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The Hawaiian Islands provide one of the world's most beautiful set of sanctuaries which provide endless opportunities for water activities and exploration. These sanctuaries are home to incredible forces of nature, and are filled with stories of splendor and hardship. People often visit Hawaii for an escape, or a visit to paradise, but the culture of Hawaii and the spirit of Aloha, can be better understood and respected with some background knowledge. Buffing up your history of the island or at least reading a travel guide will greatly enhance your understanding of the islands' origins and their layout.
For starters, you will benefit from "A Concise History of the Hawaiian Islands" by Phil Barnes, "Hawaii A History (States & the Nation) by Ruth M. Tabrah, or "Hawaii" The Big Island: A Visit to the Realm of Beauty, History and Fire" by Glen Grant, Peter French, and Greg Vaughn to fill you in on the many struggles the island has seen over time.
Because the Big Island is one that you will most likely be discovering by car, a guide will really help you find your way from the Volcanoes National Park to the black sandy beaches, without getting lost; "Hidden Big Island of Hawaii: Including the Kona Coast, Hilo, and Volcanoes National Park" by Ray Reigert will definitely help you, as will a Lonely Planet or Frommer's Hawaii Guide.
To better understand the unique culture of Hawaii, read " Broken Trust" by by Samuel P. King and Randall W. Roth. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the largest landowner and richest woman in the Hawaiian kingdom. Upon her death in 1884, she entrusted her property--known as Bishop Estate--to five trustees in order to create and maintain an institution that would benefit the children of Hawai‘i: Kamehameha Schools. A century later, Bishop Estate controlled nearly one out of every nine acres in the state, a concentration of private land ownership rarely seen anywhere in the world. Then in August 1997, the unthinkable happened: Four revered kupuna (native Hawaiian elders) and a professor of trust-law publicly charged Bishop Estate trustees with gross incompetence and massive trust abuse. Entitled “Broken Trust,” the statement provided devastating details of rigged appointments, violated trusts, cynical manipulation of the trust’s beneficiaries, and the shameful involvement of many of Hawai‘i’s powerful.