic landmark is now a symbol of Hawaiian culture and heritage.

The palace grounds are beautifully manicured with over 350 species of plants that are native to Hawaii.

Visitors will be able to explore the gardens, take a tour of the home, and learn about the life of Hawaii’s beloved royal couple through interactive presentations.

Art Museums in Oahu

Honolulu Museum of Art
honolulu museum of art

10. Honolulu Museum of Art

The Honolulu Museum of Art has one of the most extensive collections of Asian art in the Western Hemisphere, and is also one of the most important art museums in the United States.

Founded by Anna Rice Cooke, the museum celebrates Hawaiian history and culture, as well as art from Asia, Europe, America and Oceania.

The institution has been a catalyst for creative expression since it opened in 1927 and is committed to connecting people with art through dynamic exhibitions and programs.

11. Hawaii State Art Museum

Located in the heart of Honolulu, the Hawaii State Art Museum (HISAM) has been a key player in the art scene in Oahu for over 19 years.

This museum features a permanent Hawaiian art exhibit and rotating pieces from around the world; you’ll always find something new to see here.

Admission is always free at the Hawaii State Art Museum.

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12. Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design

The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art is the first museum of its kind in Hawaii, and it provides an opportunity to explore Islamic history and culture through art.

It showcases the beauty and diversity of art from Iran, Spain, Turkey, and much more, highlighting its cultural contributions to society.

This one-of-a-kind museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in seeing culture through art and design.