Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, known simply as the Bishop Museum is the largest museum in the state of Hawaii. It is the premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific. It’s 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.
About Bishop Museum
With its extensive programs, impressive collections, and permanent and rotation exhibitions, the museum is a favorite for visitors and residents. There’s always something new to see.
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
The Bishop 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 available to Kamaʻāina / Military get with Hawaiʻi state ID or driver’s license, Hawaiʻi college or university ID, or an active military ID.
- Bishop Museum Members get free general admission and parking, PLUS free J. Watumull Planetarium tickets, free or discounted admission to special exhibits and events, invitations to see-it-first Member Previews, and free tickets to the annual Members After Dark event, AND finally, shopping and café discounts. 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.
Tatau: Marks of Polynesia November 13, 2021 – July 4, 2022
Bishop Museum understands that storytelling comes in many forms, whether through the spoken word, visual symbolism, musical performance, or other medium. Tattooing has long been held as not just a practice in art but also a way to tell stories through art, through the intimate painting of one’s body.
Sāmoa’s tatau is one of the world’s most distinct tattoo traditions. It is an indigenous art form dating back 2,000 years, and has played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. In Sāmoa, tufuga tā tatau (master tattoo artists) are granted high status in society and acquiring tatau is considered a powerful affirmation of national identity, particularly for young men, for whom it is an important rite of passage.
The exhibition “Tatau: Marks of Polynesia” is an opportunity to learn what tatau signifies in Samoan culture, and how it helps Samoans and other Polynesians living abroad stay connected to their identity and heritage. This exhibition showcases the work of traditional tatau masters alongside that of younger practitioners and artists who are adopting tatau’s motifs and styles for new media and art forms.
Bishop Museum is Open Daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day.
More info: Tatau – Bishop Museum
Outdoor Film Screening: The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu June 17, 2022
In partnership with film directors and exhibit co-curators Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson, Bishop Museum is proud to present the premiere in-person screening of The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu (four large stones that were long ago placed on Waikīkī Beach to honor four māhū). The feature documentary premieres the day before the opening of the major exhibition of the same name.
Using rare archival materials, new historical findings, and vivid animation, The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu brings to life the legend of four monumental stones on Honolulu’s famous Waikīkī Beach. According to legend, the stones are a tribute to four māhū—people of dual male and female spirit—who brought the healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi and used their spiritual power to cure disease. Although the stones have survived for centuries, the true story behind them has been suppressed and the role of māhū erased. These stones represent a Hawaiian tradition of healing and gender diversity that is all but unknown to the millions of locals and tourists passing by. The film explores how, when, and why the legend was altered and the importance of protecting and preserving sacred spaces and traditional knowledge. This is also the first feature documentary film to be presented in ʻŌlelo Kanaka Niʻihau, the only form of the Hawaiian language unbroken by foreign contact. The screening will be followed by a post-screening Q&A with the filmmakers and key creative partners. Guests are encouraged to bring your own lawn chairs and mats as seating is limited. No coolers, or outside food & beverages, are allowed. Strollers welcome.
This hour-long documentary is scheduled for a one-night-only on Bishop Museum’s Great Lawn.
- When: June 17, 2022, 5:30 – 9 p.m. 5:30-6:30 p.m. | Exhibit gallery open. 7-9 p.m. | Film screening + post-screening Q&A
- Where: Exhibit | Castle Memorial Building Gallery. Film | Great Lawn at Bishop Museum (rain or shine, tickets are non-refundable)
- General Admission: $20. Members discount: 50% ($10). Pre-registration is highly recommended. Walk-ins will be admitted on a space-available basis.
The documentary is a companion piece to the ongoing gallery exhibition, which will be on view in Bishop Museum’s Castle Memorial Building through Oct. 23, 2022. The gallery will be open for viewing prior to the screening. Please note that tickets are non-refundable. The film will be shown, rain or shine. Guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets and portable chairs.
The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu June 18 – October 16, 2022
Discover the long-hidden history of four mysterious stones on Waikīkī Beach, and the legendary dual male and female healing spirits within them. The exhibition “Healer Stones of Kapaemahu” explores the meanings of four large stones that were long ago placed on Waikīkī Beach to honor four māhū—extraordinary individuals of dual male and female spirit, who brought healing arts from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. Although the stones have survived for centuries, the story behind them has been suppressed and the respected role of māhū erased. This is an extraordinary opportunity to learn about the holistic healing beliefs and practices of Hawaiians, who view the body, mind, and spirit as one; the body cannot be made well without healing the spirit.
In the museum’s main gallery, visitors will encounter a life-size rendering of the stones and spirits, then watch a captivating, animated film that tells their story before continuing to an enormous room lined with projection screens and that recounts the long history of the site. Examples of lāʻau lapaʻau (herbal medicines) and rarely seen 19th century lomilomi (massage) implements will also be on display. The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu is presented in both English and ʻōlelo Niʻihau, the only form of Hawaiian unbroken by foreign contact. This is Bishop Museum’s first fully bilingual exhibition, signaling its commitment to centering the exhibition in a Hawaiian worldview. Few of the millions of people who pass by the stones of Kapaemahu know their full story and meaning. This exhibition intends to start a conversation that will help restore this wahi pana, or storied site, as a permanent reminder of Hawaiʻi’s long history of healing and inclusion.
Bishop Museum is Open Daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day.
Bishop Museum 2nd Friday Pau Hana “After Hours”
This monthly evening event welcomes kamaʻāina and visitors to explore Hawaiʻi’s unique and unparalleled cultural and natural history. See Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s feather ʻahu ʻula (cape) and mahiole (helmet) in 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 food and drinks for sale by local vendors.
- 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.