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.
I just wanted to let you know that our stay on Oahu at Honeyed Jade was amazing. My family was blown away by the beauty of the house and the kindness of the Property Manager. We loved the house cockatoo, Lola. She was the life of the party! Thank you to you and Iris for all your help and professionalism. It was greatly appreciated.
If you are looking for the Perfect House in the Perfect Location with the Perfect Hosts
If you are looking for the Perfect House in the Perfect Location with the the Perfect Hosts, you could not possibly find a better Maui Vacation Rental.
From the moment we contacted Sunny, our every need and desire to create a dream trip was effortless. She took care of shopping, dinner reservations and answered every ‘stupid’ question like a true professional.
Any small issue with the house was taken care of promptly by Eric. Always polite and understanding to our requests, he fixed things in a flash!
And the Home….
Great Location on the Beach
Plenty of room(s). We had 7 people.
Modern electronics and Wifi
The Best of Maui!
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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!!!