Was Captain Cook the first Western visitor to Hawaii?

Ever heard of Juan Gaetano?

Some say that HE is the first European who first stumbled across Hawaii, not Captain James Cook, who is generally credited with the discovery.

If it’s true, it means that Captain Cook lost the race by over two centuries. Captain Cook discovered Hawaii in 1778, but Juan Gaetano, a Spanish explorer, may have actually discovered Hawaii all the way back in 1555. Some experts even believe that Cook found Hawaii with the assistance of a 200-year-old Spanish map.

Captain James Cook - runner up?

It’s tough to separate fact from fiction, but historians are aware of the existence of a Spanish map that predates Captain Cook’s discovery of Hawaii… and that map actually already has the islands on it. Gaetano reportedly came across the islands by accident while passing through the northern portion of the Pacific Ocean. He found the islands and charted them, giving them the names “Los Majos” (Spanish for “nice” or “likeable”), “Islas de Mesa,” (Spanish for “Table Islands” – interesting because Hawaii’s volcanoes are like that – mountainous but with flat parts on top, not peaks), “La Desgraciade” (which means “The Unfortunate”… I wonder which one that one was!) and “Los Monges” (which means “The Monks”).

Some others think that Hawaii was discovered even earlier, in 1527 – or nearly, anyway. Some reports claim the ship was Spanish, sent by the famous conquistador Hernán Cortés. Before reaching its destination it wrecked off the Kona coast. Some people are believed to have survived and made it to shore (which would make them the first Europeans to discover Hawaii), but unfortunately it’s nearly impossible now to now for certain!

So, did Captain James Cook really have no knowledge that Hawaii had already been discovered – or was he trying to show off? Is it true that Juan Gaetano really did discover Hawaii centuries earlier, in 1555? Or was Hawaii found even earlier? We may never know for certain!

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