A visit to Honolulu and the stunning Doris Duke home: Shangri-La

“Modernisation” (i.e., the mass development of Honolulu and its famous beach, Waikiki) has not been particularly kind to the beautiful island of Oahu. From grinding traffic (purportedly the worst in all fifty states) to mass over-development of high-rise hotels and condominiums, many visitors are under-whelmed when they are greeted by Honolulu as their first taste of Hawaii. But don’t let surface appearances fool you – Honolulu has several gems worth visiting.

Let’s start with the reason many folks visit Oahu: the magnificent golden strand of Waikiki. While crowded with tourists from all corners of the globe (especially “hen & stag do’s”  - revelers from Down Under celebrating before their pending nuptials) a visit and stay in the colonial Moana Surfrider is worth the journey. Built in 1901, it maintains the colonial grandeur of days gone by. Reserve a room in the historic wing  - floors 4, 5 and 6 with room numbers ending in 14, 16 + 18 are highly recommended. Though smaller than rooms in the new towers, these rooms are especially lovely and one can admire the views over the beach and Diamond Head….you will be transported back in time….or think you are on the set of an Elvis Presley film!

After you check in at the Moana Surfrider, don’t miss a full day visit to the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor national park & monument.  With the visitor center and special exhibition wings recently expanded and enlarged, the story of December 7, 1941 is a compelling one.

After a long day of history and remembrance, you will be ready for a final gem: a visit to the Doris Duke home of Shangri-La. You will start and end your visit at the Honolulu Museum of Art (http://honolulumuseum.org) (The museum is well-worth a minimum of 3-4 hours - an extraordinary collecting museum in the heart of the Pacific) as entrance to Shangri-La is by pre-booked tour only and you are shuttled from the museum to the home.  In 1935, Doris Duke and her husband, James Cromwell, discovered the Hawaiian Islands on their round-the-world honeymoon.  Doris was immediately captivated and in 1936, purchased the stunning property on the back-side of Diamond Head that would become Shangri-La. From the moment you arrive you will be captivated! The architecture, history and extraordinary passion of Doris Duke are evident in every room and across the grounds. There is so much to see and learn, that the three-hour visit allocated by the Foundation will hardly suffice. 

A visit to all three of these Honolulu sites will be sure to bring out the “Aloha” spirit in everyone!

(To whet your appetite, you can get a taste of the collection by visiting the current tour with stops across the US mainland (including a stop at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art in 2013 – perhaps you were lucky to have seen the show?)
Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art http://www.shangrilahawaii.org/Programs/Exhibitions/)