Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, often referred to as “the Bishop” is the largest museum in the state of Hawaii. It is the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific. Its primary purpose is to represent and serve the interests of Native Hawaiians. The Bishop is recognized worldwide for its cultural collections, research projects, consulting services, and public educational programs.
The collections include millions of objects, documents, and photographs about Hawai‘i and other Pacific island cultures. Royal family jewelry, crowns, and other heirlooms showcase the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi. Native Hawaiian Items on display include, weapons, feather cloaks, and outrigger canoes, to name just a few.
The museum also has one of the largest natural history specimen collections in the world exceeding 24 million objects. This includes the third-largest entomological (insect) collection in the country and the largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts in the world.
Who was Bernice Pauahi Bishop?
Bishop Museum is named for Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831-1884), great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I. She was the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family. During her lifetime, Princess Pauahi witnessed the rapid decline of the Hawaiian population, and along with it a loss of Hawaiian language, culture, and traditions.
Kamehameha V (King Lot Kapuāiwa) was a lifelong bachelor. An hour before his death in 1872, he asked Bernice Pauahi Bishop to take the throne, but she declined. Instead, William Charles Lunalilo was elected. Two more monarchs followed, King David Kalākaua aka “The Merrie Monarch” and Queen Lili`uokalani, before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.
Believing that education was key to the survival of the Hawaiian people, Princess Pauahi bequeathed her entire estate to create Kamehameha Schools. Today, the Princess’s endowment funds a statewide educational system at 30 preschool sites and three K-12 campuses on Hawai‘i, Maui and O‘ahu; along with a broad range of community outreach programs. Princess Pauahi is interred at Mauna ʻAla (Royal Mausoleum State Monument) in Honolulu. It is the final resting place of Hawaii’s two prominent royal families: the Kamehameha Dynasty and the Kalākaua Dynasty.
The Bishop Museum was founded after her death in 1889 by her husband, Charles Reed Bishop to honor his late wife. Charles built the Polynesian and Hawaiian Halls on the grounds of the original Kamehameha School for Boys. The Museum and School shared a campus in the Kapālama district in Honolulu, where the museum sits today. In 1940, a new larger school complex was constructed mauka (towards the mountains) of the museum on nearby on Kamehameha Heights. Over time, the museum has greatly expanded to include an extensive collection of Hawaiian objects, royal family heirlooms, personal and scientific papers, genealogical records, and memorabilia.
Architecture of Bishop Museum
The architecture of Bishop Museum alone is worth the visit. Hawaiian Hall and adjacent Polynesian Hall were built in 1889 in the popular Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style of the time. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hawaiian Hall was extensively renovated from 2006-2013.
The Bishop Museum grounds consist of several other structures: the Castle Memorial Building, Paki Hall, Hale Waʻa, Atherton Hālau, the J. Watumull Planetarium, cafe and gift shop, and Hawaiian garden. Bishop Museum buildings, lawns, and courtyards are available for special events. These venue spaces are unique settings for private or corporate functions, from sit-down dinners and receptions to cocktail parties, galas, or lectures and workshops. More info: https://www.bishopmuseum.org/facility-rentals/
Visiting Bishop Museum
With its extensive programs, impressive collections, and permanent and rotation exhibitions, the Bishop is a favorite for visitors and residents. There’s always something new to see. The museum is located in near downtown Honolulu at the juncture of the H-1 freeway and Likelike Highway. It is open every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Address: Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, HI 96817.
- Hours: open daily 9AM – 5PM. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
- Parking: parking is available in the museum parking lot for a modest fee. Payment kiosks accept credit cards only. Kiosks are located in front of the main entrance and in the upper parking lot.
- General admission: $24.95. Kama‘āina/military: $14.95. Members: FREE.
- Café: Open daily, offering a variety of Hawaiian specialties including plates, poke bowls, sandwiches, sweet treats, and snacks.
- Online learning resources: https://www.bishopmuseum.org/online-learning-center/
- Website: https://www.bishopmuseum.org/
How to get free or discount admission to Bishop Museum
- Online Learning Center: it is free to explore photos, videos, blog posts, podcasts, activities, and lesson plans, on history, culture, science, and other subjects with content regularly updated online.
- Save $2 off general admission when you purchase advance tickets online. Use code ONLINE.
- Discounted admission is available to Kamaʻāina (residents) and Military with Hawaiʻi state ID or driver’s license, Hawaiʻi college or university ID, or an active military ID.
- Members get free general admission and parking, PLUS many other freebies and discounts: J. Watumull Planetarium tickets, special exhibits and events, Member Previews, Members After Dark events, and shopping and café discounts. Membership pays for itself in about 3-5 visits (Kamaʻāina versus visitor). Membership begins at $70 per adult annual fee (discounted for students, seniors, and families). More info: Join & Give – Bishop Museum
- Save $5 on admission every second Friday during Bishop Museum After Hours from 5:30 – 9 p.m. More info: After Hours – Bishop Museum
- Save $5 off general admission for group ticket purchase of 10+ people (age 5+). More info: Group Visits – Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum programs & exhibits
The permanent exhibits take you on a journey through the history of Hawai’i, including Polynesian migrations and wayfinding, cultural beliefs and traditions, daily life in ancient Hawaii, important historical events, and much more. Rotating exhibits taker a deeper dive into artifacts from the collections and millions of stories across hundreds of years of Hawaiian history.
From 2016-2026, the Bishop Museum will champion a decade of strategic transformation. The museum is re-energizing and re-investing in its mission to inspire the local community and visitors through the exploration and celebration of the extraordinary history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.
Listed next and on our event calendar below, we highlight some of the upcoming programs and exhibits at Bishop Museum.
Bishop Museum 2nd Friday Pau Hana “After Hours”
In 2022, Bishop Museum “After Hours” is offered the second Friday of each Month from 5:30 – 9 p.m. (last entry at 8:00 p.m.). Museum admission required: $5 – Non-Members. Free – All Membership Levels. Parking: $3 per vehicle (credit card only), Free for Members. Explore Historic Hawaiian Hall, check out Hawaiʻi’s animal and plant biodiversity in the Science Adventure Center; explore the newest exhibitions in the Castle Memorial Building and J.M. Long Gallery; or spend your evening under Honolulu’s star-lit sky on the Great Lawn with live entertainment, a keiki zone, bar/wine tent, food trucks, local vendors, and more! More info: After Hours – Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum Outdoor Backyard Adventures Nov. 19, 2022 – Aug. 20, 2023
Backyard Adventures is an interactive science exhibit that engages guests with the wonders that can be found in their own backyards. Bishop Museum emphasizes the importance of natural sciences, biodiversity, and conservation. This exhibit puts science in action and encourages citizen science for all ages through engaging and playful interactives in a setting familiar to many ʻohana. Enjoy activities such as a giant skipping rope and backyard-themed mini golf. Explore the world from the perspective of a bee, take a walk through a digital garden to see plants growing in super time, and investigate the creatures that only come out once they’re tucked into bed. More info: Backyard Adventures – Bishop Museum
Taxonomy: Our Lives Depend On It: July 23, 2022 – February 19, 2023
Bishop Museum presents an interactive, multimedia exhibition that explores the importance of taxonomy — the identification and naming of plants and animals — and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. The exhibit “Taxonomy: Our Lives Depend On It” features a variety of media including images, video, and interactives to tell visitors stories of taxonomy and the people who do taxonomic work. The Taxonomy exhibit will also showcase one of the largest displays of the plants and animals never before seen together. These specimens are from the Bishop Museum’s natural sciences collection of more than 20 million items, much of which is normally not accessible to the public.
Features of the exhibit include a 30-foot WOW! Wall displaying an incredible array of different plants and animals, a timeline of taxonomy history from early crude instruments to modern DNA analysis used by scientists to identify species, some of the core similarities between Indigenous naming and Western systems of organizing the universe, how native plants and animals were named in Hawaiian traditions, and how traditional names can be revived to give culturally-based names to plants and animals in Hawaiʻi.
Bishop Museum is Open Daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day. More info: Programs & Events – Bishop Museum
Upcoming Bishop Museum events on our calendar: Bishop Museum (Oʻahu) – Hawaiʻi on the Cheap (hawaiionthecheap.com)