I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii and sleep under the brightest blue sky with the tranquil sound of waves crashing against the shore. Ahhh, bliss.
Unfortunately, I lack any means to do so, so I will have to settle for what else is available – novels set in Hawaii.
If like me you’re daydreaming of Hawaiin vibes, then you’ve come to the right place. This magical land has inspired many authors, and fortunately for us, there are a plethora of novels to choose from.
But, if you’re looking for the best of the best, then these are the best novels set in Hawaii. Whether you’re looking for an insightful non-fiction novel, a children’s book or a classic fiction book set in Hawaii, you’ll find something to satisfy your craving in this list.
Non-Fiction Books Set in Hawaii
Let’s kick things off with some informative and educational non-fiction books about Hawaii. If you’re keen to learn about the culture, history and people of the fascinating Hawaiian archipelago, then these Hawaiian books are for you.
1. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure – Julia Flynn Siler
When intrepid Polynesians set foot on the untouched archipelago of Hawaii in the year 200 A.D, they formed the first settlements in the islands.
Their descendants lived on the islands for centuries with no contact with western culture. However, the peace did not last long. In 1778, the isolated islands were captured by Captain Cook.
Things did not go well between the two communities. Clashes began to form. The capitalist powers and royalty eventually conquered the land.
Lili’uokalani, the last queen of the Hawai’i, was born in 1838, and lived the entire economic journey of the islands.
A mighty army of western countries manipulated the monarchy, but Lili’uokalani was determined to protect the monarchy and its power.
However, she eventually failed in the attempt, and the U.S outmanoeuvred them.
This is the tale of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s rise and fall.
2. The Winds of War – Herman Wouk
This historical fiction book set in Hawaii during the time of World War II is the work of Herman Wouk, known for his novels depicting America’s greatest generation.
The story is narrated from different perspectives aimed to capture different sides of global events. It tells a story of romance, tragedy, drama, and heroism during World War II.
As you start learning about the people who lived through the War, slowly, the story immerses around a single American family trapped in the maelstrom.
Their struggle is portrayed in great detail in the book. The Winds of War make history alive again while giving tribute to the warriors who contributed their lives to America’s victory.
This is a fictional tale based on real life events.
3. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen – Liliuokalani
This is the story of the last queen accountable at the end of the nineteenth century. Written by Hawaiian historian, David Malo.
Queen Lili’uokalani prayed to the American nation to reestablish the Hawaiian throne and sovereignty. However, Queen Lili’uokalani died in 1917, and after her death, her plea for justice was ignored.
When big waves reach the beaches, it brings in large fish from the dark ocean. The big fish eat the small fish. Just like in the forest where large predators prey on the smaller ones.
One day, a ship of the white men arrived on the island, and they saw people living in a small group. Like the large fish, the small settlement was too gobbled up.
4. Hawaii – James A. Michener
Hawaii is an epic historical fiction novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, James A. Michener. This historical novel is based on exhaustive research and though it is a fictional tale, it is based on real-life events.
The story begins at the beginning of time when the volcanic Hawaiian Islands rise from the ocean and is left untouched for centuries.
Then, a thousand years ago, Polynesian explorers ventured across the Pacific ocean and turn this tropical paradise into a settlement according to their ancient traditions.
In the early nineteenth century, Hawaii was found by American missionaries, who carried a new culture and way of life.
Michener’s writing is both immersive and captivating and tells of the desperate struggles people went through as they learned to embrace the mix of these two cultures.
Fiction Books Set in Hawaii
Looking for an enticing fiction novel set in Hawaii to keep you engrossed for hours on end? Then these fiction books set in Hawaii are a real page-turner.
5. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers – Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Lovey Nariyoshi and her Japanese American family are on the brink of breaking down in the tropical paradise. The family is going through trauma and poverty.
Lovey and her endearing friend suffered schoolyard bullies, warfare, and painful work assigned to them where they have to pick on a macadamia nut plantation.
Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers uses the regional language of pidgin, Hawai’i Creole English.
The story goes from dark days to light days and portrays how one family can overcome the harshest of struggles.
The story is written in a vibrant and enticing way, perfectly portraying the contemporary culture of Hawaii.
6. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas is a series of six stories, each narrated by a main character in the next chapter.
Although this style of writing can be confusing to some readers, at the time of its publication, it was a style that was completely unheard of and received high praise from critics across the board.
Each character is a soul that has been reincarnated from the previous character.
The term Cloud Atlas refers to the cloud, an ever-changing, always moving entity compared to the Atlas, a fixed point in the world that will always be.
7. Death of a Messenger (Koa Kāne Hawaiian Mystery) – Robert B. McCaw
A body was found at the Pohakuloa, near the army’s live-fire training area. Marks of an ancient ritual sacrifice made the murder one of the most gruesome cases for the detective Koa Kane to solve.
Koa Kane has roots on the Hawaiian land, which put him back in the area where he has once known.
As Koa begins the investigation of the victim’s history, he has to untangle the deep history of the victim’s involvement with native activists, thieves, and stargazers.
Koa must overcome obstacles such as incompetent medical examiners, countless lies and sovereignty advocates.
Did the victim know some hidden secrets? Will the detective catch the killer in time, or he will find fatal consequences?
8. Taylor Before and After – Jennie Englund
Before Taylor Harper became famous she hung out with the cool kids at lunch. One day, she was invited to an exclusive party, but after, she found no one talking to her.
Before, she became friends with the coolest girl in the school, Brielle Branson. But soon, Brielle decided to bully Taylor.
Soon after, her mom was sick and unable to get out of bed. Her Dad was angry and going through the trauma by yelling at everyone in the house.
Taylor began to write a diary in which she wrote about one fatal accident that changed her life.
She always asked herself, when did everything change? How will her place become home again?
9. Moloka’i – Alan Brennert
Rachel Kalama is seven years old and dreaming about visiting faraway lands like her father. Her father was a seaman who travelled back and forth for the business across different countries.
One day, a rose-coloured mark appeared on her skin. Soon after that, her dream is stolen from her.
She was taken from her home and family and sent to the remote island of Moloka’i.
It was a place where people were quarantined for leprosy. Rachel’s life is supposed to end, but she has discovered that her journey has just begun. This is the story of travel and self discovery for a girl in Hawaii.
10. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers – Sara Ackerman
In 1944, the war in the Pacific was at its peak. Violet Iverson and her daughter, Ella, were trying the stay together during this difficult time after her husband vanished abruptly.
Violet was suspicious about his loyalties to her family. On the other hand, she suspects Ella knows something about her father, but she is terrified to talk about it.
The story is set in Hawaii in a tropical region and gives a fresh perspective of World War II and of females’ friendship.
The enduring power of love during the darkest time makes this story powerful and emotive.
11. Walking in Fire – Cathryn Cade
Love blossoms on a Hawaiian beach, but the land is surrounded by danger, a hot atmosphere and deadly circumstances.
A young food blogger finds herself in paradise to enjoy a vacation when she soon encounters a handsome man. But she noticed a gorgeous woman at his beck.
She doesn’t expect to get seen as a freckle-face blonde until the danger throws them together.
Soon she realizes that David “Malu” Ho’omalu is not an ordinary guy. He is here to destroy the deadly addictive drugs sold on the beach. Being in tourist attire is part of the job. But she finds him irresistible, and the feelings are mutual.
This is a fiery romance story that would be perfect to read after a break up.
12. One Boy, No Water (Niuhi Shark Saga) – Lehua Parker
Zader is a weird kid and allergic to water. He likes to spend time at the beach pavilion while his brother, Jay, surfs.
Zadar was adopted by the Westin family, but no matter how much effort Jay puts into making the situation normal, he always failed.
One day, Zadar dreams about a mysterious, beautiful girl who lives in a magical land. They both were hiding from a man with too many teeth.
When he woke up, his heart was pounding fast, and he had a sudden desire to eat raw meat…
What happened to Zadar? Was it really a dream, after all?
13. The Descendants – Kaui Hart Hemmings
The Descendants is the stunning debut novel set in Hawaii by Kaui Hart Hemmings and is the inspiration for the major motion picture starring George Clooney.
The King family are descendants of Hawaiian royalty and own the largest amount of land in the state. The two daughters, Scottie, a fiery ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict, are running wild.
Their charismatic, adventurous mother, Joanie, was in a boat-racing accident and left in a coma. Soon, she will be taken off life support, and Matt, her husband and the girl’s father, must gather all her friends and family to say their goodbyes. Only, one person wasn’t told of her accident, the man whom she was having an affair.
Forced to connect with this man, Matt, Scottie, and Alex embark on a journey to find Joanie’s lover. This story is both a funny travel book and an emotional rollercoaster!
14. The Aloha Spirit – Linda Ulleseit
The spirit of Aloha is found in nature – in the fresh ocean air, refreshing breezes and aromatic flowers. In 1922, however, Dolores was feeling unhappy with her adoptive family in Honolulu and decides to run away at 16.
Trying to find love, she marries a Portuguese man, Manolo, and his large family welcomes her with open arms. Only, Manolo has an alcohol problem, which leads him to become abusive. Dolores seeks refuge with Alberto, a relative who comes to her rescue.
With Alberto, a passion arises that she hasn’t known before. Only, she’s catholic, and divorce isn’t in her belief. What will she do?
15. Kamohai’ulu: A True Hawaiian Legend – Ellen Knight
Kamohai’ulu is a book of Hawaiian legends that passed from generation to generation.
It is the story of Hawaiin folklore and legend, taling of two families in the Hawaiian region that were living near volcano Hualalai.
Puanani and Momona were cousins left alone at home while their parents travelled to the seashore. It was an ordinary day, and everything was going as usual.
But suddenly, the day turns into a nightmare for their family. A stranger visited their home from nowhere, and an incident happens that changes the life of the two cousins drastically.
Children’s Books Set in Hawaii
Looking for something for your little one? These endearing childrens books set in Hawaii are children’s favourites!
16. Ho’onani – Heather Gale and Mika Song
Ho’onani is an empowering celebration of identity and acceptance within Hawaiian culture. It’s based on the true story of a young girl who dreamed of leading the boys-only hula troupe at her school.
The young girl, Ho’onani, feels in-between when it comes to her gender – she doesn’t see herself as a girl or boy, and she’s happy being in the middle. But not everyone sees Ho’onani’s gender fluidity as something to be embraced.
When the school puts on a performance of a traditional kane hula chant, Ho’onani wants to be part of it.
This is the story of a girl who learns to lead and accept who she really is. When she embraces herself, she gains the respect of those around her.
17. A True Princess of Hawai’i – Beth Greenway and Tammy Yee
Nani has always wanted to be a princess. When one day, a real Hawaiian princess comes to the town of Hilo to save them from a lava flow, so Nani puts on her best clothes.
As she watches Princess Luka, Nani learns that being a princess is more than putting on your finest clothes.
This incredible children’s story based in Hawaii tells of acts of kindness and generosity. It is a fictional tale but based on the true historical events of the 1880-1881 eruption of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai‘i.
Princess Luka was also a real person.
18. Malia in Hawai’i – Karyn Hopper and Tammy Yee
Malia in Hawai’i is the story of a beautiful girl with a long name – Malia Sachi Ging Ging Lee.
Like her name, she has a long list of things she loves when it comes to enjoying life; surfing or dancing, noodles or sushi, parades or hula.
The author has portrayed her life in detail, including her likes, food interests, hobbies, and Hawaiin home. There are many adorable details that children will love to discover and learn while reading.
There’s also a multicultural aspect that makes Malia’s life colourful and different. In this story, readers can follow along with Malia and explore her island home.
19. Island Toes – Christin Lozano and Mariko Merritt
Island Toes is a story about what it’s like to wander around a beautiful island where shoes are optional. It is the land where toes have the freedom to go barefoot without shoes.
Wherever you go, walk or swim in the blue water, you will see toes are having fun under the blue sky. Toes have the freedom to explore the unexplored region without any restrictions.
What new experiences do toes get? Where can they go?
One can see plenty of toes moving around. Some are busy with snorkeling activities, whereas others enjoy wildlife in their wheelchair. The possibilities are unlimited, and no one is here to stop getting along with anyone.
What do you think, how many toes will be there? This would be the perfect story to read to your toddler on a rainy day.
20. The Shark King – R. Kikuo Johnson
Award-Winning Cartoonist R. Kikuo Johnson takes readers on a journey through lush tropical shores in his native of Hawaii.
The tale follows Nanaue, who is trying to balance his desire between his father’s guidance and his mom’s nature. R. Kikuo has presented the story intrinsically and poetically.
Young readers will enjoy the thrilling events in the life of the Nanaue and experience the transformative powers of great storytelling and literary work.
This brilliantly crafted story keeps children engaged throughout.
21. High Tide in Hawaii (Magic Tree House, #28) – Mary Pope Osborne
From the best selling children’s author, Mary Pope Osborne, is another exciting adventure in the Magic Tree House series.
In this book, Jack and Annie’s magic tree house takes them on a journey to a Hawaiin island long ago. They learn how to surf, and help a community of villagers survive a huge tidal wave.
This incredible story is the perfect first chapter book for second graders and is an enlightening history lesson of Hawaiin life in the past.
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Final Word on Books Set in Hawaii
So there you have it, our top 21 books set in Hawaii! Whether you like fiction, non-fiction or a delightful children’s tale, we hope you find something you like from this list.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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