Set amid palms in lush mountain-side park in busy Waipahu and not far from the former site of the Oahu Sugar Company, Hawaii's Plantation Village is a showcase of the lives of Hawaii’s diverse sugar plantation laborers. Once a major industry in the islands, drawing local Hawaiian and immigrant workers from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, China and Puerto Rico, sugar plantations were both places of employment and proving grounds for cultural fusions—traditions, celebrations, food—that shape the islands to this day.
Hawaii's Plantation Village is comprised of 25 buildings built or moved onsite and styled as they would have appeared on plantations throughout the state between 1890 and 1950. A wander through the open-air dormitories, social halls, plantation store, barber shop or bathhouse can feel like you're stepping into a ghost town whose residents may return from the fields at any moment. Kau kau tins—the plantation workers' lunch pails—rest on shelves seeming to await filling; shoes sit outside doorways; family photos hang on the walls; books and diaries remain on nightstands. Artifacts aren't pristine, they're chipped and worn, genuine representations of rugged plantation life. The hour-long tour led by staff docents—several of whom grew up on plantations themselves—is informative and recommended.