books set in hawaii

24 Books Set In & About Hawaii For An Island Getaway

24 Books Set In & About Hawaii For An Island Getaway

To many, Hawaii is the perfect destination for a dreamy island getaway.

Can’t visit the island anytime soon? Travel to Hawaii through these best books set in and about Hawaii!

In this article, I’ve recommended a few books set in Hawaii that are from different genres, such as – romance, historical fiction, thriller, young adult, and more.

There are also non-fiction books for readers who are keen to explore more about the history of Hawaii.

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Fiction Books Set In Hawaii: Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery and More

1. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Why should you read it?

This historical fiction book set in Hawaii is about a seven-year-old girl, Rachel being separated from her family and exiled to the Kalaupapa, islands of Moloka’i. 

Back in 1866, people who suffered from leprosy were forced to leave homes and reside in Kalaupapa with few resources to survive. When Rachel arrives in 1893, she finds a community that is willing to accept her and starts a new life, leaving her family and identity behind.

With the fragility of life and stigma around leprosy, this story teaches readers to embrace love, friendship and a community. It teaches us that family is not always blood bound.

Plus, there’s a sequel that is highly recommended by readers who enjoyed this book!

2. Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Why should you read it?

Daughter of Moloka’i follows the story of Ruth, Rachel’s daughter whom she has to give up at birth.

Ruth doesn’t know why she was given up until decades later when she received a letter from her mother.

For her whole life, Ruth lived with her adoptive parents (a Japanese couple) in California. Ruth is biracial, her father is Japanese while her mother is Hawaiian.

Part of this book tells us about the World War II attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

If you’re wondering which to read first – it’s best to read Moloka’i first and then Daughter of Moloka’i. However, they don’t have to be read in that order and can stand alone.

Readers enjoyed this historical fiction read just as much as they enjoyed the first book – Moloka’i.

3. Project Namahana by John Teschner

Why should you read it?

After many disappearances and deaths in the jungles of Kaua’i, two corporate men try to find answers related to this strange phenomenon. 

This book also explores a clash between corporations and locals on exploiting the environment locals inhabit. 

Readers found this a very addicting read, one of those books you can’t put down until you’ve solved the mystery. While some say it takes a bit of time to get hooked as the beginning of the story is not as fast-paced as they’d like it to be.

If you’re a fan of mystery and thrillers, this eco-thriller set in Hawaii might just be the perfect read for you.

4. Honolulu by Alan Brennert

Why should you read it?

If you enjoyed reading Moloka’i or Daughter of Moloka’i, Honolulu might be worth exploring as it is written by the same author.

Honolulu is a historical fiction that tells us a story about an immigrant bride from Korea that moves to Hawaii for a better life. Women in Korea during the early 19th century were not as respected compared to men. 

To escape a life where she has to cook and clean and do nothing more, this young girl renames herself and flees. 

Soon, she finds a life of her own and makes some important friendships that helps her evolve as a person.

Some Moloka’i fans say that this book does not measure up to Moloka’i. 

Either way, if you can’t get over the first two books written by Alan Brennert (yes, book hangovers are a real thing!) – be sure to pick this one up.

5. Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

Why should you read it?

Another mystery book set in Hawaii that’ll keep you hooked, Micro takes us through a journey of graduate students who travel to Hawaii and work in a biotech company.

As they are cast off into a jungle, they have nothing but their wits and scientific knowledge to survive.

6. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Why should you read it?

A heart-warming story about a man in Hawaii named Matthew King who is a royal descendant.

However, Matt’s life is a difficult one. His wife is in a coma and his two daughters are difficult to deal with. a 10-year-old daughter that’s troublesome and a 17-year-old former model with substance abuse issues.

This is a tale that reminds us that a family has to create its own legacy and not rely on the blood they’ve inherited. 

7. I Heart Hawaii by Lindsey Kelk

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a YA book set in Hawaii, this one’s for you!

The I Heart series by Lindsey Kelk with 8 books has been popular for years now. 

Her series finale, I Heart Hawaii is about Angela going on a trip to Hawaii to take a break from work to enjoy some sun and sea.

Readers really enjoyed this novel about two best-friends travelling to the island and this book was also a satisfactory ending to the series.

I Heart Hawaii would be the perfect book to carry in your tote bag and head off to a beach in Hawaii.

8. About A Girl by Lindsey Kelk

Why should you read it?

Another romance novel by Lindsey Kelk set in Hawaii. If you’re looking for a feel-good, witty romance to escape into – About A Girl is definitely a book to explore.

After losing her job and her best friend, Tess impersonates her flatmate, Vanessa and soon gets an opportunity to be a photographer in Hawaii. 

Soon, she finds herself in trouble for various reasons. Firstly, she is not a photographer. Secondly, a hunky journalist starts flirting with her. 

This book is a great chick-lit – there’s a handsome love interest, an island getaway and some drama.

9. Between The Deep Blue Sea And Me By Lurline Wailana Mcgregor

Why should you read it?

Between The Deep Blue Sea And Me entails a story about Moana, a career-driven woman in California. She visits her home origins in Hawaii due to her father’s death.

In this book, Moana’s idea of what it means to be a Hawaiian woman is challenged. Moana goes on a journey of self-discovery and connecting with the Hawaiian heritage she once lost.

Expect a read that explores the consequences of choices made by an individual which may lead to a battle between one’s desires versus one’s heritage.

10. Song of the Exile by Kiana Davenport

Why should you read it?

A historical fiction book set in Hawaii from a World War II perspective, Kiana Davenport brings us fiction that illustrates Hawaiian history.

The author does great research on World War II and also interviews survivors to make this fiction historically accurate. 

This is not a book for the light-hearted. It can be heartbreaking as you read about how women in Hawaii were affected by the war.

11. Shark Dialogues by Kiana Davenport

Why should you read it?

Written by the same author of Song of the Exile, many readers preferred reading Shark Dialogues.

Shark Dialogues is about a multigenerational family in Hawaii. Pono has a secret. A secret she has hid from her own children for years.

One day, at her coffee plantation she decides to open up about it to her four granddaughters – a veterinarian from Manhattan, a lawyer from Australia, the wife of a Japanese Mafia member and one dying of lupus.

Readers say that this story has good Hawaiian representation. It is also an adventure tale and the writer has a poetic way of writing.

12. With You All The Way by Cynthia Hand

Why should you read it?

A contemporary romance book set in Hawaii that discusses losing your V card at the “right” time with the “right person”.

After Ava caught her boyfriend cheating on her and after finding out that her mother was having an affair – Ava is done with all the drama happening in her life. 

This book is not just another YA romance read. It has important themes related to family and self-discovery.

However, it is definitely a fun read if you need a romantic vacation in Hawaii but cannot physically transport yourself there.

13. East Wind, Rain by Caroline Paul

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a novel set in Hawaii that has a unique story to tell in regards to the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 – East Wind, Rain is worth looking into.

In fact, the title East Wind, Rain was a code used by the Japanese in the attack of Pearl Harbour. 

As a Japanese pilot lands on the island of Niihau, native Hawaiians are not aware of the attack on Pearl Harbour as they have barely any communication with the outside world. 

This is because a man who rules the island limits their access to communication tools and electricity. Soon, the natives have to deal with the landing of the pilot without their leader as he isn’t on the island.

The book discusses an important historical event in a fictional setting while conveying messages about themes such as prejudice, loyalty and identity.

14. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman

Why should you read it?

A story of mystery and romance, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is set amongst the colorful landscape of Hawaii.

This book has an interesting take on war and racism as we get to see some parts of it through the eyes of a child. 

Besides a mother-and-daughter relationship, this book also explores the guilt of falling in love with someone you shouldn’t fall in love with.

If you enjoyed reading Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a book you should definitely add to your Hawaii reading list.

15. Red Sky Over Hawaii by Sara Ackerman

Why should you read it?

Another historical fiction set in Hawaii by Sara Ackerman, Red Sky Over Hawaii tells us about the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Lana Hitchcock receives a message from her father, Jack Spalding that he’s unwell and she leaves immediately to go and see him in Hawaii. 

However, he passes on and soon Lana discovers that he has left a hideaway property behind. She uses it to shelter two young German girls, a Japanese fisherman and his son.

The theme of family surfaces many times in this book – due to Lana’s relationship with her father and the girls she is taking care of and how much they miss their parents.

16. Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury

Why should you read it?

Under the Blood-Red Sun is a middle-grade historical fiction novel set in Hawaii during the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbour which may interest kids from age 10-15.

Tomi and his little sister are both born and bred in Hawaii. They live with their parents and grandfather who is Japanese. Tomi has a group of friends called the Rats and together, they have a blast playing baseball. 

However, things take a turn when the US declares war on Japan and Tomi’s father and grandfather gets arrested.

17. A Song for the Stars by Ilima Todd

Why should you read it?

A Song for the Stars is a historical fiction romance with a cultural setting in Hawaii. Maile, the second daughter of the royal chief is allowed to marry for love.

Unfortunately, battle strikes in Hawaii and that gets her lover killed.

She takes John Harbottle, her lover’s murderer and imprisons him.

Soon, she learns the truth of the deadly battle – a secret. John might just be the ally she is looking for and not the enemy she had in mind.

18. The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan

Why should you read it?

Another book that takes place in Hawaii, The Girl at the Center of the World is about a girl, Leilani who has a strange connection to the Emerald Orchid.

In this book, you’ll find native Hawaii mythology. If you’re a fantasy reader and appreciate mythology from different cultures – add this to your reading list.

This is the second book in the duology, you might want to check out the first book too.

Non-Fiction Books About Hawaii

19. Freckled by TW Neal

Why should you read it?

Freckled is a memoir of a young girl growing up on the islands of Hawaii. Many readers said that this was an extremely emotional read.

The author beautifully described the lush scenic views of the island and her experience growing up there as a non-native with parents who weren’t as emotionally available, responsible and obsessed with the Hawaii surf life.

Toby is real and honest about her family dysfunctions, problems and more.

20. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First by Julia Flynn Siler

Why should you read it?

This book introduces the reader to Hawaiian vocabulary as well as famous Hawaiian Royalty.

If you’re keen to learn on Hawaii’s transformation from an island paradise to an American territory, Lost Kingdom discusses the Kingdom of Hawaii’s efforts to remain independent through the 19th Century.

In the face of imperialist subversion, this book shows how the Hawaiians forged a national identity under Kamehameha in response to Western exploration and increased trade with the outside world.

21. Hawaii: A Novel by James A. Michener

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for a book to learn more about the history of Hawaii, this non-fiction does it justice.

This is the go-to book for anyone who wants to learn more about what was Hawaii like before and after the American missionaries arrived the island.

However, be prepared diving into this book – it can be a bit dry if you’re not a history fanatic as it has over a thousand pages.

Books Set In Maui

22. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Why should you read it?

If you’re looking for books to read in Hawaii that is set in Maui, The Unhoneymooners would be my suggestion.

Two adults who hate each other right have to go on an all-paid honeymoon to Maui, Hawaii because the bride and groom are down with food poisoning from the wedding.

This spicy booktok read is perfect for YA romance readers who are a big fan of the proximity trope and enemies-to-lovers trope.

Plus, if you like your reads romantic (and maybe a little saucy) be sure to pick up this heartwarming and humorous read with a sprinkle of drama.

Read More: 21 Best Enemies To Lovers Books (A List For All Readers)

23. The Island Decides by Jill Engledow

Why should you read it?

This book is great if you would like to envision life on Maui during the late 60s and early 70s.

It follows the story of a single mother, Carrie, searching for her lost 4-year-old daughter.

While she searches for her daughter, she also explores the island and meets Michael. With that said, a romance starts brewing.

24. This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila

Why should you read it?

This is Paradise offers an unforgettable portrayal of life as it is on Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island.

It is a short story collection – six stories that follow the people of Hawaii in their many forms and in their own struggles. These stories were gritty, sad, engaging, and full of life.

The author writes in such a way that it will leave the reader with their pondering thoughts after each short story.

24 Books Set In & About Hawaii For An Island Getaway

There you have it, 24 books set in and about Hawaii. There’s a genre for everyone! Whether you’re a romance reader or non-fiction enthusiast, you’ll find something to your liking here!

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