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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, what you’re about to see is one of Hawaii’s most stunning islands. It’s called Niihau, it sits about 17.5 miles southwest of Kauaʻi across the Kaulakahi Channeland, and besides its beauty, this place also holds a reputation for being one of the most exclusive and forbidden islands on the planet.
Today, we’ve been given a gift: we’ve been granted exclusive access to wander around this usually roped-off slice of nature, and see first-hand what life on the forbidden island is really like — that’s right, people live here.
Where does that moniker come from? During a polio epidemic in the Hawaiian Islands in 1952, Niihau became known as the “Forbidden Island” because they closed off access to the general public. And ever since, that name’s just stuck. The name hasn’t changed, nor has the technology, with the residents utilizing traditional hunting techniques for food.
The island’s rolling hills extend more than five miles, with all of the land being privately owned for more than 150 years. As you’ll see when we begin our tour, everything on this island goes slow; the people, the animals; the way of life — all because its owners are simply following the strange wishes of a long-gone king.
Before we explore, I warm you: your money’s no good here, so put it away.
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00:49 Approach the main signage
01:42 Move toward the houses
02:22 Meet a local
03:31 Walk around the island
04:23 Stop at one of the beaches
04:51 Check out the school”