Mix Boston, Las Vegas, Manila, Singapore and Toyo, put the combination in a natural setting straight out of a painting by Paul Gauguin, add the scent of linger flowers and the rush of freeway traffic, and you have Honolulu, capital of Hawaii and Oahu's largest city. It is a fascinating combination of East and West, frenetic and laid-back, old and futuristic.

Honolulu means "protected harbor." The harbor itself was not discovered until 1794. The Waikiki area, with its marvelous beach, coconut palm groves, fishponds and walled taro patches, was the favorite spot of the island alii (chiefs).

The idyll ended in 1795 when Kamehameha I landed at Maunalua Bay between Diamond and Koko heads, driving the defending army of the Oahu king to the top of Nuuanu Pali. There, it is said, many chose death over defeat or surrender. Kamehameha returned to Oahu to rule the unified islands from a base in the Waikiki area.

Honolulu became the permanent seat of government in 1843. From that point the history of the city and the islands as a whole merged. People from throughout the Pacific region came to invest, work and settle. Present-day Honolulu stretches along the narrow coastal plain between Pearl Harbor and its necklace of military reservations to Koko Head.

The heart of old downtown is the harbor. Freighters, liners, fishing boats --- even a sampan fishing fleet-contribute to the scene. The downtown banking and trade area centers on Financial Plaza, a three-building complex. The Oriental district on Nuuanu and River streets creates an exotic atmosphere with its open-air lei stands, Chinese markets and herb shops and artisans patiently practicing their crafts.

The other Honolulu is the luxury resort of 'Waikiki Long since absorbed into the city, the area still has an aura all its own. It is the core of the state's tourism industry, with high-rise hotels providing land comforts, while offshore reefs protect swimmers from strong currents and unwelcome marine dwellers. At night, torchlights illuminate Waikiki's exotic charm.

The city exhibits a variety of architectural styles. The "little grass shack" of the old song has been replaced by island bungalows with open lanais and flowering hedges. Downtown still has streets where simple frame structures recall the New England missionary era, while apartment buildings and condominiums in Waikiki grow the only way possible-up. Even two capitol buildings, the 19th-century lolani Palace and the late-20th-century state capitol, contrast and synthesize the essence of their periods in a uniquely Hawaiian way.


ALA MOANA PARK, between Ala Moana Blvd. and the ocean, has a protected beach and tennis courts. Ala Moana State Recreation Area, at the east end, provides a close look at bay activities and an encompassing view of the Waikiki shoreline.

BISHOP MUSEUM AND PLANETARIUM, 1525 Bernice St., is Hawaii's state museum of natural and cultural history. Founded in 1889, it is known for its extensive array of cultural artifacts, geological study of the Pacific Basin and natural history collections. The museum's collection of feather capes, helmets, kahilis (royal standards) and other articles of Hawaiian art is reputed to be one of the finest in the world.

HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS, 900 S. Beretania St. between Victoria St. and Ward Ave., is considered the cultural center of Hawaii. Opening onto a series of garden courts, the galleries house a permanent collection of Asian and Western art. The Kress Collection of Italian Renaissance paintings is of particular interest.

IOLANI PALACE STATE MONUMENT, S. King and Richards streets, is the last official royal residence in the United States. Completed in 1882 by King Kalakaua, it was the home of Hawaiian royalty until the monarchy's demise in 1893; thereafter it served as the capitol building until 1969. Imported woods and native varieties such as koa and kamani are used in the carved paneling. The throne room displays original chandeliers, carved thrones, swords and crowns.

KAWAIAHAO CHURCH, at King and Punchbowl sts., was built 1841-42 and is Honolulu's oldest church. Noted for its choir, it served as the royal chapel of the Hawaiian rulers for nearly 20 years. Within the courtyard is the tomb of King Lunalilo, who was reburied at the church in 1875. The coral-block building has been used for many religious and civic events, including coronations and legislative meetings.

KEWALO BASIN, on Ala Moana Blvd. at the foot of Ward Ave., is the home port of charter fishing boats, sightseeing boats and the sampan fishing fleet-a group of small Oriental boats.

KING KAMEHAMEHAIS STATUE, in front of the Judiciary Building, is a replica of the statue that was placed in the Kohala district of the Big Island after the original was recovered from the sea. On June 11, King Kamehameha Day, the statue is draped with leis in memory of the monarch. Four tableaux at its base depict great moments in the ruler's life.

LYON ARBORETUM, 3860 Manoa Rd., just n. of Paradise Park, contains native Hawaiian, Polynesian and economically important tropical plants. The 194-acre rain forest is usually danip and muddy, rain gear and walking shoes are recommended. Mon.-Sat. 9-3; closed holidays.

MISSION HOUSES MUSEUM is at 553 S. King St. The Hale La'au wood-frame house, reputedly the oldest in the state, was shipped around Cape Hom from Boston in 1820. The Printing House is where the Hawaiian language first was printed. The 1831 Chamberlain House was built of coral blocks as a home and storehouse. An orientation videotape featuring the history of the missionaries also is presented.

NATIONAL MEMORIAL CEMETERY OF THE PACIFIC (PUNCHBOWL CEMETERY) is reached via Puowaina Dr., which offers an excellent view of the city and harbor. Opened in 1949, the military cemetery contains newly 40,000 graves arranged in concentric circles on the floor of the crater of an extinct volcano. The graves include that ofjourrialist Ernie Pyle, killed in World War II, as well as some Hawaiian senators and governors. Aptly, the Punchbowl was once called Puttwaina-Hill of Sacrifice.

NUUANU PALI STATE WAYSIDE, 7 mi. ri.e. via Pali Hwy. (Hwy. 61), offers a dramatic panorama of windward Oahu's valleys and coastline. This windy 1.200-foot-high gap, flanked by cliffs that rise 2,000 to 3,000 feet, was the scene of Kamehameha the Great's decisive victory in the conquest of Oahu. Winds are usually so intense that visitors can lean against a "wall" created by the current.

QUEEN EMMA SUMMER PALACE, 2913 Pali Hwy, (Hwy. 61), contains relics of the Hawaiian monarchy. Guided 30-minute tours are available. Daily 9-4~ closed holidays. Admission $5~ under 13, $1. Phone (808) 59S-3167.

ROUND TOP-TANTALUS DRIVE, beginning at the end of Makiki St., circles Round Top Mounin and provides views of Manoa Valley and the thickly forested slopes of Mount Tantalus. Vistas f Honolulu and the sea are framed by ferns and philodendrons. The drive, which takes about 2 hour, returns via Tantalus and Puowaina drives the Punchbowl area.

ROYAL MAUSOLEUM STATE MONUMENT, 261 Nuuanu Ave., is the burial site of members f the Kamehameha and Kalakaua dynasties. uided tours are available by advance reservation.

ST. ANDREW'S CATHEDRAL (Episcopal), Beretania and Alakea sts., was founded by King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. Construction began in 1862. Stone was brought from England, and the cathedral is said to be the only example of French Gothic architecture in Hawaii. Organ concerts are performed the third Friday of the month.

SOTO ZEN BUDDHIST TEMPLE, 1708 Nuuanu Ave., is a temple of Indian design noted for its ornate altar

STATE CAPITOL, Beretania and Richards streets., reflects many Hawaiian elements. The rectangular 1965 structure rises to an open crown resembling a volcano, as do the domes of the sunken legislative chambers on either side of the central court. Reflecting pools symbolize the ocean, and fluted concrete columns suggest palm trees.

The exterior is decorated with volcanic rock; the interior is adorned with rugs and wall coverings patterned after Hawaiian tapa prints. Molokai beach sand in the central court, and doors and paneling made of koa wood from the Big Island represent the union of all islands by the capitol.

TENNENT ART  FOUNDATION, 203 Prospect St., houses the work of artist Madge Tennent, who was best known for portrayal of Hawaiian women. She spent 50 years of her life in Hawaii. The collection includes drawings, oil paintings and works as a prodigy in Paris.

THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII, Manoa campus, e. of University Ave., is the largest campus of Hawaii's public system of higher education. The university is noted for studies in oceanography, geophysics, tropical agriculture, marine biology and disciplines related to diverse cultural systems. The 300 acres of landscaped grounds offer more than 560 varieties of tropical trees and plants, including the rare sausage tree.

Musical recitals and performances are presented regularly in Orvis Auditorium. Student theater productions are given in John F. Kennedy Theatre.

Excerpted from Comptonís Interactive Encyclopedia
Copyright © 1994, 1995 Comptonís NewMedia, Inc.