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Western & Eastern Treasures

Ghost Town USA Column Index for Hawai’i

In 1778, the population of the Archipelago of Hawai`i is claimed to have been as high as 1,000,000 people. The people, the Kanaka Maoli had a "highly organized, self-sufficient, subsistent social system based on communal land tenure with a sophisticated language, culture, and religion." When European explorers and missionaries arrived, the Kanaka Maoli culture crashed and burned. This was aided by the introduction of disease and other "niceties" like guns and other weapons. The population quickly faded by over 95%, to less than 40,000 people.


In 1813, the first pineapple plants were introduced from Spain, and in 1835, sugar cane was successfully introduced on the mineral-rich volcanic soil of Kauai. With lots of rain, stable temperatures, and the possibility of major profits to be made, the budding sugar and pineapple industry caught the attention of enterprising American entrepreneurs. Since private ownership of land was unknown to the native Hawaiians and once the Americans began to arrive, Western concepts of private land ownership was implemented, leaving the locals landless in their homeland.


Sugar quickly became the main economic base for the Islands, rapidly supplanting the whaling stations. Since profits and prosperity depended on favorable treaties with the United States, its main market, powerful economic ties were sought. The aggressive Anglo-American plantation owners rapidly took control of the sugar industry and brought in thousands of contract laborers from China, Japan, the Philippines and other countries. Even the local Hawaiians were used. Plantation ownership and control of the business community were now solidly in the hands of the Americans.


Despite this takeover of their homeland, the remaining Kanaka Maoli managed to survive and flourish. Between 1826 and 1893, the United States "recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai`i, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government and entered into treaties and conventions with the Hawaiian monarchs to govern commerce and navigation." That all changed in 1893 when the Kingdom of Hawai`i was overthrown in a relatively bloodless coup led by the American plantation owners. The next year, Sanford Dole proclaimed himself the president of the Republic of Hawai`i.


However after several years of unrest, the end was near. In 1898, President McKinley signed a resolution to formally annex Hawai`i and on August 2, 1898, Sanford Dole, the newly appointed governor of the brand new Territory of Hawai`i, presided over the raising of the Stars & Stripes. Hawai`i now officially belonged to the United States of America. Sixty-one years later, on August 21, 1959 Hawai`i became the 50th state of the union.


Since, the immigrant laborers lived near the fields and mills, plantation villages prospered. Then once the industry began to fade, they were abandoned. Today, sugar mill smokestacks and ruins lie scattered across the countryside remaining a sad reminder of Hawai`i's troubled sugar industry. During the past decade, the sugar industry in Hawai`i has nearly collapsed because of high operating costs, isolation and increased competition from other countries.


The military has also kept a large presence on the islands, and numerous former military sites also exist today as ruins or names on a map.  Together these two industries have created quite a few ghost “towns” in the land of Ka Pae `Aina O Hawai`i Nei. Other sources are as noted in the vignettes.  Hawai`i may not be big in ghost towns, but they do remain and are fantastic memories of a past life that may not have been so idyllic.


When you visit Hawai`i, remember to get out into the backcountry beyond Honolulu and the beaches of Waikiki and see where these plantation towns once teemed with life. This is the heritage of Ghost Town USA that we seek out!  In June 2011 Ghost Town USA visited this beautiful state and spent some quality time in the backcountry and along the shoreline of the Island of O’ahu, “The Gathering Place.”


HELP!   (NEW FEATURE) Please check here to find a list of ghost towns that various contacts are looking for.  IF you have any information on these places please e-mail me and I can respond back to those looking for info on these ghosts.





O’ahu Island

Sitting along the far western end of the North Shore, north of the Wai’anae Range, west of Waialua, at the west end of SH 930, this old airfield was originally established in the 1920s as Kawaihapai Military Reservation.  During WWII it was renamed Moku-l`ia Airfield.  Then in 1948, the old fighter base was again renamed Dillingham Airfield.  Today, the landing field is still active – as a glider and sky diving center.  HOWEVER, the war era buildings are gone, with only a few concrete walls, slabs and ruins remaining visible both on the privately-owned airport and on the beach side of the highway.  We visited this site in June 2011.


·        Latitude: 21.5787498 / 21° 34' 43" N

·        Longitude: -158.2074018 / 158° 12' 27" W 

·        Public Land Survey System (Section/Range/Township) NOT USED in HI


Kauai Island

A class C/F - Russian Fort located near Waimea on the southwestern shore.  In 1815 a Russian named Georg Scheffer, came to Hawai`i to seek a trading relationship with King Kamehameha. The Russians built this fort and two others near Hanalei. Since the Russians didn't have the backing of the Russian Czar and left Kauai. Fort Elizabeth was then used as a Hawaiian fort.  It is the last Russian fort that still stands in Hawai`i.


·        Latitude: 21.9552778 / 21° 57' 19" N

·        Longitude: -159.6669444 / 159° 40' 01" W 


Molokai Island

This class D (NHP)-leper colony is located on the north shore of the island at the base of the Makanalua Peninsula. It was founded in 1866 as a place for those who had Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). In 1873 a Belgian priest, Father Joseph Damien de Veuster, gave members of the colony their first compassionate care. He served the folks here until he died of the disease in 1889.  Since Hansen's Disease is controllable with drugs, the colony has faded.  However, some longtime residents have remained.

This and Kalawao were our featured Ghost Town of the Month for January 2005.

This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

See our Kalaupapa page for additional details.


Molokai Island

This class B-leper colony is located on the east side of the Makanalua Peninsula on Molokai Island's north shore, this was another 1866 era leper colony, but it was established in a less protected location, and by the early 1900s, most of the members had moved to Kalaupapa.

This and Kalaupapa were our featured Ghost Town of the Month for January 2005.

This is one of the towns featured in my newest book, GHOST TOWNS: Yesterday & TodayTM.

See our Kalaupapa page for additional details.


Lanai Island

A class C-sugar town located on SH 440, the east coastal road, 14 miles southeast of Lanai City. This tiny ghost town was a flourishing sugar town that died about 1901. In the 1970s there were still wooden buildings standing, one of which was a small church.


·        Latitude: 20.8386111 / 20° 50' 19" N

·        Longitude: -156.9208333 / 156° 55' 15" W 


O’ahu Island

Nothing but memories and old photos remain of this WWII era landing field that sits on Kualoa Point, on the north side of Kane’ohe Bay, on the eastern (windward) shore of the island.  Today, where the runways once ran is a long parking lot punctuated by waving coconut palms.  We visited this site in June 2011.

This and the Kualoa Sugar Mill were our featured Ghost Town of the Month for July 2012.

See our KUALOA page for additional details.


O’ahu Island

The picturesque remains of this old sugar mill are all that remain of the sugar plantation community that once prospered on this flat spot just north of the Kualoa Airfield, along the east (windward) side of the island.  Please note the property is posted against trespass, so please abide by the owner’s wishes.  The ruins are highly visible from the road side of the fence.  We visited this site in June 2011.

This and the Kualoa Air Field were our featured Ghost Town of the Month for July 2012.

See our KUALOA page for additional details.


O’ahu Island

Not a ghost town, but a ghost road.  The Old Pali Road was a narrow, winding road that once ran from Honolulu to Kane’ohe, on the east shore of the island.  Today most of that route is covered by SH 63, the Pali Highway, a nice multi-lane highway that cuts through the steep-walled Ko’olau Range northeast of Honolulu.  Today a small portion of that extremely dangerous old highway is visible and parkified for visitors.  Please note that it is usually very windy in the location and due to these mountains being part of a tropical rainforest, the walkway, even though concrete can be a bit slick when wet.  We visited this site in June 2011.



·        Latitude: 21.3671155

·        Longitude: -157.7929911


O’ahu Island

Not usually considered a ghost town, this 1918-1941 floating city was sunk in the early morning hours when the Empire of Japan attacked the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, just west of Honolulu, in the early morning hours of the “…Date that will live in infamy” - December 07, 1941.  I am including it here in part because these huge naval vessels truly were floating cities, and this one in particular is an important part of American History.  We visited this site in June 2011. For more details on this historic site see the National Park Website.

See our USS ARIZONA page for additional details.

This was our Ghost Town of the Month for December 2011/January 2012.


O’ahu Island

Sitting along the east side of SH 83 about a mile northeast of Sunset Beach, nearly at the northern point of the North Shore, Crawford’s Convalescent Home uses two of the f ive buildings that remain from this old “Boy’s School.”  Established around 1906 it closed as a school in 1947.  It was established to rehabilitate as many as 200, 12-18 year old boys whose trespasses included things such as willful disobedience of parents, up through robbery and assault.  A small community of some 250 people surrounded the “school” and helped support it. 

We visited this site in June 2011.


·        Latitude: 21.6867812

·        Longitude: -158.0229798


O’ahu Island

The town of Waialua is no ghost town, and the sugar mill is actually no ghost in and of itself.  It has been converted into a small shopping complex, but is WELL WORTH a visit.  Waialua is a colorful beach town that once supported the sugar mill.  Many of the homes here probably date back to when this was a booming sugar center.  The mill still stands, and the various buildings have been repurposed into stores and offices.  However, they still have their rustic appeal and if you look beyond the touristy signs, are quite colorful and interesting.  We visited this site in June 2011.


·        Latitude: 21.5734757 / 21° 34’ 25” N

·        Longitude: 158.1255300 / -158° 07’ 32” W





Historians estimate that there may be as many as 50,000 ghost towns scattered across the United States of America. Gary B. Speck Publications is in process of publishing unique state, regional, and county guides called

The Ghost Town Guru's Guide to the Ghost Towns of “STATE”

These original guides are designed for anybody interested in ghost towns. Whether you are a casual tourist looking for a new and different place to visit, or a hard-core ghost town researcher, these guides will be just right for you. With over 30 years of research behind them, they will be a welcome addition to any ghost towner's library.

Thank you, and we'll see you out on the Ghost Town Trail!


For more information on the ghost towns of HAWAI`I, contact us at Ghost Town USA.


E-mailers, PLEASE NOTE:

Due to the tremendous amount of viruses, worms and “spam,” out there, I no longer open or respond to e-mails with unsolicited attachments, OR messages on the subject lines with “Hey”, “Hi”, “Need help”, “Help Please”, “???”, or blank subject lines, etc.  If you do send E-mail asking for information, or sharing information, PLEASE indicate the appropriate location AND state name, or other topic on the “subject” line.




These listings and historical vignettes of ghost towns, near-ghost towns and other historical sites in HAWAI`I above are for informational purposes only, and should NOT be construed to grant permission to trespass, metal detect, relic or treasure hunt at any of the listed sites.


If the reader of this guide is a metal detector user and plans to use this guide to locate sites for metal detecting or relic hunting, it is the READER'S responsibility to obtain written permission from the legal property owners. Please be advised, that any state or nationally owned sites will probably be off-limits to metal detector use. Also be aware of any federal, state or local laws restricting the same.


When you are exploring the ghost towns of HAWAI`I, please abide by the

Ghost Towner's Code of Ethics.



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FIRST POSTED:  January 12, 2001

LAST UPDATED: September 23, 2012




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