Niihau: Hawaii’s Hidden "Invitation Only" Island


Situated about 18 miles northwest of Kauai, Niihau extends five miles and has been privately owned for more than 150 years. While Hawaii’s Forbidden Island remains closed to the public, the reasons why might come as a surprise. In 1864, Elizabeth Sinclair bought the island from King Kamehameha V for a mere $10,000 in gold. The king’s only request was that the Sinclair family protect the island and its residents from outside influences, and today Keith and Bruce Robinson — descendants of the Elizabeth Sinclair — are doing just that. The reason the island was deemed “forbidden” is because in 1952 a polio epidemic required that you have a doctor’s note to visit the island in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Today, the island prohibits the use of technology and survives without electricity, running water, Internet access, shops, restaurants, paved roads, cars, and hotels. Electricity on the island is produced by the sun or a generator, and people travel the island on foot or by bicycle. There are only 70 residents who actually live on the island, and one of the unchangeable rules of living there is that everyone must attend church on Sunday. Anyone caught breaking this rule is promptly evicted. The Robinson family is so dedicated to protecting the island from the outside world that you have to be invited by them or a resident of the island in order to visit. There are, however, tours of the island, but that will set you back a whopping $1,950 a day……welcome!