Who doesn’t dream of owning property in beautiful Hawaii? Imagine vast acreage of rolling forested hills along white sand beaches and sparkling waters. The State of Hawaii has approximately four million acres of land. But of those millions of acres, only a handful of people, corporations, and government entities own the vast majority. And for regular people looking to buy property in the state, their options are very limited. And it can be difficult to finance. Let’s take a look at the 10 largest landowners in Hawaii and what they do with all of their acreage.
1. The State of Hawaii – 1.6 Million Acres
It probably comes as no surprise that the number one largest landowner in Hawaii is the State of Hawaii, which owns land on every island. Thankfully, most of the land is public and betters the lives of Hawaiian residents. Nearly 200,000 acres are for the Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Homelands, which is a homesteading program for natives.
2. The US Federal Government – 531,000 Acres
The federal government acquired most of its land when it overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and eventually dissolved the Kingdom of Hawaii. While it originally took the Crown and Government land, it eventually gave it back to the state. The remaining land it owns is for military stations and national parks.
3. Kamehameha Schools – 362,000 Acres
Bernice Bishop, an heir and member of the Hawaiian Royal Family, placed a significant amount of land in a trust, which she designated for building Kamehameha Schools. The schools offer educational programs and scholarship opportunities for people of Hawaiian ancestry. Apart from the three main campuses, most of the land is for conservation and agricultural purposes.
4. Parker Ranch – 130,000 Acres
The Parker family formed a relationship with King Kamehameha I in the early 1800s, and he gave them permission to sell wild cattle that roamed throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Generations of the Parker family continued to acquire land over the decades, where they raised cattle and horses and brought cowboys called paniolo. A trust now owns the ranch and continues to serve and build relationships with the Hawaiian people.
5. Robinson Family – 101,000 Acres
The Robinson family also found favor with the royals and were able to buy a large portion of Kauai and almost all of Niihau. However, during purchasing negotiations, the king made the Robinsons promise to protect the island and its inhabitants from outsiders. To this day, descendants from the Robinson family have held up their end of the bargain. The island of Niihau is nearly impossible to visit. It is now called the “Forbidden Isle.”
6. Larry Ellison – 89,000 Acres
Larry Ellison, the chairman and co-founder of Oracle, owns nearly 90,000 acres of land in Hawaii. In fact, he owns 98% of the Island of Lanai, which is home to 3,000 residents. Ellison uses his land primarily for conservation, alternative energy research, a resort, and restaurants.
7. Alexander and Baldwin – 87,000 Acres
Alexander and Baldwin is a multimillion-dollar commercial real estate company based in Hawaii. Two young men with a vision and pure hustle founded it. They started with 12 acres, where they grew sugarcane. And from there, they became agents for plantations and bought a large sugar company. As one of the largest private landowners in the state, the company operates in real estate, construction, and land operations.
8. Molokai Ranch – 54,000 Acres
In the late 1800s, a group of businessmen purchased a large amount of land on the western side of Molokai, where they raised cattle and livestock. While they originally owned around 70,000 acres, the ranch now consists of 54,000. This working cattle ranch has been a major part of the agriculture-based economy on the island.
9. Local Government Entities (County) – 38,000 Acres
Local county governments own thousands of acres in their respective boundaries. Through the law of eminent domain, the government has the right to seize private property for public use. The local governments primarily use this land for parks, infrastructure, recreational facilities, and space for services, such as police and fire.
10. Stephen Case – 31,000 Acres
In 2000, Stephen Case, the co-founder of AOL, purchased Grove Farms and its more than 30,000 acres. Grove Farms is on Kauai and was acquired in 1850 during the Great Mahele. The land was transferred several times. Eventually, the Wilcox family bought it and purchased nearby plantations, where they continued sugarcane operations and produced cattle. Grove Farms still has some agricultural operations in existence, but it also develops land for residential and commercial use.
Summary of the Largest 10 Landowners in Hawaii
|1||State of Hawaii||1.6 million acres|
|2||Federal Government||531 thousand acres|
|3||Kamehameha Schools||362 thousand acres|
|4||Parker Ranch||130 thousand acres|
|5||Robinson Family||101 thousand acres|
|6||Larry Ellison||89 thousand acres|
|7||Alexander and Baldwin||87 thousand acres|
|8||Molokai Ranch||54 thousand acres|
|9||Local Government Entities (County)||38 thousand acres|
|10||Stephen Case||31 thousand acres|
Who Are the Largest Landowners in the United States?
There are two worth mentioning as relating to the largest landowners in the United States. The first is probably pretty obvious-the U.S. Government. Shared between the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense, over 640 million acres of U.S. land are owned by the Federal Government. That’s roughly ⅓ of all the land in the United States, which averages out to a total of 2.3 billion acres.
The largest landowner in the United States other than the Federal Government is the Emmerson family, whose patriarch Red Emmerson founded Sierra Pacific Industries in Anderson, California. This company is focused on lumber production, operating a number of sawmills. The Emmerson family owns approximately 2,330,000 acres of land.
The other top largest landowners in the U.S. are:
- John Malone–2,200,000 acres (land committed to conservation)
- The Reed Family–2,100,000 acres (lumber production and forests)
- Ted Turner–2,000,000 acres (ranching and agricultural research)
- Stan Kroenke–1,627,500 acres (farmland, ranches, renewable energy)
The photo featured at the top of this post is © MNStudio/Shutterstock.com
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