Honolulu Harbor

Honolulu Harbor, also called Kulolia and Ke Awa O Kou, is the principal seaport of Honolulu and the State of Hawaiʻi in the United States. It is from Honolulu Harbor, that the City & County of Honolulu was developed and urbanized, in an outward fashion, over the course of the modern history of the island of Oahu. It includes Matson, Inc. harbors on Sand Island.

Aloha Tower has been greeting vessels to port at Honolulu Harbor since September 11, 1926.


Honolulu Harbor is administered by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Transportation Harbors Division. Honolulu Harbor handles over 11 million tons of cargo annually. The services that the harbor provides are crucial as Hawaiʻi imports over eighty percent of its required goods.

Early history

Archaeological surveys show that the area around Honolulu Harbor was bustling with human activity prior to 1100. The first European vessel to enter Honolulu Harbor was a long-boat from the British merchant ship King George. The boat rowed into the harbor on December 12, 1786, commanded by a Mr. Hayward and piloted by Towanooha, servant of a friendly Hawaiian priest. In 1794, Butterworth, a British ship commanded by Captain William Brown, entered the harbor by "warping" in. The crew dubbed it "Brown's Harbor" to their captain's dismay. Captain Brown insisted that the harbor be called "Fair Haven", which is synonymous with the Hawaiian name Honolulu.

Sailing vessels at wharf in Honolulu harbor, ca.1892-1907 (CHS-402)
Sailing vessels at wharf in Honolulu harbor, ca.1892-1907 (CHS-402)

In 1850, Kamehameha III declared Honolulu to be the official capital of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. With the proclamation came a series of investments to further develop the harbor to accommodate more vessels. Honolulu Harbor quickly became the chief port of call for the trans-Pacific sandalwood, fur and whaling industries. Foreign vessels that docked at Honolulu Harbor poured vast amounts of wealth into the kingdom's coffers and provided for the well-being of native Hawaiians. The British subsequently built a fort to protect the entrance to the harbor. As the downtown waterfront was developed and the many high-rises along the waterfront were constructed, early artifacts such as poi pounders, fishing lures and even human remains were unearthed along the current waterfront and along the docks near the Aloha Tower adjacent to Alakea Street and Nimitz Highway.

Aloha Tower

On September 11, 1926, after five years of construction, the world-famous Aloha Tower was officially dedicated at Pier 9 of Honolulu Harbor. The tallest building in Hawaiʻi at that time, the Aloha Tower became a guiding beacon welcoming vessels to Honolulu. Just as the Statue of Liberty greeted thousands of immigrants each year to New York City, the Aloha Tower greeted thousands of immigrants to Honolulu. By the time the Aloha Tower was dedicated, Honolulu was already a popular vacation destination for wealthy American and European families. They traveled on Matson steamers that docked at the Aloha Tower and were greeted by Hawaiian music, hula performers and lei.

When the attack on Pearl Harbor came on December 7, 1941, Coast Guardsmen from the USCGC Taney were ordered to take up defensive positions around Aloha Tower. The Aloha Tower was painted in camouflage colors so as to disappear at night.

Recent developments

In 1982, the Hawaiʻi Maritime Center was opened near the Aloha Tower in an old royal pier to present the history of Honolulu Harbor and the relative industries it served. Falls of Clyde, a historic merchant ship, is docked at the royal pier. In 2002, the Hawaiʻi Maritime Center became an incorporated institution of the Bishop Museum. In 1994, the Aloha Tower Marketplace opened making Honolulu Harbor the only harbor in the nation to combine a visitor attraction, retail and restaurant outlets, and working commercial harbor facilities at a single location.


Coordinates: 21°18′22″N 157°52′08″W / 21.306°N 157.869°W

Ala Moana, Honolulu

Ala Moana (meaning path to the sea in Hawaiian) is a commercial, retail, and residential district of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. It is nestled between Waikīkī and Moiliili to the east, and Kakaʻako and Honolulu Harbor to the west. King Street, to the north, marks the border with the neighborhood of Makiki.

Ala Moana is situated along the southern shores of the island of Oʻahu and features a vast stretch of reef-protected white sandy beaches. The main roads through Ala Moana are Ala Moana Boulevard and Kapiʻolani Boulevard. Ala Moana is a major transfer point in Honolulu's bus system. Across the street from Ala Moana Center is Ala Moana Beach Park, dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930's.

The civic center of Ala Moana is Ala Moana Center, once the largest shopping center in the United States and currently the largest open-air shopping center in the world. The shopping center was developed by Don Graham and opened August 13, 1959.The area is currently experiencing residential and retail growth in addition to the shopping center. A new name, Midtown Ala Moana, has been coined to promote the area.

Aloha Tower

The Aloha Tower is a lighthouse that is considered one of the landmarks of the state of Hawaii in the United States. Opened on September 11, 1926, at a then astronomical cost of $160,000, the Aloha Tower is located at Pier 9 of Honolulu Harbor. It has been, and continues to be, a guiding beacon welcoming vessels to the City and County of Honolulu. Just as the Statue of Liberty greeted hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year to New York City, the Aloha Tower greeted hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Honolulu. At 10 stories and 184 feet (56 m) of height topped with 40 feet (12 m) of flag mast, for four decades the Aloha Tower was the tallest structure in Hawaii. It was built in the Hawaiian Gothic architectural style.

Aloha Tower Marketplace

The Aloha Tower Marketplace is a waterfront shopping center in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Located at the Honolulu Harbor, the Aloha Tower Marketplace includes several national historic landmarks including the Aloha Tower, Falls of Clyde and Hawaiʻi Maritime Center.

Chinatown, Honolulu

The Chinatown Historic District is a Chinatown neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii known for its Chinese American community, and is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States.

Downtown Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu is the current historic, economic, governmental, and central part of Honolulu—bounded by Nuʻuanu Stream to the west, Ward Avenue to the east, Vineyard Boulevard to the north, and Honolulu Harbor to the south—situated within the City of Honolulu. Both modern and historic buildings and complexes, many of the latter declared National Historic Landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, are located in the area, 21°18′12″N 157°51′26″W.

Falls of Clyde (ship)

Falls of Clyde is the last surviving iron-hulled, four-masted full-rigged ship, and the only remaining sail-driven oil tanker. Designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1989, she is now a museum ship in Honolulu, but her condition has deteriorated. She is currently not open to the public. In September 2008, ownership was transferred to a new nonprofit organization, the Friends of Falls of Clyde, which intends to restore her. Efforts to raise $1.5 million to get the ship into drydock have not succeeded as of 2015. An additional $30 million may be needed to fully restore the ship. On February 7, 2019 the Hawaii Department of Transportation issued a notice of auction and the ship is being sold as is.

Hawaii Maritime Center

The Hawai`i Maritime Center was the principal maritime museum in the State of Hawai`i from 1988 until it closed in 2009. Located at Pier 7 of Honolulu Harbor east of Aloha Tower, the center was a campus of the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. The Hawai`i Maritime Center was built on what once was the private boathouse of King David Kalakaua and was home to the only four-masted, full-rigged ship in the world called the Falls of Clyde. The Falls of Clyde was built in 1878 for the oil industry and is a National Historic Landmark. Also docked at the Hawai`i Maritime Center was the voyaging canoe Hokule`a, a scientific research vessel of great importance to native Hawaiian culture.

Due to prevailing economic conditions, the Hawai'i Maritime Center was closed to the public effective May 1, 2009. In December 2017, the Bishop Museum transferred its lease between the Maritime Center and the State of Hawaii to a third party, and ceased operating the Center. Plans for its future are unknown.

Hawaii Superferry

Hawaii Superferry was a Hawaii-based transportation company that provided passenger and vehicle transportation between Honolulu Harbor on the island of Oʻahu and Kahului Harbor on Maui. Legal issues over environmental impact statements and protests from residents of Maui and Kauaʻi temporarily delayed the implementation of service, but service between Oʻahu and Maui began in December 2007. The company had hoped to return service to Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauaʻi and additionally planned to eventually provide service to Kawaihae Harbor on the Big Island.Ferry operations were suspended in March, 2009 after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a state law allowing the Superferry to operate without a second complete environmental impact statement was unconstitutional. The company went bankrupt as a result of these actions preventing service in Hawaii. On July 2, 2009 a Delaware Bankruptcy Court granted the company's motion to abandon both the ships Alakai and Huakai, ending all possibilities that the company might return to Hawaii; the ships were bought by the US Maritime Administration in 2010.

The United States Navy eventually purchased the craft for a total of $35M, a small fraction of their original $180M cost.


Hawaiʻiloa is the settler of the island of Hawai'i based on an ancient Hawaiian legend.

Honolulu molasses spill

In September 2013, 1,400 tons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor. The spill was discovered on 9 September 2013. It was caused by a faulty pipe, for which the shipping company Matson Navigation Co. took responsibility. Molasses is an unregulated product, and neither Matson nor government officials had a contingency plan to respond to a molasses spill. Natural currents and weather were expected to eventually dilute and flush the molasses out of the harbor and a nearby lagoon.Divers in the harbor area reported that all sea life in the area was killed by the molasses, which instantly sank to the bottom of the harbor and caused widespread de-oxygenation. Members of various coral species were injured or killed, and more than 26,000 fish and members of other marine species suffocated and died.The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. on Maui produces molasses from sugar cane, and ships it to the mainland to be processed and sold. Matson had been transporting molasses from Honolulu Harbor for 30 years and at the time was shipping it about once a week.


Kakaʻako is a commercial and retail district of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi between Ala Moana near Waikīkī to the east and downtown Honolulu and Honolulu Harbor to the west. Kakaʻako is situated along the southern shores of the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii.


Kalihi is a neighborhood of Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi, United States. Split by the Likelike Highway (Route 63), it is flanked by downtown Honolulu to the east and Mapunapuna, Moanalua and Salt Lake to the west.

Kalihi is the name of the ahupuaʻa (ancient land division) between Kahauiki and Kapālama in the Kona (now Honolulu) district of O'ahu. The ahupua'a consists of Kalihi Uka, Kalihi Waena and Kalihi Kai. Historically, Kalihi Kai was the site of the former Leprosy Receiving Station, where those suspected of leprosy were examined prior to treatment or being sent to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokaʻi. Kalihi was also known for its fishponds, ʻĀpili, Pahouiki, Pahounui, ʻAuiki, and Ananoho, near the present Sand Island Access Road (Route 64) all of which have since been filled in. The harbormaster of Kamehameha I, Captain Alexander Adams, maintained a residence near the ʻĀpili pond.

The name comes from ka lihi which means "the edge" in the Hawaiian language, and was used for districts on other islands as well.

Located at 21°20′10″N 157°52′35″W,

it was thought to be named by Prince Lot (the future King Kamehameha V in 1856.Kalihi Valley has been carved by Kalihi Stream; it is narrow and steep in its upper reaches (with source around 21°22′29″N 157°48′55″W, but widens out to flatlands as it approaches Honolulu Harbor, with its mouth at 21°19′51″N 157°53′26″W.The lower valley has been a residential area for a considerable time and is home to numerous tracts of older houses. It becomes commercial and maritime close to the water.

Kalihi is famous for Pele's family such as her sister, mother, and the wife of Wakea. In this region of Honolulu, they had many adventures. One that she saved Wakea (her husband) "who was being taken away for sacrifice, by embracing him."


Naihe-Kukui Kapihe (died 1825), known as "Captain Jack" or "Jack the Pilot" to visitors, served as Honolulu harbor master and admiral of the royal fleet in the early Kingdom of Hawaii. His daughter would become a Queen consort.

PS Hankow (1874)

The PS Hankow was an iron paddle steamer built at A and J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow with Yard No. 107. The Hankow is notable as one of the ships to participate in the 1878 to 1911 wave of Portuguese immigration to Hawaii, when she arrived on 9 July 1883 in Honolulu Harbor with 1,462 immigrants from the Azores and Madeira Island of Portugal to work as contract labor in the Hawaiian sugarcane plantations. She was transferred in 1886 from Yangtze to Hong Kong/Canton service. Gutted by fire on 14 October 1906 at Canton Steamer Wharf, Hong Kong with loss of 130 lives. Towed to Shanghai in 1907 and converted to hulk and moved to Hankow as transhipment godown. Transferred to Shasi in 1930, and to Ichang in 1938. Destroyed by American bombing during WW2.

Punchbowl Crater

Punchbowl Crater is an extinct volcanic tuff cone located in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is the location of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The crater was formed some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago during the secondary activity of the Honolulu Volcanic Series. A crater resulted from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range. The volcano is most likely a monogenetic volcano, meaning that it only erupted once.

Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl's Hawaiian name, "Puowaina," the most common is "Hill of Sacrifice." This translation closely relates to the history of the crater. The first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to their gods and killed violators of the many taboos. Later, during the reign of Kamehameha the Great, a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions. Early in the 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of the Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Toward the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.

During the late 1890s, a committee recommended that the Punchbowl become the site for a new cemetery to accommodate the growing population of Honolulu. The idea was rejected for fear of polluting the water supply and the emotional aversion to creating a city of the dead above a city of the living. Fifty years later, Congress authorized a small appropriation to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu with two provisions: that the location be acceptable to the War Department, and that the site would be donated rather than purchased. In 1943, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for a national cemetery. The $50,000 appropriation proved insufficient, however, and the project was deferred until after World War II. By 1947, Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military to find a permanent burial site in Hawaii for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen on the island of Guam awaiting permanent burial. Subsequently, the Army again began planning the Punchbowl cemetery; in February 1948 Congress approved funding and construction began.

SS Priscilla

The Priscilla is a wooden bark that is historically significant for being the first of several ships to bring Portuguese immigrants to the Hawaiian Islands, the Priscilla arriving on 30 September 1878 to Honolulu harbor with 120 settlers recruited from the Madeira Islands of Portugal.

Sand Island (Hawaii)

Sand Island, formerly known as Quarantine Island, is a small island within the city of Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. The island lies at the entrance to Honolulu Harbor.

Three minute men

"Three minute men" were patrons of a quasi-legal prostitution industry north of Hotel Street near Honolulu Harbor from December 1941 to September 1944 (World War II). After martial law was declared in Honolulu, local police corruption and regulations were superseded, and a price of three dollars was set by military authorities. To satisfy an immense demand, men were kept in a "bullpen" of three or more rooms, permitting men to dress and undress in assembly-line fashion, while each received only three minutes of personal attention. The practice may have been initiated by Jean O'Hara.

United States District Court for the District of Hawaii

The United States District Court for the District of Hawaii (in case citations, D. Haw.) is the principal trial court of the United States Federal Court System in the state of Hawaii. The court's territorial jurisdiction encompasses the state of Hawaii and the territories of Midway Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Baker Island, Howland Island, and Jarvis Island. It is located at the Prince Kuhio Federal Building in downtown Honolulu, fronting the Aloha Tower and Honolulu Harbor. The court hears both civil and criminal cases as a court of law and equity. A branch of the district court is the United States Bankruptcy Court which also has chambers in the federal building. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over cases coming out of the District of Hawaii (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit). The United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii represents the United States in all civil and criminal cases within her district. The current United States Attorney is Kenji M. Price since January 5, 2018.


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