Learn About Visiting and the History of Niihau

If you’re looking for an amazing and unique Hawaiian vacation spot, look no further than Niihau island. This small, unincorporated island is located just miles west of Kaua’i. Though it’s often overlooked by tourists, Niihau is a fascinating place with a rich history that visitors can explore!

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the history and culture of Niihau island. We’ll also discuss some of the things you can do when you visit! So if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path Hawaiian vacation destination, be sure to add Niihau to your list!

What Is Niihau Island?

As mentioned earlier, Niihau is an island located in the state of Hawaii. It’s the westernmost inhabited island in Hawaii, and it’s also the smallest inhabited island in the state. The island has a total area of nearly seventy square miles.

Niihau is sometimes called the “Forbidden Island” because it’s privately owned and off-limits to most visitors. The island is home to native Hawaiians and not much exposed to the public, unlike the other major islands in the state.

Interestingly, this island is home to several rare animal and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!

The History of Niihau


Niihau has a long and fascinating history. The island was first settled by Polynesian voyagers in around the year 300 AD. These early settlers brought with them plants and animals from their homeland. They also introduced the Hawaiian language and culture to the island.

Niihau was an important place for the early Hawaiian kings. The island was a refuge for Hawaiian royalty and a place where they could escape from the pressures of ruling the kingdom.

In 1864, Niihau was purchased by Elizabeth Sinclair, a Scottish woman. The island was bought for $10,000 from Kamehameha V. The Sinclair family has owned the island ever since. They continue to operate it as a privately-owned ranch.

Sinclair’s grandson, Aubrey Robinson, took control of the island in the 1900s. He closed the island in 1915, making it a private estate isolated from the other islands. The island became difficult to visit, even for relatives.

Changes were made after Aubrey’s death in 1939. His son Aylmer Robinson took over and slowly began to open up the island to visitors. After a few years, the island was passed down to the current owners: Bruce Robinson and Keith Robinson.

During World War II, Japanese pilots crash-landed on the island. One of the pilots was killed, and the other captured. The captured pilot was held as a prisoner of war on the island.

Today, despite the private status of the island, it’s possible for visitors to arrange a trip to Niihau. The Robinsons opened the island to tourism in the late 20th century.

Visitors are allowed to participate in activity tours and hunting safaris that are run by the family. He ran the island as a cattle ranch and also allowed hunters to come to the island to hunt for goats, pigs, and deer.

In recent years, the Robinson family has been working to preserve the Hawaiian culture on the island. The Robinson family still owns the island, and they continue to operate it as a private ranch.

Life on Niihau Island

As mentioned earlier, Niihau island is home to native Hawaiians. In 2020, the island had a population of about eighty people. Most of the residents live in the village of Puuwai.

The island is very isolated from the outside world. There are no paved roads on the island, and there is only one airstrip. The only way to reach Niihau is by boat or helicopter.

There is no electricity on the island. The residents rely on solar power and generators for energy.

The island doesn’t have any stores or restaurants. The residents grow their own food and catch fish from the sea.

Even though the island is isolated, the residents are very friendly and welcoming to visitors. They are happy to share their culture and traditions with those who come to the island.

Furthermore, the villagers usually take boat rides to Kauai just to go to school, work and make hospital visits. There are no accommodations for visitors, despite allowing beach tours and safaris for a price.

The isolation of the island has helped to preserve the Hawaiian culture. The residents still speak Hawaiian as their first language. They also follow the Hawaiian traditions and customs.

Niihau is truly a unique place, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you ever have the chance. It’s an amazing place to learn about Hawaiian culture and history. And, of course, the scenery is absolutely stunning!

What Are Some of the Things To Do When You Visit Niihau Island?


If you’re a tourist and want to visit Niihau, some of the main activities you can participate in are going on an island tour, a hunting safari, or visiting the beaches. 

Tours of the island are run by the Robinson family. They will take you around to see some of the historic places on the island, such as the spot where the Japanese pilot was captured during World War II.

The hunting safaris are also run by the Robinson family. You can go hunting for eland, aoudad, and oryx; these are animal species native to Niihau island. Besides these animals, you can also hunt wild sheep and boars for their meat. If you don’t want to take their meat, you can give them to the villagers as a gift.

If you just want to relax, you can go to any of the beaches on the island. The water is crystal clear, and the sand is white. You can also find shells and coral on the shore. However, there is no hotel accommodation available on the island, and going to the beach is just available for a day tour.

Is It Safe To Visit Niihau Island?

Visiting Niihau island is safe for tourists. There is very little crime on the island, and the villagers are friendly and welcoming to visitors.

The only thing you need to be aware of is the isolation of the island. There are no paved roads and only one airstrip, so the only way to reach Niihau is by boat or helicopter.

There is also no electricity on the island, so you need to be prepared for that. There are no stores or restaurants on the island, so you need to bring your own food and water.

Overall, visiting Niihau island is safe for tourists. Just be prepared for the isolation and lack of amenities.

Final Thoughts

Niihau island is indeed a fascinating place for tourists. The island is filled with stunning and picturesque views and is home to a rich history and culture. Having survived years of isolation, it remains to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all its visitors. If you ever have the chance to visit, be sure not to miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience!