Located in Waipahu, Oahu, Hawaii, Hawaii Plantation Village is an outdoor living history museum commemorating the traditional cultures of Hawaiian sugar plantations of the 19th and 20th centuries, containing more than two dozen restored plantation homes. The history of sugar plantations in Hawaii dates back to 1835 with the establishment of the Old Sugar Mill of Koloa in Koloa, Kauai, which sent its first 8,000-pound shipment of molasses and sugar to the United States the following year.
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The mid 19th century saw a boom in the islands’ sugar cane industry, as a result of the California Gold Rush and the American Civil War, which decreased shipping output from American sugar production markets, and the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, which allowed Hawaiian sugar to be imported without taxation. Early plantations were staffed by indigenous workers, who were provided with housing, food, medical care, and minimal wages in the form of redeemable scrips. However, due to mass deaths among native Hawaiians resulting from the introduction of diseases such as smallpox and influenza, plantation owners soon began staffing with immigrant workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, and other areas in the Pacific and Caribbean Islands.
Following the annexation of Hawaii by the United States in 1898 and its later declaration of statehood in 1959, the sugarcane industry began to suffer as a result of increased labor costs and integration of the plantation’s hierarchical caste system. The first sugar industry strike was organized in 1920, and shifting political alliances following World War I resulted in the rise of sugar importing from Cuba to the United States. By the mid 20th century, much of Hawaii industry had shifted away from sugar production to the state’s present tourism-based industry.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Operated by the Friends of Waipahu Cultural Garden Park nonprofit association, Hawaii Plantation Village preserves more than two dozen sugar plantation worker homes and community buildings, reconstructed to their appearance at the sugar industry’s peak in the early 1900s. Guided tours of the village’s buildings and common ground spaces are offered, chronicling the stories of native Hawaiian and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Okinawan, Portuguese, and Puerto Rican immigrant plantation workers. Instead of being laid out as a conventional everyday worker campsite, the village’s buildings are furnished and displayed to depict specific events and scenes from each culture, such as baptismal parties or Bible study meetings. Cultural buildings include a Chinese Society Building, from 1909, a Japanese Duplex dating back to 1910, and a Korean House and an Okinawan House from 1919. Traditional Halau Hoa and Hale Moe dwellings are also on display, along with a Filipino Dormitory and a Portuguese Forno dwelling. A number of community buildings have also been preserved, including a Plantation Store, a Camp Office, a Barber Shop, an Infirmary, and a Union Hall from the 1920s. A number of cultural and religious structures are visible on site, including a Wakamiya Inari Shrine dating back to 1914.
All village structures are furnished with personal artifacts from former plantation workers, including traditional clothing, furniture, and art pieces. The village’s grounds also serve as a botanical garden, featuring Asian and Caribbean plants imported by immigrant workers, with fruit samples from some plantings offered for tour participants. A gift shop on site sells handmade craft items made by plantation village crafters, along with traditional music, cookbooks, and toys.
Ongoing Programs and Events
Guided tours of Hawaii Plantation Village are offered Monday through Saturday, with tours conducted every hour during the morning and afternoon hours. Tours last approximately 90 minutes and are available in English or in Japanese upon request. Advance reservations are recommended for tour groups of eight participants or more, including school and organization groups.
Special events at the Village focus on traditional cultural celebrations, including the annual O-Bon Blessing and Celebration, held in June, which features dance performances by traditional Japanese dance groups along with a variety of food truck options and family-friendly crafting activities. A Chinese New Year Festival is held in February, featuring a traditional Shinto blessing ceremony, a food tasting festival, and plantation-style games and prizes. Annual Halloween events include a Haunted Plantation event highlighted by the Travel Channel as Hawaii’s scariest haunting event and a ghost story walkthrough held in conjunction with Ghost Folks Hawaii, recounting true stories of personal anecdotes of ghost encounters at the village. Other annual events include a Legacy Awards Dinner at the Pearl Country Club, a Great Malunggay Festival and Parade, and an Ohana Days celebration in November. Rotating special exhibits are also displayed several of the village’s buildings throughout the year, highlighting notable events in Hawaiian plantation history.
94-695 Waipahu St, Waipahu, HI 96797, Phone: 808-677-0110