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Brigham Young University-Hawaii, commonly called BYU-Hawaii or BYUH, is one of the campuses in the Church Educational System (CES) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to the question of what island BYU-Hawaii is located on: BYU-Hawaii’s campus is situated on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest island.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore in detail the island, location, history, and significance of where BYU-Hawaii’s campus is situated. We’ll take a close look at the north shore region of Oahu and help you understand exactly where to find this unique university with ties to both the state of Hawaii and the LDS Church.

BYU-Hawaii’s Location on the Island of Oahu

Overview of Oahu and Its Geographic Regions

Oahu is the most populous island in the Hawaiian island chain, with nearly 1 million residents. The island consists of several distinct geographic regions, including the mountainous Ko’olau and Waianae Ranges, the North Shore’s renowned surf beaches, the fertile Central Plains, and the iconic Waikiki Beach on the South Shore.

The Ko’olau Range spans the eastern side of Oahu. Its steep cliffs and lush valleys provide dazzling scenery and hiking opportunities. The mountains block moisture-laden trade winds from the northeast, creating Oahu’s wetter, windward side.

To the west, leeward Oahu lies in the rain shadow of the ranges and features warmer, drier weather.

Sandwiched between the ranges lies the Central Plains region. Stretching from Pearl Harbor to central Honolulu, this agricultural heartland supplies much of Oahu’s fresh produce. Pineapple and sugarcane plantations once dominated the landscape here.

On Oahu’s famed North Shore, seasonal big waves attract surfers from around the world. When winter storms in the North Pacific stir up massive swell, spots like Pipeline and Waimea Bay turn into surfing arenas. The powerful waves and laidback culture give the North Shore its distinctive character.

BYU-Hawaii’s Place on Oahu’s Famous North Shore

BYU-Hawaii sits just inland from the stunning beaches and waves of the North Shore in the town of Laie. Only an hour’s drive from Honolulu and Waikiki, the university occupies a serene, rural setting with a close-knit community feel.

Laie lies east of the island’s driest areas, receiving much more rainfall than leeward towns like Waianae and Makaha. Lush vegetation surrounds BYU-Hawaii, and the iconic green mountains of the Ko’olau Range provide a scenic backdrop.

Though set back from the North Shore’s beaches, students can easily access world-class surf spots. It’s just a short drive west to places like Sunset Beach, Banzai Pipeline, and Haleiwa.

BYU-Hawaii’s campus covers over 180 acres, nestled between the Hukilau Beach to the north and the Laie Hawaii Temple to the south. Students enjoy tropical trade winds, regular rainbow sightings, and quick access to Pacific waves, mountain trails and snorkeling spots – making Laie an unparalleled place for a university.

History of BYU-Hawaii’s Campus Site

Origins as a Church-Owned Plantation

The land that BYU-Hawaii’s campus currently resides on has a long history. In 1864, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased around 6,000 acres of land on the North Shore of Oahu to establish a plantation known as Laie Plantation (BYU-Hawaii History).

For several decades, Laie Plantation operated as a commercial sugarcane plantation led by Mormon missionaries.

In 1931, the LDS Church closed down sugar operations on the plantation due to the Great Depression. However, they maintained ownership of the land and transitioned operations to focus on building a gathering place for local church members in Hawaii.

Transition to the Church College of Hawaii

In 1955, the LDS Church made the decision to establish the Church College of Hawaii on the former plantation land. This new college was founded with the purpose of providing education rooted in religious teachings and values for youth members of the LDS Church in Hawaii and greater Polynesia (The History of BYU-Hawaii).

Over the next decade, enrollment at the fledgling Church College expanded greatly. By 1964, over 1,300 students were attending the school as it focused on associate and bachelor degree programs tailored to Pacific Islanders.

Achieving University Status as BYU-Hawaii

In 1974, the Commissioner of Church Education N. Eldon Tanner announced that the Church College of Hawaii would become Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU-Hawaii Archives). This signified its expansion into a full-scale, 4-year university.

The state of Hawaii certified BYU-Hawaii’s university status in 1976.

Since then, BYU-Hawaii has seen tremendous growth. Today, it has an enrollment of over 3,000 students and has become known as the most culturally diverse campus across the BYU university system (BYU-Hawaii Newsroom).

The university continues to thrive on the site of the former LDS Church plantation where its story began over a century ago.

Significance of BYU-Hawaii’s Island Location

Strategic Position Between Hawaii and Asia

BYU-Hawaii is strategically located on the north shore of Oahu, providing a gateway between the United States and Asia. The university’s position allows it to build bridges across the Pacific, facilitating cultural exchange and understanding.

With over half of the student body coming from Asian countries, BYU-Hawaii enables connection and collaboration between America and Asia.

The North Shore Setting and LDS Heritage

The north shore of Oahu has a strong connection to early Latter-day Saint history. In 1865, the first LDS missionaries arrived on the island of Oahu and baptized the first native Hawaiians into the church near the site of the present-day BYU-Hawaii campus.

The natural beauty and tranquility of the north shore aligns with the university’s vision to provide a place where students can focus on spiritual and intellectual growth.

Fulfilling a Vision for Church Growth

The establishment of BYU-Hawaii was part of a broader vision by LDS church leaders to accelerate the faith’s growth worldwide. They believed the university could be an educational hub for Latter-day Saints in the Pacific, helping to strengthen the church.

Since opening in 1955, BYU-Hawaii has educated over 50,000 students from 70+ countries which has supported outreach and growth of the LDS church in Asia and the Pacific Islands.


In conclusion, BYU-Hawaii holds a unique place among LDS Church schools by being situated on the north shore of Oahu. This location ties it geographically and culturally to both Hawaii with its LDS heritage and Polynesian roots and proximal Asian countries central to church growth initiatives.

Understanding the island locale and rich history behind BYU-Hawaii’s campus grants valuable perspective on this one-of-a-kind faith-based university.

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