About eighteen miles southwest of the Garden Island (Kauai), sits Hawaii’s “Forbidden Island”, also known as Niihau. Pronounced “Knee-ee-how”, with fewer than 200 residents, it is the least inhabited of the Hawaiian Islands. Once owned by Royalty, Niihau was purchased from King Kamehameha in 1864 and up to 1987, visits to the island were typically restricted to the owners and their guests, or government officials, which is how it gained its moniker; “The Forbidden Island”.
Elizabeth Sinclair purchased Niihau for $10,000 and made a commitment to King Kamehameha that she would preserve the culture for the Hawaiian people living there. Currently co-owned by her grandsons Keith and Bruce Robinson, the family has upheld this commitment over the years as the island’s ownership continues to be passed down through generations.
Time has almost stood still on Niihau. The remaining residents live in the small village of Pu’uwai and the locals are mostly self-sufficient living off of the land. They hunt and fish for food and have additional supplies brought in from Kauai. There is no telephone service, no hotels, no paved roads, only a handful of cars, and the island is entirely solar powered. The primary language spoken on Niihau is Hawaiian.
Niihau gets very little rain so the lush flora and fauna found on Kauai and the other islands is noticeably absent. It is for this reason that the leis traditionally made on Niihau are so unique and to this day can fetch upwards of $1000. Because there are few flowers, natives of Niihau have historically made their leis of “Pupu o Ni’ihau”. These are intricate shells that wash up on the island’s beaches. These miniature shells are painstakingly sewn together in to elaborate leis or handcrafted in to beautiful one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces. “Pupu o Ni’ihau” are the only shells in the world classified as gems by gemologists and can subsequently be insured as fine jewelry.
For a culture that chooses to live the life of their ancestors, the natives of Niihau are still relatively modern. They travel back and forth to Kauai commuting for work, school, or to visit family on the surrounding islands. There is a small US Navy facility on the island which contributes to the economy and maintenance of the island. The Robinson brothers also generate additional income by offering half-day helicopter tours and hunting safaris which they started in the late 80’s. The Niihua tours have been successful for the owners since prior to this, there was no way for anyone to see or visit the Forbidden Island. Careful not to disturb the natives, visitors cannot interact with the locals who live here and their village is off-limits. Tours depart from Kauai and visitors can spend three hours swimming, snorkeling, searching for shells, and are treated to a spot of lunch to keep the tummy from rumbling! The island is also home to as many as 80 of the remaining 150 endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals that still come close to the main islands giving visitors something else worth seeing. It is thought that there are no more than 1100 Hawaiian Monk Seals left, so the ones that come to shore here are a treat.
In today’s fast-paced world, it is rare to find a place like Niihau that remains virtually untouched or spoiled by modern technology making this an intriguing outing for Hawaii vacationers. If you are interested in learning more about the Niihau “Forbidden Island” tours while here in Hawaii, our concierge service would be more than happy to provide you with additional details.
We had a wonderful time at Sail Away and I recommended Hawaii Hideaway to dozens of people. You were a delight to work with and I will definitely use you again the next time we rent a home in the islands.
Like a Dream
Bliss doesn’t even describe our experience. It was almost like a dream. We are ready to do this again with Hawaii Hideaways – you guys are the best. Everything was perfect!!!
Outstanding Experience From Beginning to End
It was in an outstanding experience from beginning to end, I would work with Hawaii hideaways again in the future unquestionably. Sunny Madeiros was terrific with her recommendations of everything from leisure activities to restaurants and even equipment rentals.
Coral Gables, FL
Perfect Combination of Elegance and Comfort
First time to Maui (and Hawaii). This is a spectacular setting and the home is a perfect combination of elegance and comfort. I could stay on the lanai all day long and be happy. Of course there’s a ton of fun activities, but it was great to have Gull Cottage as our base to come back to!
Arlington Heights, IL
You’re Going to Want to Stay
Our family spent a splendid week in Kauai in early 2017, basing ourselves out of the Touching Green house. It’s in a great location, has everything you need, and is just lovely. The pictures don’t do it justice. You’re going to want to stay!
We had a wonderful time in Kauai! We remained in awe at the unimaginable beauty, both of the rental home, as well as Kauai itself. It will be a treasured memory for life. I hope we can come back and make more memories.