Lyman Museum

Get in Touch with the People and Places of Hawaii’s Past at the Lyman Museum in Hilo
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Learn more about Hawaii, its landscape, and its people with a visit to the Lyman Museum in Hilo. The rest of your trip will become more meaningful when you have a new perspective on the human and natural histories of the Hawaiian Islands.

- The Local Expert Team

One way to make your visit to Hawaii more meaningful is by exploring the history and culture of the islands. The Lyman Museum in Hilo has a mission to tell every visitor the story of Hawaii, the lands that create it, and the people who have lived there. Visiting this museum can inform you about the rich history infused into every part of the island.
The Lyman Museum property holds the museum building, constructed in 1971, and the historic Mission House, built in 1839. The Mission House hosts tours of the building, which illustrates life in 19th-century Hawaii. However, while adjacent to the museum, the Mission House is a separate experience, requiring another ticket and reservation.

Only four museums in Hawaii have accreditation through the American Alliance of Museums. The Lyman Museum is one of those. Additionally, it is a Smithsonian affiliate. In addition to the exhibits open to the public, the Lyman Museum stores valuable archives on the history of the Hawaiian Islands. It also educates local school children through events and class tours.

When you visit this museum, ask about special exhibits or events happening. These limited-time options will change throughout the year. However, the permanent exhibits also merit a visit. Lyman Museum has two main galleries with additional space for special exhibits. Most visitors spend at least two to three hours at the museum’s main exhibits. Plan your day accordingly.

Be sure to visit the following exhibit areas in the Lyman Museum to complete your visit:

This gallery features exhibits that show the lifestyles of the first settlers of the islands, Polynesians who traveled across the Pacific to reach Hawaii. You can see examples of how these people lived by seeing jewelry, fishing equipment, building tools, baskets, and much more. The exhibit also describes more about the beliefs of these earliest Hawaiians.

The Island Heritage Gallery also displays information on how people from countries around the world converged on Hawaii to alter its land and culture. This portion of the gallery explains the history of other immigrants to Hawaii, including Europeans who came to trade, hunt whales or serve as missionaries. It also describes how later sugar plantations brought in immigrants from all over the globe. Hailing from Japan, Korea, China, Portugal, and the Philippines, these peoples’ had a direct effect on today’s Hawaiian food, culture, and language.

If you have kids, make sure that they see the interactive kipuka area. This portion of the Island Heritage Gallery includes touch-screen demonstrations they can follow to learn more about mat plaiting, cordage making, hula storytelling, and much more.

Earth Heritage Gallery
Explore the vast wealth of natural resources throughout Hawaii at the Earth Heritage Gallery. This gallery includes displays on the native marine life in the waters of the Islands, with a full-sized, 10-foot-long tiger shark model and numerous shells on display.

In this gallery, you get a full scope of the vast range of habitats within the state, including information on the state’s volcanos, rainforests, and marine environs. You will also see a large collection of minerals from the state that includes the only sample of Orlymanite, named for the mineral collector and great-grandson of the missionaries who gave the museum their names, Orlando Lyman.

Discover more about Hawaii with a visit to the Lyman Museum. Your trip will help you to better appreciate the culture and natural resources you encounter throughout your visit to the Hawaiian Islands.

Insider Tip:
You must pay for separate admissions for the Mission House and museum. Visitors must also book reservations for tours of the Mission House and museum entry online or by phone.