Ancient PolynesiansThe First Hawaiians

Ancient Polynesians—The First Hawaiians

More than one thousand years before Captain Cook’s ships reached the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, the Polynesians landed their voyaging canoes on Hawaiian shores. These first human arrivals are thought to have occurred around A.D. 200 to 800. Estimates of the exact date of first human inhabitation of the Hawaiian Islands vary widely, and the date may be much earlier. (See First Polynesians, First Hawaiians, Chapter 3.)

The ancient Polynesians were master navigators who spread out over the vast sea, inhabiting hundreds of Pacific islands over thousands of years before finally discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Guided only by the stars, winds, and the flight patterns of birds, and using only the moon and sun as their clock and calendar, the Polynesians were the first humans to reach the Hawaiian Islands.

The discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by the Polynesians occurred despite the fact that the total land area of the Hawaiian Islands is less than 6,500 square miles (16,800 sq. km) located in the middle of an ocean that covers more than 70 million square miles (18,130,000 sq. km), nearly one-third of the Earth’s surface.