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Six Months in the Sandwich Islands: Among Hawaii's Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  166 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
This Victiorian era travel book sold out in England in 1875, two years after author Isabella Bird made her Meticulously observed journey through Hawaii. In captivating prose, she recounted her adventures on these mountainous islands, cleft by deep chasms and ravines of cool shadow and entrancing green.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Mutual Publishing (first published January 1st 1875)
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Isabella, Isabella, who would have thought? You beat us hands down - in your long skirts and in your early 40's - what an intrepid traveler you were! So enthusiastic, especially about volcanoes (letting the soles of your shoes melt like that, really! and your early morning worship at the altar of lava - you would do anything, wouldn't you, to experience these thrills!). I loved this book. The trip on horseback from Hilo through the gorges to Waipio was incredible, and the description of entering ...more
the gift
i surprised myself by so enjoying this series of descriptive letters home (with photos!), from a woman traveling for her health in 1872, from edinburgh to warmer climes. remarkable adventures, of its times, even now. if you can ignore her typical 'civilized', 'christian' prejudices, in everything from sugar plantations, missionaries, lack of clothes (!), 'sensuousness', 'heatheness', this is an interesting view of life in hawai'i about a hundred years after european contact from a privileged (wh ...more
Beth Cato
Jan 14, 2017 Beth Cato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Works from the 19th century can be difficult to read due to dense, repetitive prose and the repulsive attitudes of the time. Bird is a woman of her period, yes, and her biases are pretty clear up front, but she is a complex, fascinating person who would be remarkable even in our time. This is a woman who, because of her "nervous condition," was advised to indulge in open air travel. Therefore, she traveled around the world by herself multiple times. Her six months in the Sandwich Island (aka Haw ...more
Susan Ferguson
Sep 23, 2013 Susan Ferguson rated it really liked it
This has been quite interesting so far. Isabella Bird was headed to California from New Zealand in 1873, when the leaky steamboat she and her fellow passengers had boarded nearly sank. When they stopped at Hawaii, then an independent country, most of them disembarked. She had stopped over to help a friend who's son had fallen ill on board ship. She ended up spending 6 months on the islands because she found the air and water so appealing. She was there from January through August. She was a Vict ...more
This early Hawaiian travelogue is unique for several reasons. It’s a first edition, published in 1875, and the first book by an author who became a well-known travel writer. Ms. Bird (later Bishop), unlike most British women in her day, chose to travel alone and to mix freely with people of different cultures. She adopted some foriegn habits considered shocking by her own society, for example riding horses astride like native Hawaiian women rather than sidesaddle like a proper British woman. Man ...more
Mar 31, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was lucky enough to spend a week on Hawai'i recently and encountered several quotes from Isabella Bird, an English travel writer who spent 6 months on the Hawai'ian islands (Sandwich Islands to the Brits at the time) back in 1873. I had never heard of her before, but picked up the book in a state park gift shop. I'm glad i did. She was a fascinating and incredibly adventurous person, and brave, and wonderfully meticulous in her observations. Sometimes a bit too much so - I don't need to know t ...more
Jan 22, 2011 itpdx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Recommended in Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamersfor Hawaii. The author, a single 40-something English woman, arrived in Hawaii in 1873 on a ship that barely made it from New Zealand. She was on her way to the US, but was way-laid by the beauty and friendliness of the islands and stayed for almost seven months. She was very adventurous-quickly accepting the local custom of women riding horses astride as practical. She visited all the major islands and her ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: h, 2014, female-author
This is a real insight into the Hawaiian Islands and what they were like before real modernisation, globalization and tourism hit them. It displays and describe the different customs and traditions with eloquence and without mockery (as many of the travels in this time period do). It shows the authors genuine interest in the islands and its inhabitants - both native and immigrant. It was interesting to read about how the different islands and how they compared in their levels of development in r ...more
Dec 13, 2010 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of Ms. Bird's earliest traveling adventures--and she is truly amazing. She travels because she claims to be in poor health, but honestly, she tackles adventures no invalid would dare. Even many "healthy" folk would find her itinerary daunting. She fords nearly impossible raging rivers on horse-back, tackles the heights of Mauna Loa (without getting "mountain fever"), sleeps in bitter cold huts, endures sweltering heat, all while writing lovely Victorian prose about the beauties abou ...more
Beverly Atkinson
Jun 17, 2012 Beverly Atkinson rated it it was ok
I read the first several chapters and decided that this is not the time for me to finish "Six months," if at all. I was much more interested in other writings by Isabella Bird. And other books of Hawaii were much more engaging, especially "Moloka'i" (a novel by Alan Brennert) and other books that I read prior to an Elderhostel (former name) visiting five islands to learn geology, biology, and culture. Any other 19c book on the Sandwich Islands that I read will need to show sense of humor, such a ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hawaii
This is a fascinating look at the islands from the perspective of a woman traveling alone in the 1870s and who was absolutely fearless! What great adventures she experienced and all these years later her words are so very full of wonderful descriptions of the islands in all their majesty, which are thankfully still mostly intact. The occasional biases of the generation are easily forgiven and her daring adventures would rival any even by todays's standards.
Aug 19, 2012 Pam is currently reading it
Started my second Isabella Bird book. You have to admire women who are not afraid to take on the world, and Isabella did just that - all by herself and with no reservations. This is a person who really knew how to follow her dreams! I am very interested in this book since it is about Hawaii and right in tune with some Hawaii history research I am doing with my sister in law. Plus I just love Isabella!
Feb 13, 2010 Debby rated it liked it
I read Isabella Bird's book, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, several years ago. Now that I'm spending a lot of time in Hawaii, I was very interested in hearing her impressions of the islands in the 1860's. While her view of most of the "natives" is far from enlightened, the descriptions of her travel on horseback around the islands are fascinating. She was intrepid by today's standards, not just by the standards of her day.
Aug 03, 2011 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here descriptions of volcanic activity are so vivid I can picture Mauna Loa erupting. I very much enjoyed reading about her adventures riding through the wilds of 19th century Hawaii. The chapters at the end on the economy and history of Hawaii were a little disappointing after all the exciting chapters about her adventures. Overall a great read though.
Apr 15, 2011 Bobbesse rated it it was amazing
Amusing and insightful accounts of a quite independent adventure seeking women in the 19th century. She traveled to and throughout the Hawaiian islands experiencing situations which might challenge us modern travelers. The book is a collection of letters and is filled with lengthy prose written with a subtle but wonderful sense of sarcasm describing her experiences.
Susan Oliver
Jan 07, 2014 Susan Oliver rated it it was amazing
After living on the big island for 11 years, I finally picked up my copy of Ms. Bird's book. Amazed does not adequately describe my feelings. Love this book, sending copies to my family so all will appreciate the beauty of my island and why I choose to live in the remote place in the world? Just love this book. With aloha from the Big Island.
Feb 04, 2013 Julie rated it liked it
Non-fiction Victorian travel book written in 1875, two years after the author made her long trip from England to the Hawaiian islands. Much of what she found wonderful about Hawaii then is what we still find wonderful today.
Jul 12, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it
The dauntless Isabella Bird is always a hoot to read! This was especially good reading during a trip to Europe during which not everything went according to plan. At least we weren't camped out on the edge of an erupting volcano!
Jan 23, 2011 Dan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm loving this book so far. We visited an exhibit on her travels where a Japanese photographer re-shot all of her pics and it inspired me to read this book.
Mike Ward
I registered a book at!
Mar 18, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Really a fascinating first-hand account by a hard-core woman in the 1870s. A must read if you travel to Hawaii, esp the big island.
Sara Gray
Mar 02, 2017 Sara Gray rated it liked it
This was a charming series of letters from an adventurous Victorian English woman who explored Hawaii for several months in the 1870s. While her colonialist attitudes towards the native Hawaiians' non-Christian faith was typical of her race and class (as in, she held a lot of contempt for their laziness and "corruption,") she was also sympathetic to their cause as a sovereign nation soon to be taken over by America. She also, admirably, spent a lot of time with the Hawaiians on her own and livin ...more
May 29, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This author was an amazing independent traveler for her times. One of my favorite parts is her description of the surfers! She has a few other books, one that I also read about her time in the Rocky Mtns, especially interesting to anyone who lives/ed on front range of Colorado. Grad school prof. introduced me to her work for a non-fiction "outdoor/environmental" writing class.
Sep 20, 2012 Laurie rated it really liked it
I loved this book and spent several rainy days in Hawaii reading it. I have been to some of the places she visited and her writing easily evoked an image of them before they were developed. She was one cool woman!
Nov 11, 2011 Linda rated it liked it
This is really facinating to read about tourism before roads, cars, easy access. This woman would have been so interesting to meet.
Feb 23, 2015 Sue rated it really liked it
My personal heroine in my favorite place.
Never finished it, found it tedious.
Jun 23, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read
edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.epub v 380pp
Dec 12, 2013 Krista rated it liked it
A very descriptive book. It took me a long time to get through. Bird's love of the area is clear throughout the book. Made me want to head to the big island.
Apr 19, 2009 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Marcia Rider
Shelves: arewethereyet
This women should be everyone's hero.
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Isabella Lucy Bird (October 15, 1831 – October 7, 1904) was a nineteenth-century English traveller, writer, and a natural historian.

* The Englishwoman in America (1856)
* Pen and Pencil Sketches Among The Outer Hebrides (published in The Leisure Hour) (1866)
* The Hawaiian Archipelago (1875)
* The Two Atlantics (published in The Leisure Hour) (1876)
* Australia Felix: Impressions of Victori
More about Isabella L. Bird...

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“people live more happily than any that I have seen elsewhere.  It is very cheerful to live among people whose faces are not soured by the east wind, or wrinkled by the worrying effort to “keep up appearances,” which deceive nobody;” 3 likes
“There is also a dog, but he does not understand English,” 2 likes
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