Yankee missionaries Rev. David and Sarah Lyman had been married for just 24 days before they set sail for Hawaii in 1832, arriving 6 months later in a beautiful but utterly foreign land. Seven years later, they built this two-story home for their growing family (eventually seven children) in a blend of Hawaiian and New England design, with plastered walls, koa floors, and lanais on both floors. Long a museum of 19th-century missionary life, the Mission House was completely restored in 2010, and Rev. Lyman’s office in an 1845 annex was opened to the public for the first time. The annex now hosts exhibits on the Hilo Boarding School for young men, which the Lymans founded near their home, and 19th-century trade. Along with the rest of the house, which includes furnishings and other belongings of the Lymans, you can only visit it as part of a guided tour, offered twice daily except Sunday.
The larger Lyman Museum complex next door gives a broader perspective of Hawaiian history and culture. Walk through a lava tube and check out life-size displays of sea life in the Earth Heritage Gallery, where exhibits include renowned collections of seashells and mineral rocks (the rare orlymanite was named for David and Sarah’s great-grandson Orlando Lyman.) The Island Heritage Gallery examines the life of early Hawaiians, with artifacts such as stone poi pounders, wooden bowls, and kapa, the delicate bark cloth. Another exhibit focuses on the five major immigrant groups from the era of sugar plantations, starting in the late 19th century. Another gallery offers well-organized special exhibits, many featuring the work of island artists, photographers, and artisans.