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Destination America: Honolulu, Hawaii

One of my favorite cities in the whole world has the honor of also being one of the world’s most isolated cities if judged solely by distance.  However, when visiting this city it sure doesn’t seem isolated considering how people from around the world come to visit with many of them deciding to stay.  This city is none other than Hawaii’s state capital of Honolulu on the island of Oahu.  Here is a map of Honolulu to assist people who may not be familiar with the city and the locations of the below photos:

Honolulu is a city of 371,000 people which makes it the largest city in all of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean.  The city is also the financial center of Oceania and its prosperity is quite evident judging by the beautiful skyline of the central business district:

Picture of Hawaii's Punchbowl Cemetery

Here is what it looks like to be among all those tall high rise buildings in Honolulu:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Considering how small the island is Hawaii can’t afford to have sprawling cities like on the mainland and thus tend to build up in Honolulu.  With such a high density of people in Honolulu which is only further increased due to the flocks of tourists that descend on the city one finds out that the name of this city in Hawaiian which means “Gathering Place” is a very appropriate description of this city.  Honolulu, however wasn’t always the bustling metropolis that it is today.  At one time this was a quaint village where the native Hawaiians lived a traditional life until outside contact with Europeans and eventually Americans brought missionaries to the islands.

These missionaries would forever change Hawaii as a select few of these missionary families would befriend the Hawaiian royalty and be allowed to purchase large tracts of land in the islands.  To this day some of the descendants of these families continue own large amounts of land in the islands.  The missionaries also left their mark on Hawaii by introducing Hawaiians to Christianity.  Across the islands these missionaries have built a number of now historic churches that adds to the cultural charm of the islands and its capital city of Honolulu:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The Kawaiaha’o Church in downtown Honolulu is considered by many to be the most historic church in Hawaii since it is believed to be the first Christian Church constructed in these islands:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

This beautiful church that blends both Western and Polynesian architectural styles.  Here is a brief history about the church from its website:

In 1820, the first missionaries arrived in Hawai‘i, and found themselves well-accepted by royalty as well as the general populace. They were granted land at Kawaiaha‘o for the purpose of establishing their residence, and thatched houses were erected by local labor on orders of King Kamehameha III.

Thatched with grass and lined with mats, the first sanctuary was erected in the native manner. Measuring 54 feet by 22 feet, the structure was designed to seat 300. As the congregation continued to grow, and in some cases as the result of fire or severe wind storms, three more thatched structures were erected to replace their predecessor. It was not until 1837 that the gathering of materials for the great stone house of worship begun.

On July 31, 1838, the digging of the foundation was begun. It was no minuscule task, nor was it one lacking in support as many as a thousand people assembled on the grounds of Kawaiaha‘o to dig down to bed rock to ensure the best footing for their cathedral.

The “Stone Church,” as it came to be known, was in fact not built of stone; but of giant slabs of coral hewn from ocean reefs. These slabs were not easily accessible; and had to be quarried from under water and transported, each weighed more than 1,000 pounds. Natives dove 10 to 20 feet to hand-chisel these pieces from the reef, then raised them to the surface, loaded them into canoes, and ferried them to shore. The physically and spiritually strong hauled some 14,000 of the slabs to their final destination.

Following five years of labor The Great Stone Church was ready for dedication ceremonies on July 21, 1842. The grounds of Kawaiaha‘o overflowed with 4,000 to 5,000 faithful worshippers. King Kamehameha III, who contributed generously to the fund, attended that service. It had taken the community five years from commencement to completion – two years less than it took Solomon to build his temple. The estimated cost was $30,000. Kawaiaha‘o Church has witnessed much history. Within its walls the kingdom’s royalty prayed, sang hymns, were married, christened their children, and finally laid in state. On the grounds surrounding the church are buried a number of original missionaries. The 9/11 tragedy found many in prayer in the sanctuary.

In 1900, when fire destroyed a great portion of the city, thousands left homeless found refuge at Kawaiaha‘o. On December 7, 1941, the faithful crowded into the church’s basement in search of inspiration and safety. The historic occasion of statehood was marked by ceremonies within the sanctuary’s walls.

Kawaiaha‘o Church, is listed on the state and national registers of historic sites.  [Kawaiaha’o .org]

You can read more about this historic church at the link.

Besides historic churches there are plenty of historic buildings located in downtown Honolulu as well, such as the Kekuanao’a Building which is more commonly known as the Territorial Office Building:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

This building was constructed in 1926 to house the territorial government before Hawaii became a state. Hawaii was a territory of the US from 1900 to 1959. At the time the governor of the Hawaii territory was appointed by the US President and had one elected member to the US House of Representatives who had no voting rights in the Congress. During World War II Hawaii was not governed as a territory, but was instead put under martial law by the military with a military officer appointed to govern the islands. This is all ancient as Hawaii is now a fully fledged US state with all the responsibilities and privileges that come along with it.

The next building I walked by was the Hawaii State Art Musuem:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The first building was constructed at this location in 1872 as a hotel and then converted in a Armed Services YMCA in 1917.  This building was condemned and torn down in 1926 and the present Spanish architecture style building was put up in its place in 1928 for the museum.

Here is the old Governor’s Residence called Washington Place:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Washington Place was built in the 1840’s by a wealthy sea captain who was the father of Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. This home served as the Hawaii State governor’s mansion for several years, but today it is a museum that is open to the public.  You can read more about Washington Place at this link.

Speaking of the governor here is where the governor along with the rest of the Hawaii state government works at, the State Capital Building:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

This building was built in 1969 to replace Iolani Palace as the official state house.  Here is the seal of the State of Hawaii that hangs in the front of the building:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Here is the front steps to go inside the state capital:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

From the state capital I walked over to the previous capital building of Hawaii that is unlike any other building in the United States, that is because it was once home to royalty. The Iolani Palace was once the official residence of the last two monarchs that ruled Hawaii, King Kalakaua who built the palace in 1882 and his sister and eventual successor Queen Lili’uokalani.  This palace is the only royal palace located in the United States.

Here is the seal of the Hawaiian monarchy that can be seen on the front gate of the palace:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Here is a picture of this beautiful palace:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Its last occupant Queen Lili’uokalani is one of the most beloved monarchs in Hawaiian history. Here is a short history about Hawaii last monarch:

n 1874, Liliuokalani’s brother, David Kalakaua, was elected as Hawaii’s new king. One of his first acts was to name William Pitt Leleiohoku as his heir; just three years later, however, the crown prince died at the age of 23. Liliuokalani was now directly in line for the throne.

Kalakaua himself died in January 1891 in San Francisco. On January 29, the USS Charleston was sighted off Diamond Head, its hull draped in black and the Hawaiian flag at half-staff. Suddenly, the Hawaiians knew: Their king was dead. Government ministers insisted that Liliuokalani immediately sign an oath to uphold the constitution that had been forced upon her brother.

Under the constitution, Liliuokalani wielded little power. She formed a Cabinet three times, and each time it was rejected by the Legislature. She drafted a strongly royalist constitution, but no one supported it.

Finally, on January 17, 1893, pro-American forces overthrew the government and proclaimed a provisionist government with Sanford B. Dole as president. Liliuokalani had no choice but to surrender her throne. She made a plea to the U.S. government for reinstatement, and a representative of President Grover Cleveland found the overthrow to be illegal. Dole, however, refused to accept the decision.

The queen withdrew to her residence, Washington Place, and urged her supporters to be patient and avoid bloodshed. A fierce uprising was firmly squelched in January 1895, and although she denied playing a role in the attempted takeover, Liliuokalani was arrested and taken to a second-floor room at Iolani Palace. It would serve as her jail cell for nearly a year. During her confinement, the queen wrote one of Hawaii’s most beloved songs, “Aloha Oe” (“Farewell to Thee”).

Liliuokalani was pardoned in October 1896. In her remaining years, the deposed queen fought for the restoration of the Hawaiian kingdom. She died in 1917 at age 79.

A statue of this great queen has been constructed near the palace.

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

This next historic building we walked by was the Ali’iolani Hale which is home to the Hawaii State Supreme Court:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The front of the building has a statue of King Kamehameha the Great who was responsible for conquering all the Hawaiian Islands and establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Located next to the Iolani Palace is the Iolani Barracks:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

These barracks were built in 1870 by King Lot Kapuaiwa to house the monarchy’s Royal Guard. The 80-man Royal Guard used these barracks until the monarchy’s overthrown in 1893.

The final thing I checked out in downtown was the memorial to Korean War and Vietnam veterans:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The memorial was actually were well done with the names of deceased servicemembers engraved on a black polished stone:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

From downtown I then began to walk towards Chinatown.  Something you notice in Hawaii is the amount of vagrants and hippies that tend to sleep and lounge in what otherwise would be some beautiful parks in Honolulu:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

As I walked towards Chinatown I noticed it was only fitting that Margaret Co would be putting on a show in Chinatown:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Anyway Chinatown is another way that the early missionaries changed life in Hawaii.  When the missionaries bought land they began to farm this land.  However, there was a shortage of workers to work the land because the native Hawaiians had a work culture that revolved around doing enough to eat every day, which the abundance of food sources on Hawaii made quite easy.  To find laborers that were willing to work the land day in and day out the missionaries brought in immigrant from across Asia.  The descendants of these early Asian immigrants would go on to become important business and political leaders in Hawaii, especially the Japanese immigrants.

These Asian immigrants are responsible for creating the Chinatown that exists today in Honolulu:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Chinatown has a reputation for being a shady area and did see a number of rather unsavory looking people mingling around, but it really isn’t that bad of place:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

On one end of Chinatown is this canal that fans of the television series LOST may recognize:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

In the series Chinatown is often used as the set for Seoul, South Korea and this canal is used in place of the Han River:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

For anyone that has been to Seoul seeing this canal used as the Han River is quite laughable, but it isn’t like there is anywhere else they can film in Hawaii to replicate Seoul so this was the best they could obviously do.  Along the canal there is another statue of a famous figure in Hawaiian history Dr. Sun Yat Sen:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Sun Yat Sen was a democracy advocate who is known as the father of modern China.  Here is a local Honolulu newspaper article about Sun Yat Sen:

The founding father of modern China learned about democracy in Hawaii, and used the islands to raise money and support for political efforts that would lead to the overthrow of the Qing imperial government.

Now, Taiwan is using the centennial anniversary of the Republic of China’s founding to celebrate Sun Yat-sen’s connection to Hawaii. The Taiwanese government is sponsoring a photo exhibit at Honolulu’s City Hall this month that underscores the pivotal role the islands played in shaping Sun.

“His early education in Hawaii planted the seeds … for him later to become the father of modern China,” said Paul Wen-liang Chang, the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu.

The exhibit, due to begin Wednesday, is expected to include a copy of a ledger page from Oahu College — as Punahou School was then called — showing Sun was charged $55 for sundries or school supplies and other items.

Illustrating how Sun repeatedly returned to Hawaii to drum up support for his work in China, the exhibit will feature an article from the front page of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser on Dec. 14, 1903, about a speech he delivered in Chinatown. It reports a crowd packed into a theater — a site now occupied by Maunakea Marketplace — enthusiastically applauded Sun.  [Star-Advertiser]

You can read more about Sun Yat Sen at the link.

Without a doubt the area of Honolulu most popular with tourists is Waikiki Beach:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Just like the other areas of Honolulu, another statue of a famous Hawaii historical figure welcomes tourists to this famous beach:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The statue is of Duke Kahanamoku who probably the most famous native Hawaiian of the modern era.  Duke was a gifted surfer who is credited with promoting surfing around the world in the early 20th century.  He was also an incredible swimmer who’s skills led to him trying out for the Olympics.  He would ultimately end up participating in 5 Olympic games and winning a total of 5 medals in various swimming events.  He would also end up being inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame.  He died in 1968 at the age of 77.  The spirit of the Duke lives on here at Waikiki Beach where many people come to surf and enjoy the Aloha spirit of Hawaii that he worked so hard to promote:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Here is the view from Waikiki Beach looking east towards the famous Diamond Head Crater:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

There is a trail up Diamond Head that I highly recommend that all visitors to Hawaii check out.  From the summit of the crater are just absolutely beautiful views of not only Waikiki Beach, but all of Honolulu as well:

Picture from Diamond Head Crater, Hawaii

Even when the sun goes down Waikiki Beach is a fun place to be as crowds gather along the beach to watch the sunset:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

After watching the sunset it is then a lot of fun to walk around the brightly lit stores and find something to eat in one of Waikiki’s fabulous restaurants:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

After dinner a good tip for people staying in Waikiki is to go over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village and catch one of their free Hawaiian concerts they put on:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

The show is really good and the performers are very nice and don’t mind talking and taking pictures with tourists:

Pictures from Honolulu, Hawaii

That concludes my travelog of Honolulu, but there is so much more to do in this city that I can’t possibly capture in one blog post.  Honolulu is one of those cities in the world that is so vibrant and rich in culture there always something new to see and do every time you visit the city.  I know people that live on Oahu and continue to find new things to do as well.  So for anyone making their first visit to Hawaii Honolulu is definitely a great place to visit.

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