Honolulu travel notes, 2008
February 6, 2008
Linda and I were in Honolulu from January 28 to February 3, 2008. We stayed at the Halekulani Hotel. We were there to see friends and the sights of interest to us. We are not golfers or surfers etc so there will be no tips on such things here.
Linda’s watercolor of Diamond Head from the Halekulani Hotel.
It rained every day off and on while we were on Oahu. Rain and gray skies are not unusual in the Hawaiian winter, but so much was not to be expected. One can walk throughout the entire Waikiki district, but getting around Honolulu requires taxis, a car, or, best, friends to pick you up and take you around. We took the bus once. It was okay, but slow. I have never seen so many parking spaces in a downtown as in Honolulu. There are parking ramps everywhere; the car is king as in Southern California.
(Note: As in all our blogposts, you can click on words in blue and the website referred to will come up. I have provided links to the significant attractions referred to in this post.)
The Honolulu Academy of Arts was a great surprise. The collection is small and emphasizes Asia, as one might expect, but all major cultures and periods are represented. The quality of the works on display is consistently high. The room of impressionists and post-impressionists was a particularly pleasant surprise. The building itself is lovely with two courtyard gardens. We lunched at The Pavilion Café with Timothy and Dennis and found it very pleasant with good light food.
The Contemporary Museum is in Makiki Heights, an upscale residential area in the hills back of town. When we were there, only one exhibit was on display, large beach photographs. The space was very nice. The gardens in back are excellent. The museum has bought two nearby properties and has an ambitious expansion plan to allow it to show its permanent collection. There is a café.
The gardens below The Contemporary Museum. That is a George Rickey sculpture from the 1970’s in the lawn.
The Hawaii State Art Museum downtown had shows of contemporary local artists and artisans. The crafts section was superb. It is a short walk from the Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the US; it is worth a visit, but is not as interesting as it should be since the contents were all auctioned off after the Queen was overthrown in 1893. The crown jewels in the basement are of interest. We took the audio tour, available after 11:45. Before that there are guided tours. The Bishop Museum, well to the west of town, was of little interest to me; the main hall was closed for renovation. It features old Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts, natural history exhibits etc. But it was more crowded than the other three museums above, which were almost empty.
Friends drove us up the Tantalus route to Roundtop and over to the Punchbowl, a large saddle in the hills above town. It is the site of the impressive National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific & the Honolulu Memorial. Any American veteran can be buried there. The view from the parapet of downtown is spectacular.
Because of the wet weather we had to cancel our planned visit to the Foster Botanical Garden, Nuuanu Pali Drive, Pali Lookout, Manoa Heritage Site and the Miyano Garden. I imagine they would have been excellent sights.
The USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, which stands over the center of the battle ship in which 1,177 sailors remain entombed since Dec. 7, 1941, is the keystone of a dramatic tribute to those lost and injured during the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Park Service and Navy provide an excellent visit that starts with a background film before a Navy launch ferries one to the gleaming white memorial on what was battleship row beside Ford Island. After or before the visit to the memorial one can use the good audio guide or the explanatory panels to walk through the small remembrance garden and understand that air fields, barracks and civilian losses on Oahu were key parts of the surprise attack. We recommend the audio guide. The memorial area is open from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm daily. Arriving at 7 or so will allow you to be among the first launches to the memorial, but if you go later and have to wait after getting your ticket from a park ranger, you can visit the garden or small museum first. The USS Missouri and USS Bowfin submarine are nearby to visit. One can get to Pearl Harbor and back by taxi, car, some city buses or some shuttle buses about which hotels can provide information. It is very useful to read the USS Arizona website for current visit details and restrictions before you go but do not be deterred by warnings of long waits. This American memorial is impressive.
The Waikiki Acquarium is worth a visit. It is not large, but the exhibits on coral and the monk seal pool are particularly interesting. It also is a good motive for an interesting walk to the east end of Waikiki. There is also a zoo in the nearby park, but we did not go to it.
One useful spot is the UPS Store at Waikiki at 2335 Kalakaua Avenue (the arcade of the Outrigger Hotel.) They will pack and ship home items you don’t need for the rest of your trip. There are other UPS stores and Kinko/FedEx shipping points in Honolulu.
We went to the Hawaii Opera Theater for an excellent performance of Don Carlo. (Our Hawaiian friends were as surprised as we were that it was so good.) If you will be in Honolulu in February or March, you should get tickets. There will be three performances each of three different operas. There are frequent performances by the symphony and there is also a ballet. The Blaisdell Concert Hall is quite large and seemed to have good acoustics.
To see the restaurants at which we dined, click here.