Perhaps so few talk about it because so few know about it. Well…those who live here know plenty, but it’s not often talked about as The Forbidden Island is an Island where time forgot…a place where time stopped in the 1800’s. For Tourists they hear of a Forbidden Island in passing as they over hear Locals from time to time, but as for tourists and tourism you won’t hear much about NI’IHAU at all. It’s not that we have avoided this subject it’s just that it’s a place Tourism or kama’aina who live here don’t talk much about and if you want to visit this highly forbidden place you’ll be going on a Hunting expedition and the Cost is very high so even fewer people ever see it.

There is a long past to NI’IHAU Island so lets just start off by saying NI’IHAU is UNTOUCHED…250 or so Kanaka Maoli, Native Hawaiians who still all speak Hawaiian live there. They live the same way they lived Hundreds of years ago…no power, no electricity (except solar), no roads and no true running water source as there is very little rain there because of the low mountain range and Kauai. There are however Natural Lakes which is something not often seen in Hawaii. There is very little Vegetation and flowers so the Hawaiians of NI’IHAU use the Sea Shells of NI’IHAU that only show up on the beaches of this island…they use them for Lei making as well as Trade. They are very valuable to those outside of NI’IHAU because they are not only found there on the island they Leis are made by the Hawaiians themselves using old cultural traditions. Some NI’IHAU SHELL LEI’s sell for $30,000.00!

Back in the 1860’s King Kamehameha the IV put the island up for sale. At the time a Kauai resident, Elizabeth Sinclair bought the island for $10,000.00. The crazy thing about this purchase is the King gave her 3 choices of property to buy…The Island of NI’IHAUWaikiki on Oahu or Pearl Harbor. If she only took Waikiki…lol…it may be laughable today, BUT this is the interesting story with Elizabeth Sinclair…She truly believed in PRESERVING Hawaiian Land and the Hawaiian Culture and once she passed away the island deed went to her descendants of today…THE ROBINSON FAMILY. Her Family continues her commitment of maintaining the current status of NI’IHAU to a time long gone. So why I brought up…what if she bought WAIKIKI?…Well…if she SO VALUED the ways of the past, the Aina and the Kanaka Maoli Culture could you image what Waikiki could have looked like today if her family the Robinsons owned it today? Perhaps Oahu would be a completely different place still lost in a bit of a time lapse…what a dream…unfortunately it’s truly just a dream. But you can also look at it this way…What would have come of NI’IHAU? Perhaps it would be the same as all the other islands and there would be a Culture on the brink…At least we can see and say the Hawaiian Culture is alive and well on NI’IHAU and it represents the Largest Fully functional Hawaiian culture in one place.

Now that we have given you an INTRO to the Forbidden Island…Lets talk about some things you probably didn’t know about NI’IHAU:

1.) The Island of NI’IHAU and the Island of KAHO’OLAWE are OFF LIMITS unless under certain strict circumstances.

2.) There are over 35 Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals that call NI’IHAU home…one of the largest populations on the main Hawaiian islands.

3.) The KING of Hawaii would never sell an entire island for $10,000.00 unless he knew something the Sinclairs didn’t. The Sinclairs had been Cattle Ranchers and Farmers and to them NI’IHAU was perfect to build out a large Cattle Ranch. When the Sinclairs was shown the island it was Lush and green, seemingly perfect for ranching. What the King however didn’t them them that for Two Years NI’IHAU had gotten highly unusual Wet Weather for two seasons making NI’IHAU look like a tropical Paradise, but the King new it was a desert wasteland and so took the opportunity to sell it to suckers because it was worthless to him. The following season it started to become dry once again…The island went back to being desert. There are two reasons for this…1. There is no mountain range on NI’IHAU to stop the clouds over the island and 2. The island sits in the RAIN SHADOW of Kauai which is the wettest place on Earth and so by time any remaining clouds reach NI’IHAU there is no rain left.

4.) The Sinclair family who owns NI’IHAU also bought LANAI, but sold it in 1922 to the HAWAIIAN PINEAPPLE COMPANY known today as DOLE.

5.) In the early 1930’s NI’IHAU became FORBIDDEN after Mainlanders came to NI’IHAU bringing Measles and Killing 11 Natives on the island, all children. It was devastating for the Native Hawaiians and the Robinson family and so they made all visits to NI’IHAU forbidden. Hence…The Forbidden Island.

6.) Those who live on NI’IHAU are free to come and go as they please. Many go off island and live on Kauai during the summer months because NI’IHAU is so dry that time of year…but no one comes to NI’IHAU unless you are friends of the Robinsons, get personal permission from them or do a Hunting expedition there for a large sum of money.

7.) There are 80,000 Hawaiians who are full Native Kanaka Maoli. this makes up only 6% of the total population of the Hawaiian Islands. Fewer than 2,000 of those 80,000 Hawaiians Speak HAWAIIAN as their first language…250 of them are on NI’IHAU.

8.) The Native Hawaiians on NI’IHAU are known for their amazing craftsmanship of the gemlike Shells that wash up on NI’IHAU’s Beaches…They are known around the world as the most beautiful and most expensive Lei’s on earth.

9.) The Robinsons Ranch closed in 1999…since that time the residents had been struggling to survive with selling only their Shell Lei’s off island and around the world until the Navy built a small radar tracking installation. Today NI’IHAU’s income is 20% Shell Lei’s and 80% of the income comes from the Millions of dollars the Military gives to lease the land in NI’IHAU from the community and Robinson family. The Robinson Family spends a part of the money on the local community there.

10.) THE NI’IHAU INCIDENT took place during WWII when a Japanese Fighter Pilot crashed on the island after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Unknown to those on the other islands The Pilot Terrorized the residents for a week with his guns, but two residents KALEOHANA and KANAHELE were able to disarm the fighter pilot. KANAHELE was shot tree times during the fight, he grabbed the pilot and cracked open his skull against a volcanic rock wall. For this act he was given the Purple Heart and Metal of Merit bu the US MILITARY.

13 thoughts on “NI’IHAU The FORBIDDEN Island

  1. Hi Guys,

    First off, thanks a million for the podcast, I truly enjoy it (fuckin’ language and all)! Really helps get a guy through a Minnesota winter.

    On a serious note, I often hear you talk about the homeless problem on Oahu (been to Maui twice so I haven’t really experienced it firsthand in Hawaii). Catholic Charities in St. Paul just opened up a new facility that will likely serve as a model for other locations; I’ve included the link below. Maybe something like this could help; raising the $ might be an issue though (good test to see how badly the people/government want to fix the problem).


    • It is everywhere. You probably have and you didn’t even know it. All those cars backed up along the beach with tents on the Pali? Sure… some are surfers. Most of them are not.

  2. Hi guys, thanks for the great podcast. My wife and I have been visiting Kauai for twenty years now and consider it home away from home. To support the local community we donate to the same groups on Kauai that we donate to in our home town. That’s our way of giving back to a place we love so much. Thought you would like to hear that some tourists give back rather than just take!

  3. Hey guys, thanks for having such a great podcast. I just started listening after my wife and I visited Oahu a few years ago. I really wish I would have found it sooner, it’s great how you provide valuable information in a fun, informal way. Don’t listen to those complaints about the cussing, screw those a-holes that wanna bitch and moan about it. I’m sure nickelodeon or Disney have a podcast more suited to their taste.
    Our kids seen pics and videos from our visit so they’re dying to see Hawaii now, we’re hoping to be able to come back next year (maybe by taking advantage of the book now pay later deal from Hawaii Aloha Travel, which is an amazing idea BTW).
    Anyway, just wanted to let you guys know that you’re doing a good thing here, and keep up the hard work, it’s much appreciated by all us pod casters that love hawaii as much as you guys do.

  4. Niihau has always fascinated me since I was a kid. The Forbidden Isle sounds so cool and mysterious. I read a book called the Niihau Incident about when the Japanese pilot crashed there….I swear there was a ‘Gilligan’s Island’ episode that was similar to that story.

    Thanks again guys for all the happiness you bring with your podcast and all your silliness.

  5. Hi guys! Just found your podcast a few months ago and I love all the way you tell it like it is in Hawaii-good and not so good. We have visited all the islands several times and since my husband is going to retire next year we are planning to make Hawaii Island our home. He wants to live where he can SCUBA anytime-the vis leaves something to be desired in the lakes around Kansas City. I have been a clinic RN for 21 years and don’t plan to retire for another 15 years or so. I know it’s hard to get a job there without being on-island. I was wondering if there are any nursing groups in Hawaii to network with-like on Facebook-to make my job search a little easier next year. I have done some searching on Google & Facebook but couldn’t find anything. Every time we come we hate to leave but soon we won’t have to!

  6. Hi Bruce and Wade,

    My name is Eric and I live inBedford, Massachusetts just outside of Boston. Love the podcast. Listen to it on my commute into work. My wife and I honeymooned on Oahu in 2014 and loved the North shore. Yesterday I discovered in my bathing suit pocket a piece of coral from turtle Bay that had washed on shore. I didn’t realize I brought it back to the mainland and want to know if I should mail it back (I heard the podcast on Pele). Do I send it to Turtle Bay or somewhere else?

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    • Eric…I saw this come in and wanted to reply right away…Hope yeah staying warm back home…this year hasn’t been that bad…So…Hawaiian Coral…Coral has nothing to do with Pele…Pele is only connected to Volcanic Rock…the Black rock that is found everywhere on island…That’s what you CAN’T TAKE from the island…but Coral is taken from the island in small amounts all the time. So you are welcome to keep the Coral…just not Volcanic Rock which is a part of Pele herself. Next time you guys come out lets book a Tour~ I’d love to take you guys around~ Aloha, Wayde

  7. Aloha Bruce and Wayde,
    As always, great podcast! It was nice that you incorporated some history about other islands. I have to admit, I really didn’t know as much as I thought I did about Hawaii and I realized this when we took a jeep tour with you, Wayde. (Btw, we both have been plugging your businesses, hardcore and telling all of our friends about the tours, not for profit and cleanups). Ever since we got home from our last trip to Oah’u, I’ve been really homesick to get back there (Hawai’i in general). I’m not sure what it is and I can’t explain it, but I guess I am hooked on Hawai’i. We were talking about it today and the Hawaiian islands for me feel a little mystical and spiritual, nothing like I’ve really experienced anywhere else..and I LIKE IT! I have been pretty excited to make our move eventually and it can’t come soon enough, but it seems like the “what ifs” keeping popping up in my mind . I think this move would have been so much easier in my 20’s and I know I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about my decision and just hopped on a plane with my bags packed and figured it out when I got there. I was also listening to what you had to say about all the taxes they are trying to impose in Hawai’i and it’s making me mad. One, how can anyone (esp. native Hawaiians) even afford to live where they are from, originally? That is sad..and then the selfish part of me is saying in the back of my mind, how are we supposed to move and live there and we aren’t even locals and most definitely won’t be able to afford living there? Wayde, you were the poor man, we are most definitely the poor people, haha. I think when you were telling us about the rent (affordable) we were secretly cringing and at least I was saying to myself, oh shit. Woe is me…first world problems, lol. It’s not like I haven’t heard any of the negatives before. Anyway, thanks for doing what you guys do. I’m not sure if you know it, but I wanted to let you both know that you both are huge inspirations to me for living and making it in Hawaii. I was glad to have met both of you when we were there and thank you for putting into perspective your viewpoints on living in Hawaii. Okay, done with the mushy mushy now, I promise! I was listening to an earlier podcast where Jason (I think the Hawaii 40 guy) was trying to befriend a coworker or someone who was Hawaiian and I had a client of mine at work (I design kitchens and bathrooms, interior design, etc) who was in her 70’s, a native Hawaiian and I felt like a creepy stalker with all of my questions to her and wanting the 70 yr old lady to “be my friend”, lol! Her stories were interesting to say the least! Anyway, thanks for all you do! Mahalo and have a good week!

  8. Good stuff guys, im from Sydney Australia and have been a regular visitor to oahu over the last 10 years. I will be there again in June with the fam (booked Holiday Inn through Abbey) . Good to catch up on what goes on in Hawaii and what i can look forward to.

  9. Just donated to the podcast but was looking for the donate button for Uncle George’s Truck fund but didn’t see any obvious links here? Could you post one or refer us again to where donations can go? That might be the reason why donations were a little disappointing.

    Now that I got my taxes done and refunds on the way, I figured I had no excuse for not donating!!!

    Anyway, nice to hear you focusing on the neighbor islands as well but like Anthony Bourdain mentioned about Moloka’i, “I hope your heart is swelling with admiration, but bottom line don’t come here.” After all, like Ni’ihau one of the few things keeping Moloka’i more authentically Hawaiian IS the relative lack of tourism! Then again, I’m likely just being selfish in the hopes that Moloka’i stays that way until I can eventually move there myself!

  10. Hey guys! I love the podcasts, I just started listening last week and I am addicted! I’m from Texas and have always felt super connected to Hawaii, though I have never been. My fianceé and I are planning a wedding on Kauai in 2018, so I can’t want to see the beautiful beaches of Hawaii which is something I’m not used to here in Texas. Thanks again for the podcasts!

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