THE FAB FOUR HONOLULU HIGHLIGHTS
WAIKIKI BEACH SERVICES: Here’s the thing. Waikiki Beach is fun but it’s crowded and unless you’re staying beachside and can access your hotel’s dedicated guest area, you will have no shade or seating. Waikiki Beach Services offers umbrella, chair and surfboard rentals and the services of a Beachboy Valet for one-on-one instruction and water activities such as Stand Up Paddling and body boarding. But the best fun is an Outrigger Canoe Surfing experience, riding the waves with a muscular captain in a double-rigger canoe of the sort once reserved for use by Hawaiian royalty. An injured wrist prevents me from setting forth but my travel companions whoop with delight as they paddle the waves for half an hour. Waikiki Beach Services has a desk on the beach by the Royal Hawaiian Hotel; canoes can be chartered for groups of six or sign up solo or with a friend on the day. More: waikikibeachservices.com.
SHANGRI-LA: Heiress, socialite and philanthropist Doris Duke’s former home, built between 1936-38 and now run by the Honolulu Museum of Art as a centre of Islamic arts and culture, is an oasis that’s extraordinary not just for the embodied sense of wealth and privilege but its cargo of Middle Eastern and northern Indian art. Duke, who died in 1993, was a collector of treasures from countries such as Morocco, Syria, India and Iran and her collection of furniture, textiles and decorative pieces is spread across ornamented rooms, columned breezeways and gardens laid out in Mughal style. Green roof tiles were commissioned in Rabat, Morocco, by Duke in 1937; walls are whitewashed, high ceilings provide cooling ventilation, the front door was made in Egypt, circa 1900. Escorted tours take place Wednesdays to Saturdays and last about 90 minutes, starting at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where a film about the house’s history is shown. Interior photography is forbidden but there are great views of Diamond Head from the emerald lawns. More: shangrilahawaii.org.
ROYAL HAWAIIAN HOTEL’S ROYAL GROVE: Known as the Pink Palace, this rose-painted 1920s hotel needs no extended introduction. But beyond its bars, breezy restaurants and seaside outlook, take a turn of its lush gardens. It’s there you’ll come across a bronze statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831-1884), a great philanthropist and educator. The grand-daughter of Kamehameha I, the ruler who united the Hawaiian islands in 1810, upon her death the princess was the largest landowner in Hawaii and left her estate to found the Kamehameha Schools for children of Hawaiian heritage. Her husband, Charles Reed Bishop, an American businessman, ensured her wishes were fulfilled and further endowed the educational institutions. Gardeners garland her statue, and that of the little girl seated by her knee, with fresh flowers daily, and the Kamehameha Schools continue to flourish, awarding more than $US14 million in scholarships to about 2300 college students last year. More: royal-hawaiian.com.
MOANA SURFRIDER: Almost as famous as its Royal Hawaiian stablemate (just one block away), Moana Surfrider sits on Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu’s main shopping strip. There are rockers on the columned front porch and an imposing porte-cochere while up, up and away soars a tower block of guestrooms and suites. But on a more approachable scale, cross the lobby, towards the beach, and take an old-style afternoon tea on the veranda or head at sunset to the Vintage 1901 lounge for wines, cocktails and tapasstyle snacks. If it’s offered during your stay, do a guided historic tour of the core building’s lovely corridors, lined with archival photography and framed newspaper clippings of famous guests. Now a Westin hotel, part of the Starwood behemoth, the original property, just known as The Moana, opened in 1901 as Honolulu’s first resort, featuring 75 guestrooms equipped with luxuries such as telephones and bathrooms, and in a style known, a trifle amusingly, as Hawaiian Gothic. It has been on the US Register of Historic Places since 1972. More: moana-surfrider.com.
From left, Moana Surfrider; Shangri-La; Waikiki Beach Services; statue of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop