What are the hottest shows in town, and how do I get tickets?
On the north side of the island, the Polynesian Cultural Center (55-370 Kamehameha Hwy. Laie. Tel: 800-367-7060. www.polynesia.com) is among Oahu’s top attractions. It stages a mesmerizing nightly show called Ha Breath of Life. If you want to learn more about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, this is the show to see. It is about an hour-long scenic drive from the city depending on the traffic, but you can spend the day exploring the center that takes you back in time to learn about six different Polynesian island nations, and then end the day with the show. The Neal S. Blaisdell Center, The Republic, Hawaii Theatre, and Aloha Stadium are local concert venues that host notable artists, comedians, and other performing arts, so be sure to check their online schedules to see who’s in town during your visit.
What museums are a must-see for visitors?
Built in 1937, Shangri La (4055 Pāpū Circle. Tel: 808-734-1941. www.shangrilahawaii.org) was the home of the late American heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke who built the mansion using inspiration from her extensive travels
hrough Africa, Middle East, and Asia. It’s an extraordinary mansion by Diamond Head Crater, and is a center for Islamic arts and culture with guided tours Wednesday through Saturday. To learn more about Hawaii’s history and culture, Bishop Museum (1525 Bernice St. Tel: 808-847-3511. www.bishopmuseum.org) is a must. It is the largest museum in the state and home to the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts. The centerpiece of the museum is the stunning Hawaiian Hall that features a 50-foot skeleton of a sperm whale that hangs from the ceiling. You can learn everything about Hawaiian culture from how ancient Polynesians navigated the Pacific using only the stars, to hundreds of regalia once adorned by the islands’ royalty.
Which guided tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
Iolani Palace (364 S. King St. Tel: 808-522-0822. www.iolanipalace.org) was once home to Hawaii’s last King and Queen and today is still the only royal palace in the United States. The Palace contains beautiful memories of grand balls and hula performances, as well as painful ones of the last monarch’s imprisonment. Since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the palace has undergone many changes. It served as the capitol for almost 80 years until it was vacated. Then in the 1970s it was restored to its original grandeur. Historic Chinatown is home to landmark buildings that date back to the early 1900s; and to the city’s largest outdoor market. The Hawaii Heritage Center (1040 Smith St. Tel: 808-521-2749. www.hawaiimuseums.org) offers a two-hour walking and eating tour of this eclectic neighborhood. Bring an appetite because the tour includes a visit to five Chinatown restaurants.
What annual events should we add to our “must see” list?
On Oahu, there’s a festival event happening every month, mostly during the summer. The Ukulele Festival Hawaii (www.ukulelefestivalhawaii.org) is the world’s largest ukulele celebration, happening every July at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. The Joy of Sake (www.joyofsake.com/honolulu) is the world’s largest sake festival, taking place every summer at the Hawaii Convention Center, featuring nearly 400 selections of premium Japanese sake from around the world paired with bites from the city’s hottest restaurants. Aloha Festivals (www.alohafestivals.com) is a month-long celebration of Hawaiian culture in September. The month kicks off with the Royal Court Investiture featuring a king, queen, prince, and princess receiving their royal cloaks, helmets, and feather lei to mark their official place on the court. The celebration continues with the Waikiki Hoolaulea that shuts down Kalakaua Avenue for a block party and an evening filled with hula, live entertainment, food stalls, and crafts. The festival culminates with the Floral Parade featuring a colorful and vibrant procession of horseback riders, floats, marching bands, and more.
Where are the best views?
For an easy and moderate hike close to the hotels, the top of Diamond Head Crater (www.dinr.hawaii.gov) offers panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu. For a more challenging hike farther away from the city, try Koko Head Crater (www.best-ofoahu.com/koko-crater-trail.html) for a breathtaking view of the island. To enjoy Honolulu’s stunning city lights, reserve a table at Signature Prime Steak & Seafood (Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Dr. Tel: 808-949-3636. www.signatureprimesteak.com), located 36 floors above the city at Ala Moana Center.
Where are the best places to workout?
Why come to Hawaii and work out in a gym when you can work out on the beach or outdoors in the island breeze and sun? Ala Moana Beach Park (201 Ala Moana Blvd. www.honolulu.gov/parks) and Kapiolani Park (3840 Paki Ave. www.honolulu. gov/parks) are two great spots. Best of all, both locations are steps away from the beach where you can reward yourself with a dip in the cool ocean after a hot workout.
If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
I’ve been to every spa on the island of Oahu including ours, the Ritz-Carlton Spa (www.ritzcarlton.com). What makes our spa unique is that treatments are inspired by traditional healing methods and natural elements of the Hawaiian Islands. We partnered with Hawaiian Rainforest Naturals Co-Founder Melia Goodenow of Hawaii Island to develop signature treatments highlighting our natural surroundings. The 3,400-square-foot spa is an elegant, and tranquil respite above the bustling streets of Waikiki.