Niihau is the smallest inhabited island of Hawaii. It’s located just under 18 miles from Kauai. This little arid island receives little rainfall and has a farm-like lifestyle.
The Island Name
Niihau is nicknamed “The Forbidden Isle” because no one is allowed to come onto the island unless invited by the Hawaiians themselves. The island is privately owned by a long lineage dating back to the early 1800’s. The current owners are two brothers, Bruce and Keith Robinson.
Preserving the Culture
The true culture of Niihau is kept intact by keeping outside influences from entering the island. There’s no airport, no cars, no electricity, no running water, no hotels, not even a traffic light. In fact, there are not even any cars. Common modes of transportation are bicycles and horses. The electricity needed on the island is produced by solar power. And the water comes from the winter rain storms.
The people here live rent-free, grow their own food, and have a very simple laidback lifestyle. However, the island does get help from nearby Kauai when other types of food are shipped in. There’s a K-12 school that has anywhere from 25 to 50 students. And some students attend charter schools on Kauai.
Niihau is the only island in which the original Hawaiian language is spoken in everyday conversation. English is only a secondary language.
In 1987, the owners of Niihau authorized tours to begin on the island. Niihau Helicopters began offering half-day tours from Kauai via helicopter. These tours offer aerial views of the island. They also land on one of the secluded beaches allowing opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, or searching for seashells. Unfortunately, exploring the island or contact with the residents are not allowed.
Safari hunting was also introduced. Visitors to Hawaii can join Niihau Safaris Ltd to hunt wild boar, sheep, and eland. These safaris offer good hunting challenges while in Hawaii.
Shell leis are popular souvenirs coming from the island of Niihau. The beaches here are covered with them. And the local residents spend hours collecting them. They use the shells to make leis they can sell to those visiting the island.
So even though Niihau is “The Forbidden Isle,” the Robinson family has been gracious enough to allow limited access. One can gain a glimpse of the true Hawaiian lifestyle being preserved today. The original cultures and traditions of ancient Hawaii can be found here, on the island of Niihau.
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Image By: Hawaii Guide