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Honolulu History

Tourism in Hawaii began in Honolulu. In the mid-twentieth century passengers began boarding Matson cruise liners to sail to the scenic coastline of Waikiki for extended vacations spent basking on the beach. Before that, Oahu’s south shore was little more than a fertile expanse of agricultural fields and wetland taro patches. Honolulu history began with Hawaiian farmers and fishermen living quiet lives in thatched villages along the shoreline.  All of that changed in the early 1800s when whaling ships began to drop anchor in Honolulu, bringing with them sailors and a slew of brothels and bars. Missionaries followed and protested the raucous and immoral behavior of drunken sailors to whom a new slew of brothels and bars catered. The devout missionaries “civilized” the natives and merchants established commerce in the downtown area, spreading Western ideas that culminated in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1898. In the 1920s, the dredging of the Ala Wai Canal transformed Waikiki, and a network of hotels and resorts rose to become the foundation of Hawaii’s economy. One of the most known moments in Honolulu history came on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of nearby Pearl Harbor, which threw Honolulu into the global spotlight, and for another decade, a military shadow was cast over island life. Honolulu history dates back to the 18th century, long before Hawaii became part of the United States. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Waikiki’s golden era was in full swing, and tourism became a lasting industry that would fuel Hawaii’s economy.
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