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The Hawaiian islands are a jewel in the Pacific and there’s no place on earth that inspires the imagination in quite the same way. It’s not just gorgeous beaches and perfect weather, though: Hawaii also has a rich local culture and history. Among the most important figures in the history of the islands is King Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great, who rose up out of legend to become a crusader in battle, a skilled diplomat, and a true leader for his people in a time of great cultural changes. Keep reading to learn more about the king responsible for uniting the islands of Hawaii!

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The History of King Kamehameha the Great 

Kamehameha was born into a royal family in North Kohala. His mother was Kekuiapoiwa, the daughter of a Kona chief, while his father was likely Keoua, the Kohala chief. Accounts vary and exact information on Kamehameha’s birth is shrouded in mystery, but a Hawaiian legend prophesied that the birth of a great chief would be signaled by a light in the sky with feathers like a bird. Consequently, many historians believe that Kamehameha was born in 1758, the same year the proverbial light with bird feathers passed by, Halley’s comet.
The future king, given the name Pai’ea at birth, was born during a time of great strife, and upon birth he was hidden in the Waipio Valley to protect him from warring clans. At the age of five, when the threat had passed, the young prince returned to live with his parents in Kailua, now carrying the name by which we remember him today: Kamehameha, or “The Lonely One”. From this time on he received special training, especially from his uncle Kalani’opu’u, that gave him great skill in games, warfare, oral history, navigation, and religious ceremonies. These and other lessons would prepare him to be a chief—one of the greatest in Hawaii’s history. Kamehameha proved his great strength by overturning the 2.5-3.5 ton Naha Stone (which can still be seen today in Hilo), which legend stated would be done by the one destined to join the islands together.

Kamehameha and Captain Cook

When Captain James Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, the island was once again thrown into warfare, where Kamehameha was already known as an ambitious and fierce warrior. Kamehameha, fighting alongside Kalani’opu’u, gained great notoriety during the battle at Kealakekua Bay where Captain Cook was killed. When Kalani’opu’u died in 1782, a full scale civil war commenced for control of the islands. Having become fascinated by Cook’s weapons, Kamehameha, aided by Western advisors, utilized both guns and cannons to vanquish his enemies and consolidate power across the islands. Finally in 1810, Kamehameha had conquered the islands and the last man standing, King Kaumualii of Kauai, surrendered his kingdom to the great chief.
Kamehameha’s unification of the islands served as Hawaii’s greatest protection against the encroaching Westerners. Incredibly, he was able to create friendships and alliances with the foreigners while maintaining his status and protecting the rights of the native Hawaiians. Under his rule, Hawaiians were able to hold on to their traditional religious and cultural practices. Kamehameha always retained tight control when it came to Western business and political contacts. Every June 11th Hawaiians celebrate Kamehameha Day and drape flowers on the four statues that commemorate the great leader.

Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel

Visitors to Hawaii would do well to visit the iconic King Kamehameha Kona Hotel while touring the islands. Nestled in a spectacular setting, not only is the hotel’s Beach Restaurant home to an amazing dining experience, but there are a wide variety of activities in the area, such as whale sightseeing tours, snorkeling, hiking, and more. Even better, enjoy your lunch or dinner on a guided historical dinner cruise. The three-hour tour will take you 12 miles down the Kona Coast to Captain Cook’s monument, all while a local historian points out dozens of places of historical interest. To learn more about these historical guided cruises or schedule a tour, visit Body Glove Hawaii today!

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