HAIS was organized in 1969 at the suggestion of The Reverend Burton A. MacLean of Iolani School. The first meetings were convened in the office of Dr. Roderick F. McPhee at Punahou School, together with Dr. James Bushong of Kamehameha School, The Reverend David Coon of Iolani School, and Mr. Joseph Pynchon of Hawaii School for Girls.
Today, HAIS serves 93 private and/or independent schools and over 35,000 students in Hawai'i. Member schools include several of the largest independent schools in the U.S., as well as some of the smallest. While distinctive with respect to mission and philosophy, HAIS member schools are united in helping children achieve personal and academic excellence.
HAIS is the state affiliate for the National Association of Independent Schools, and also the state liaison for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. HAIS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. Leadership of the board is provided by heads of member schools.