ANALYSIS: Who Owns Hawaii? | Huge Island now

In a previous analysis, we examined land use patterns in Hawaii by asking the question, “Specifically, how much of Hawaii is?”

This time around, we’re taking a look at who owns much of this land by profiling Hawaii’s 10 largest landowners by acreage.

Hawaii: We Are The 0.0001%

Even the “broke” of Hawaiian residents can take comfort in one simple fact:

There is approximately 1 acre of state land for every person living on the islands. In other words, we each own a combined share of around 0.0001% in state property.

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Take this, Larry Ellison.

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While neither of us can actually claim the title for this turf, the more than 1.5 million acres owned by the state of Hawaii (by far the largest landowner here) makes it at least likely that it will be for decades lots of green space to walk around.

Editor’s Note: We’ve included the 193,705 acres of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Some may dispute the idea that DHHL holdings are “state property”. Counted alone, DHHL would be the fourth largest landowner on the islands.

Uncle Sam and the Princess

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Unsurprisingly, the US government owns a generous chunk of Aloha State, which owns just under 531,000 acres in Hawaii.

The vast majority of this land (432,205 acres of it) is on the Big Island, where Uncle Sam runs the vast Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Landmarks like this glow emanating from the Halema’uma’u crater of Kilauea volcano attract visitors who spend millions of dollars on the local economy. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

While the state and federal governments make up the No. 1 and No. 2 landowners by country, Hawaii’s third largest landowner is actually one of the largest estates in America, the Kamehameha Schools.

The “Kam School” was founded at the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (a direct descendant of Kamehameha the Great) and is probably best known for its 600-acre flagship campus on Oahu.

600 acres is spacious to be safe. In total, the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii own more than 363,000 acres, with approximately 82% of that land on the Big Island.

Old money gets new neighbors

Larry Ellison: one of only two

Larry Ellison: One of only two “new money” landowners to make our top 10 list. Public domain image.

Former sugar giant “Big Five” (and Matson’s parent company) Alexander & Baldwin is the fourth largest landowner in the islands and the state’s only surviving sugar processor. There are nearly 90,000 acres on Maui and over 20,000 acres on Kauai.

Several other “old money” landowners make up the next names on our list, with the Big Island’s 106,883-acre Parker Ranch numbering fifth and the 58,417-acre Molokai Ranch numbering seventh.

When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison bought Castle & Cook’s nearly 90,000 acre stake in Lanai (98% of the island itself) in 2012, he immediately became Hawaii’s sixth largest landowner.

He’s also one of just two new faces to have been on the Hawaiian Top 10 Landowners list for decades.

Eighth and ninth place belong to the descendants of the Robinson family, who own a total of 96,714 acres on Kauai and Ni’ihau (the latter controlling them almost entirely).

The top 10 is rounded off as the only other “new money” investor who recently made it into the selected club of large landowners. In 2000, former AOL boss Steve Case bought Grove Farm on Kauai.

By 2002, Case had also bought a neighboring plantation that reportedly once employed his grandfather. In total, Case now owns over 36,000 acres on the Garden Isle.

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