12 Best Books Set in Hawaii

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Are you in search of the best books set in Hawaii? Here are the best books that take place in Hawaii to pick up when you are dreaming of an escape to paradise!

Hawaii feels like the ultimate vacation. It’s the place you dream of when you’re stuck at work on a cold, dreary day and want nothing more than sunshine, black sand beaches, palm trees, and cold drinks adorned with tropical flowers. Hawaii also has a fascinating history and culture.

Until the late 1800s, this far-flung Pacific Island was its own independent country known as the Kingdom of Hawaii. Isolated from the world for hundreds of years, Hawaii started to suffer after Europeans began arriving and bringing diseases which killed over 90% of the native population.

However, Hawaiians have worked to preserve their cultural legacy, and the spirit of the Aloha State continues to inspire and capture the imagination of readers, writers, and travelers.

Best Books Set in Hawaii

So if you’re dreaming of visiting the ultimate paradise, here are the best books set in Hawaii that will whisk you away to tropical shores without leaving home:

1. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

This historical novel takes place in Hawaii in the 1890s and follows Rachel, a young girl whose big dreams for life are shattered when she is diagnosed with leprosy. Forcibly removed from her family and sent to a leper colony on the isolated island of Moloka’i, she finds a new family of friends in this inspiring tale of hope that is based on a true story.

2. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Fortunes have changed for the King family, descendants of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. When a tragic boating accident leaves Joanie King in a coma, her husband Matthew and his two daughters are shocked by a secret that leads them on a memorable journey.

3. Hawaii by James A. Michener

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James A. Michener brings Hawaii’s epic history vividly to life in this classic saga that has captivated readers since its initial publication in 1959. Spanning the history of the island, this richly-imagined novel is an engaging look at the Aloha State.

4. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

In this romance novel, two sworn enemies end up on a romantic trip to Hawaii. Olive’s twin sister is getting married, but the bride, the groom, and the rest of the wedding party all end up sick with food poisoning. The only ones left unscathed are Olive and the best man Ethan, her nemesis. The two of them must take the non-refundable honeymoon to Hawaii in the bride and groom’s place, and the trip is full of surprises. Will they end up finding love in paradise?

5. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

This is a historical fiction novel set in Hawaii during World War II. It follows a woman who is trying to piece her life together after her husband goes missing. With a young daughter to take care of, she finds solace with a group of women she opens a pie stand with. But when she and the women are accused of spying, she faces losing everything… again.

6. Freckled by T. W. Neal

Author T. W. Neal paints a poignant picture of her childhood in Hawaii, raised by drug-addicted parents and often suffering from homelessness, food insecurity, and a lack of stable education. Her memoir shows a darker side of paradise, and her determination to thrive against all odds.

7. Honolulu by Alan Brennert

This historical fiction novel tells the story of a young Korean bride who leaves her home in 1914 in search of a better life in Hawaii. However, instead of the affluent husband and chance at an education that she has been promised, she is married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on her. In the end, she must make her own way in this strange new land.

8. From Here to Eternity by James Jones

Originally published in the 1950s, this fiction novel gives a glimpse into army life on base in the paradise of Hawaii, in the calm before the storm of Pearl Harbor. It follows a career soldier who is known as the army’s finest bugler, and gives an insight into life in the US Army.

9. Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

Inspired by real places and events of World War II, this historical fiction novel set in Hawaii immerses the reader in a time of American history full of suspicion and peril in this lush and poignant tale about the indisputable power of doing the right thing against all odds.

10. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen by Liliuokalani

In 1893, Liliuokalani, the Queen of Hawaii, was deposed and five years later her nation became an incorporated territory of the United States. Published shortly after these momentous events, her book is an incredibly personal history of the islands that she was born to rule.

11. Under the Wave at Waimea by Paul Theroux

This fictional novel follows an aging big-wave surfer as his life spins out of control after one tragic night. Set in the lush, gritty underside of an island paradise readers rarely see, this book offers a dramatic, affecting commentary on privilege, mortality, and remembrance.

12. The Girls of Pearl Harbor by Soraya M. Lane

Set in Hawaii during World War II, The Girls of Pearl Harbor is a historical fiction novel that centers around three women who think they’re getting an adventure in paradise when they join the US Army Nurse Corps and are stationed in Hawaii. However, their worlds are turned upside down after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they must decide what truly matters to them and face grief as they never have before in this gripping and harrowing tale.

Best Books Set in Hawaii

These are some of the best books set in Hawaii.

Have you read any of these books set in Hawaii? Do you have any favorite books set in Hawaii that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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