Set in the lush environs of Oahu's Manoa valley, Punahou School is one of the premier private schools in Hawaii and the nation. Punahou is also the nation's largest independent school, with over 255 faculty members, a 76-acre campus, and 3700 students between kindergarten and twelfth grade.

The school was founded in 1841 by missionaries who wished to educate their children in Hawaii rather than sending them back home to New England as was customary. The six-month trip entailed a long and dangerous voyage all the way around the southern tip of South America, and prevented the parents from seeing their children for many years. And so it was decided by the mission to form a school where they could educate their children and instill in them a strong sense of Christian morality. They founded the school on land given to the Reverend Hiram Bingham by Queen Kaahumanu, and called it Punahou School after the Hawaiian legend of Ka Punahou. The legend tells of an aged Hawaiian couple who lived long ago above the present campus, and had to travel far for water. They prayed each night for a spring, but to no avail. Finally one night, in a dream answering their prayers, they were told to uproot the stump of an old hala tree. They did as they were told and found a spring of clear, sweet water, which they named Ka Punahou, the New Spring. This legend lives on in the Punahou seal with the hala tree and two taro leaves, as well as the beautiful lily pond at the center of campus that is filled with colorful koi and is said to be fed by the very same spring.

The school officially opened in 1842 with a class of 34 students, each paying a tuition of $12. Ten years later the school began accepting students of all races and religions, and this tradition carries on oday. The school officially has a Christian affilition, though in practice it is a very non-denominational institution. The most students are required to do is attend "Chapel", which is more an opportunity to discuss values than preach religion. In my experience, Punahou is a very tolerant and supportive place.

Punahou currently offers:

One of the things that makes Punahou very special is its location, being situated in Hawaii. Large, open-air playing fields and lush trees cover the campus, making it a year-round green beauty. In addition to nearly 30 academic buildings (mostly open-air) the school has a quarter-mile outdoor track, eight tennis courts, and an olympic-sized swimming pool. Every year the junior class organizes the Punahou Carnival, a two-day whirlwind event which generates money for the class's senior year. Every February the front fields are transformed into a full-fledged carnival, complete with games, food, and all sorts of amusement park rides. The carnival is a favorite island event and is so popular that it manages to bring in over a million dollars over the course of two days.

Finally, in addition to all of these things, being in Hawaii gives Punahou one of the most important assets of all: cultural diversity. Punahou makes a concerted effort to reflect Hawaii's ethnic diversity and varied socio-economic levels, which varies from Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and Polynesian backgrounds to Irish, German, Jewish, etc and all the combinations thereof. Growing up and learning in this environment is very stimulating and offers many opportunities to learn about the world, other cultures, and to share in everybody's unique perspective. What a way to learn about the value of tolerance and acceptance!

Tuition is currently:

  • $9,800 (K-3)
  • $10,080 (4-6)
  • $10,400 (7-12)
Financial aid for 2000-2001 was $1,840,000, awarded on the basis of demonstrated family need.

Fun Facts:

Students are not required to wear shoes until the sixth grade.
Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner is an alumnus, class of 1976.

Statistics from the Hawaii Association of Independant Schools -
Ka Punahou legend from the Punahou School website -

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