29 Books Set In Hawaii That Will Take You To The Islands And Back In Time

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Today we’re talking all about books set in Hawaii! There are a couple of non-fiction Hawaii books in here, but the majority are historical fiction set in Hawaii, a lot during WWII.

While I’ve currently only read one on this list, I decided to start another one right away and have added a few more to my TBR. I hope you enjoy the list and would love to hear about your favorite Hawaii books.

If you’re interested in trying Audible, you can get your first month free which includes a free audiobook!  This is a great option if you want to listen to books more.  If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there.

Moloka’i

Rachel Kalama is a seven-year-old Hawaiian girl who dreams of visiting far off lands like her merchant seaman father, but those dreams are stolen from her when a rose-colored mark appears on her skin.

She is taken from her home and family and sent to Kalaupapa on the island of Moloka’i. A quarantined leprosy colony. This is supposed to be the end of her life but she discovers it’s just the beginning.

Daughter of Moloka’i

This is the story of Ruth, the daughter Rachel Kalama was forced to give up at birth. It follows her story from her arrival at Kapi’olani, a home for girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese family and growing up on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and relocation in WWII, and the day she receives a letter from a woman who claims she is her birth mother, Rachel.

Freckled

Red-headed Toby grew up as one of only a few hundred haole (caucasian) people on the North Shore of Kauai to hippie surfer parents that just wanted to ride waves, use substances, and hide from society.

This is the story of Toby’s life growing up, catching octopus with her bare hands, selling magic mushrooms to make money, and living off the land in tents with no electricity or communication with thee outside world.

Micro

A group of graduate students are lured to Hawaii to work for a mysterious biotech company where they end of cast off into the rainforest with nothing but their scientific expertise and wits to protect them.

I actually found this one in a little free library and just decided I’m going to read it now!

A Song for the Stars

This is based on a true story and takes place in 1779. Maile is the second daughter of a royal chief meaning she will be allowed to marry for love. Her fiance is the best navigator in Hawai’i and has taught her everything he knows.

When sailors from a mysterious place called England show up on the island, she is widowed before she can wed in a misunderstanding that ended in battle. She takes in John Harbottle, the man who killed her finace, intending to let him die but reluctantly heals him. In the process she realizes he may be an ally, not an enemy.

John is fascinated with her homeland, her people, and Maile herself, but guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John for the death he caused and Maile for the truth about what started the battle – a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.

This is Paradise

This is a collection of stories about modern life in Hawaii, exploring the tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, facade and authentic self. It shows life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island. I’m actually really excited to read this one!

Still Life with Woodpecker

This is pretty different as far as Hawaii books goes because it’s a sort of love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes.

It reveals the purpose of the moon, the difference between criminals and outlaws, the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism while painting a portrait of a contemporary society of powerful arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. Oh, and the problem of reheads.

Shark Dialogues

This is the story of seven generations of one family in Hawaii encompassing the tumultuous Hawaiian history.

A Hawaiian woman gathers her four granddaughters together in a tale of villains, dreamers, queens, revolutionaries, lepers, and healers.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers

Violet and her daughter Ella are piecing their lives back together a year after her husband vanished, as combat in the pacific intensifies in 1944.

Suspicions about his loyalties surface and Violet thinks Ella knows something but she refuses to talk.

Violet and her friends open a pie stand for the soldiers training on the island for a secret mission but the women face their own wartime problems as prejudice against the island Japanese pits neighbor against neighbor.

Sergeant Stone is brash but comes to Violet’s aid when the women are accused of spying. She struggles with guilt but can’t deny the blooming attraction or her fear of losing another man as he ships out for Iwo Jima.

Lost Kingdom

For centuries, starting around 200 A.D. Polynesian descendents lived peacefully on an undisturbed archipelago with little contact from the western world. At least until 1778 when Captain Cook arrived.

Lili’uokalani was born in 1838 and was the last queen of Hawaii, living through an almost complete economic transformation of the islands. Sugar plantations gradually consumed the land and were almost exclusively owned by white planters, the “Sugar Kings.”

Hawaii became the prize in a contest between America, Britain, and France. THe monarchy became victim to manipulation and wealthy plantation owners. Lili’uokalani was outmaneuvered in her bid to reinstate the monarchy’s power by the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

From Here to Eternity

This is a tale of a soldiers life in the Army. The violence and passions of men and women living by unspoken codes with unutterable despair.

First Sergeant Milton Anthony Warden and Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt share a common bond of the Army. Warden is risking his life and career to have an affair with the commanding officer’s wife while Prewitt is getting “the treatment” for refusing to join the company’s boxing team.

The Army is their heart, blood, and maybe even death.

The Islands at the End of the World

Leilani loves surfing and her home in Hilo but she’s an outsider: half white, half Hawaiian, and epileptic.

A global disaster strikes while she’s in Oahu with her father. Technology and power fail leaving Hawaii cut off from the rest of the world, reverting the islands to traditional ways of survival.

On their nightmarish trek home across islands, she learns her deep connection to Hawaii and her epilepsy may be the secret to ending the crisis before it becomes worse than anyone could imagine.

The Girl at the Center of the World

Leilani, sixteen, and her family have learned to survive without electronics, farming the land like her ancestors. She finds strength in her relatives, friendships, and strange connection to the Emerald Orchid, the force whose presence caused global devastation. Through everything, she suffers from regret of what must be done to survive.

This is the sequel to The Islands at the End of the World with Hawaiian mythology and history intertwined throughout the story.

House of Many Gods

Ana was abandoned by her mother as a child and was raised by extended family on the “lawless” Wai’anae coast of Oahu, west of Honolulu. While helping victims of Hurrican ‘Iniki on neighboring Kauai she meets Nikolai, a Russian filmmaker. He has a violent and tragic past and the only way he can confront reality is through his unique prism of lies. Still, he is dedicated to recording the ecological horrors in his motherland across the pacific.

As their lives intertwine, we are swept through the decades from rural Hawaii to the Arctic wastes of Russia.

Under the Blood-Red Sun

Tomi was born in Hawaii. His grandparents were born in Japan. They came to America to escape poverty.

WWII feels worlds away from Tomi and his friends who are too busy playing ball, but then Pearl Harbor is attacked and the US declared war on Japan. It’s a terrifying time to be Japanese in America when the men are being rounded up and arrested. One this that doesn’t change is the loyalty of Tomi’s friends, the Rats.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

Scientists dismissed centuries of stories of gargantuan waves from mariners. Until recently. A startlingly high number of ships have vanished and oceanographers realized something was going on in the waters. In 2000, a British research vessel was trapped in a vortex of impossibly huge waves of up to 100 feet high.

Scientists are scrambling to understand the phenomenon while extreme surfers are flying around the world to try and ride these monstrous waves.

This one actually sounds really interesting even though I care almost zero about surfing. I added it to my TBR though!

Honolulu

She goes to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life and instead of an affluent young husband she was promised, she is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on his new wife.

She renames herself Jin to make her own way in this strange land where she finds opportunity and prejudice and learns to prosper with the help of three fellow picture brides.

But Honolulu still has its dark side, whether it’s the daily struggle for survival or a crime that will become the most infamous in the islands history.

The Goddesses

Nancy and her family are desperate for a fresh start when they land in Kona, Hawaii. Here husband cheated on her, they sleep in separate bedrooms, and their twin sons have been acting out and lighting illegal fireworks, but Hawaii is paradise and Nancy resolves to make a happy life.

Then Nancy meets Ana at a yoga class and they start spending all their time together. As they grow closer, Nancy starts skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices but she feels a happiness and understanding like never before. She knows she will do anything Ana asks of her in this story of friendship and manipulation.

Paradise News

Bernard is in Hawaii on family business, escorting his father to a long-forgotten aunt’s bedside. He’s transported from quiet Rummridge, England to a lush tropical island full of honeymooners, package tourists, and young women looking for Mr. Nice.

The island itself is what holds the most astonishing surprises as an accidental encounter opens Bernard up to the possibilities of life and love that he never dreamed of.

Blood Orchids

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop on the Big Island of Hawaii. On a routine patrol around Hilo she finds two murdered teenagers – one who she previously busted. Echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s life deeply affects Lei and she becomes obsessed, even as the killer is drawn to her intensity, toying with her sanity.

Despite the case and her stalker, she beings to fall in love for the first time, but the stalker is closer than she can imagine as the past tangles with the future.

Song of the Exile

In Song of the Exile, we follow the fortunes of the Meahuna family and the odyssey of one resilient man searching for his soulmate after she was torn from his side during WWII.

This story takes us through WWII on Hawaii’s complex journey to statehood with mesmerizing characters rising up to be redeemed by the spiritual power of the beautiful islands.

Rogue Wave

Kai Tanaka, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center director in Honolulu, isn’t worried about the minor seismic disturbance in a remote section of the pacific.

An airliner en route from LA to Sydney disappears in the same area and Kai is the first to realize that a mysterious explosion unleashed a series of massive waves destined to obliterate Hawaii. Unless he can save them from nature’s most destructive force, he will lose all he has ever known.

Sleeping Beauties

Hawaii’s shimmering beauty and melancholy traditions are both seductive and dangerously hard for Clio to leave when she marries a well-known Hollywood actor offering the promisee of escape from the entanglements of island life.

Unfamiliar Fishes

1776 is usually thought of as the defining year of American history but 1898 is just as defining. It’s the year the US annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam before invading Cuba then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower almost overnight.

This is the tale of the events leading up to the annexation of Hawaii, and after, including the arrival of New England missionaries in 1820 to Christianize the local heathens, the coup d’etat of their sons in 1893 overthrowing the Hawaiian queen.

If you’re interested in a book about the history of Hawaii but want to read about it in an interesting way, this is a good option.

Juniors

Lea Lane has always lived between. Part mainlander, part Hawaiian, always the new girl at school, always in the shadow of her actress mother’s spotlight, and now the new resident of the prominent West family’s guest cottage.

She’s bracing for being the latest charity case in her class and is surprised when she starts to become friends with Will and Whitney West, and maybe even more than friends with the gorgeous but unattainable Will.

Despite their differences, Whitney and Lea are both navigating a tangled web of relationships, past disappointments, and future hopes. As things progress. Lea has to decide how much she’s willing to change to fit into their world.

Red Sky Over Hawaii

Everything changed for Lana Hitchcock after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She returns home to the Big Island too late to reconcile with her estranged father and now has to untangle the clues of his legacy on her own to get to the secret property tucked away in the remote Kilauea Volcano rainforest.

The government soon starts taking away her neighbors suspected as sympathizers and she shelters two young German girls and a Japanese fisherman and his son. They are forced into hiding as tensions escalate but they discover the hideaway house isn’t what they expected.

A detainment camp is established nearby and she struggles to keep the secrets of those in her care.

East Wind, Rain

In December of 1941, the mostly native Hawaiian inhabitants of Niihau led a simple life. The haole ranch owner kept it totally isolated from thee outside world with no cars, phones, or electricity. One day a plane crashes there and they rescue the pilot but they have no idea he just attacked Pearl Harbor.

War has arrived and it tearing the island apart, widening the cracks in the already troubled marriage of Irene and Yoshio Harada, the only Japanese-American couple on the island. It will test everyone’s loyalties and all they believe in.

Wild Meat and the Bully Burger

Lovey Nariyoshi’s Hawaii isn’t the Hawaii we all see on TV. Her eccentric Japanese family lives at the margins of poverty in the town of Hilo on the Big Island.

She endures schoolyard bullies, class warfare, sewing classes, and the painful work of picking macadamia nuts on a plantation all with her best friend Jerry. She does all this while trying to find an identity of her own.

The Colony

For over a century, starting in 1866, more than 8,000 people suspected of having leprosy were exiled to the island of Molokai. This was the longest and deadliest medical segregation in American history as people were torn from their homes and families and sent to a lawless place where brutality swayed. Many people sent here didn’t have leprosy and many who did weren’t even contagious but they were all in the nightmare together. This is the true story of the exiles of Molokai.

Have you read any of these books about Hawaii? What is your favorite book set in Hawaii?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

2 thoughts

  1. Thank you for your blog, Megan! I’m off to Maui soon and will order one of the books about Molokai. Another to add to your list is an easy read with much Maui environment and culture descriptions: Silversword. I read that and now am seeking a newer read.

    Like

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