Barking Sands / Polihale State Park view of Niihau. Native Hawaiian island off limits.
Elizabeth Sinclair purchased Niʻihau in 1864 from the Kingdom of Hawaii and private ownership passed on to her descendants, the Robinson family.
During World War II, the island was the site of the Niʻihau Incident: A Japanese fighter pilot crashed on the island and terrorized its residents for a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The people of Niʻihau are known for their gemlike lei pūpū (shell lei) craftsmanship, and speak Hawaiʻian as a primary language.
The island is generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island's owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials and invited guests, giving it the nickname "The "Forbidden Isle".
Beginning in 1987, a limited number of supervised activity tours and hunting safaris have opened to tourists. The island is currently managed by Bruce and Keith Robinson.
Prior to the unification of the Kingdom of Hawaii under Kamehameha I, Niʻihau was ruled by the aliʻi. Kahelelani was the first of the Niʻihau aliʻi. His name is now used to refer to the Niʻihau kahelelani, the puka shell of the wart turbans (Leptothyra verruca), used to make exquisite Niʻihau shell jewelry. Kāʻeokūlani was a ruler of northern Niʻihau who unified the island after defeating his rival, a chief named Kawaihoa.