Cultural Tour of Honolulu, Honolulu (Self Guided)

From ancient times, the cultural life of Honolulu has been diverse due to numerous influences. The Hawaiian islands are inhabited by more than seven ethnic groups. Nowadays, Honolulu is full of museums, art galleries and theaters that represent the 200-year history of the island. We invite you to discover the most popular cultural spots in Honolulu on this self-guided tour.
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Cultural Tour of Honolulu Map

Guide Name: Cultural Tour of Honolulu
Guide Location: USA » Honolulu (See other walking tours in Honolulu)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Author: helenp
1
First Hawaiian Center

1) First Hawaiian Center

The First Hawaiian Center is the headquarters of the First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii's oldest existing bank. This building also has the distinction of being the tallest in Hawaii, and is the home of the Contemporary Arts Museum. This was a source of controversy, since many buildings in Hawaii are much more subtle, and follow the lines of Hawaii's natural landscape. Many Hawaiian residents were concerned about the skyscraper potentially spoiling the Honolulu skyline and overall landscape of Hawaii. The original plans called for a three hundred fifty foot tall building, but the developer attempted to have this amended to four hundred and fifty. As a compromise, the limit was raised to 400 feet, but the finished product was allowed to exceed this by a little under twenty nine feet.

Though the First Hawaiian Center is a modern skyscraper, a lot of effort went into incorporating Hawaii's natural phenomena into the design. Horizontal windows frame the sea, while vertical ones frame the mountains, and the entire building was designed to maximize the use of natural sunlight. The building is triangular, and its exterior is divided into distinctive areas, to help diminish the visual impact of its considerable size. The Contemporary Arts Museum has an airy sixty foot atrium interior is finished in pear and anigre wood, Arabascata marble, and stainless steel.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Kumu Kahua Theatre

2) Kumu Kahua Theatre

The Kumu Kahua Theatre's motto is “Plays about life in Hawaii. Plays by Hawaii's playwrights. Plays for Hawaii's people.” It is a community theater located in downtown Honolulu, and features work by local playwrights, usually featuring Hawaiian themes and stories, acted and directed by some of Hawaii's best actors and directors. Many of the plays use the actors' natural local dialect or accent, or are written in a blended Hawaiian English dialect called pidgin.

The theater was founded in 1971, by students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, for the purpose of exhibiting locally-created plays. In the beginning, these were mainly experimental works, but the theater focused more on regular plays as it progressed. The group was given non-profit status in 1982, and the Hawaii State Legislature gave it its current home in 1994.

To continue its tradition of Hawaiian plays, written by Hawaiian people, and performed by Hawaiian people, the Kumu Kahua Theatre offers classes in acting and play writing, and sponsors an annual contest to find the best playwrights in Hawaii. Three prizes are awarded- The Hawaii Prize, for plays set in Hawaii, the Pacific Rim Prize, for plays set in the Pacific Rim, and the Resident Prize, for plays of any subject written by Hawaii residents.
3
Nuuanu Gallery At Marks Center

3) Nuuanu Gallery At Marks Center

Nuuanu Gallery At Marks Center is a popular exhibition and art gallery situated in downtown Honolulu. The goal of the gallery is to transform the historic district with the help of art. Weekly, performances of business organizations and NGOs are held here. Nuuanu Gallery At Marks Center is supported by the Hawaii Arts Alliance.
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Hawaii Theatre Center

4) Hawaii Theatre Center

The Hawaii Theatre Center is located near Chinatown in downtown Honolulu. When it was first opened in 1922, it was called “The Pride of the Pacific,” and considered it on the same level as any theatre in San Francisco or New York.

The building itself was designed by Honolulu architects Walter Emory and Marshall Webb, and echoes elements of Neoclassical architecture for the exterior, and Beaux-Arts architecture for the interior. Exterior ornaments include elements of Byzantine, Corinthian, and Moorish designs, while the interior was adorned with Corinthian columns, a gilded dome, marble statues, carpets, silk wall hangings, and a mural by Lionel Walden. One really intriguing feature of the theater was its cooling system- vents under the seats helped to circulate air from an ice storage room located underneath the stage.

During its early years, the theater presented silent films and Vaudeville entertainment. Up to the 1960s, it operated as a movie theater. When the center of entertainment on the island began moving from Honolulu to Waikiki, the theater fell into disrepair, and eventually closed in 1984. Hawaiian citizens wanted to restore and preserve the theater, so they formed the not-for-profit Hawaii Theatre Center, purchased it, and performed extensive renovations. Their efforts were so successful, the Hawaii Theatre was named the “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America” by the League of Historic America Theatres.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Hawaii State Art Museum

5) Hawaii State Art Museum (must see)

The site of the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) began its life as a hotel. American politicians John Mott-Smith and Charles Coffin Harris convinced the Hawaii legislature to build the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in 1872, and the hotel was converted to a YMCA in 1917. After that, it was used by the military during WWI. When the building suffered from severe termite damage in 1926, it was torn down, to be replaced by a Spanish mission design by Lincoln Rogers. The current building was completed in 1928.

The museum's exhibits are housed in three galleries. There is a permanent display of Hawaiian art, which portrays Hawaii's mix of cultural and ethnic backgrounds (including Hawaiian, European, and Japanese artistic traditions), and consists of 132 works of art by 105 different artists. These include sculptors Satoru Abe, Bumpei Akaji, Sean K.L. Browne, and Edward M. Brownlee, as well as ceramicists, printmakers, painters, and more. In addition to its permanent exhibit, it also has several temporary exhibits that change regularly.

Fans of the arts will find this facility up there with the Bishop Museum and the Honolulu Museum of Art on the list of top artistic hotspots on the islands. If you are interested, this well laid out and accommodating location is certainly worth spending some time out of the sun for.

Why You Should Visit:
If you like contemporary art, then this museum has a ton; a good complement to the nearby downtown art galleries.
Air-conditioned and with well-maintained restrooms, plus restaurant, so a great rest stop when exploring downtown on a hot day.

Tip:
The museum has a live show on the first Friday of every month (6pm); a family-friendly entertainment option on an otherwise rowdy night.
On the second Saturday (11am-3pm / Mar-Nov), you may find additional hands-on (often "make-and-take") activities appropriate for children.
Be sure to see the optical illusion art exhibit outside that has the appearance of a pool with water.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am–4pm
Free admission; leave a donation in the box, if you want.
6
Hawaiian Mission Houses

6) Hawaiian Mission Houses (must see)

The Mission Houses Museum collects and exhibits documents and artifacts relating to Hawaiian history between 1820 and 1863 – the “missionary” period. Today, the museum has over 3,000 Hawaiian, Western, and Pacific artifacts, and more than 12,000 books, manuscripts, original letters, diaries, journals, illustrations and Hawaiian church records.

The Houses themselves are interesting for the way they demonstrate how New England missionaries progressively adapted to their environment. The Oldest Frame House was built from materials shipped down from Boston around 1821. They were precut and premeasured, so they pretty much just needed to be assembled. The funny thing about the Oldest Frame House is the style – it was made with small windows and short eaves, to help it survive Boston winters, which made it odd to use in Hawaii. The Chamberlain House was built in 1831 from local Hawaiian materials, including coral blocks and salvaged lumber from ships. This house has larger windows, and shutters to provide shade, which the Oldest Frame House did not. The Print House was an addition to the Oldest Frame House. Originally a bedroom, the coral block addition later served as the missionaries' print house. Today, the Print House serves as an exhibit to show how the native Hawaiians and New England missionaries developed the first materials printed in native Hawaiian.

Why You Should Visit:
To take a look at life back when the missions were still in service during the plantation days and to learn about the impact of these missionaries on the native Hawaiian culture.
Lots of great events for kids and adults throughout the year, including certain days with free admission, and a well-appointed gift shop.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am–4pm

Guided House Tours:
Tue-Sat: Every hour from 11am; last tour starts at 3pm
7
Honolulu Museum of Art

7) Honolulu Museum of Art (must see)

The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest of its kind in the state and has one of the largest single collections of Asian and Pan-Pacific art in the U.S. Since its official opening on April 8, 1927, its collections have grown to more than 50,000 works of art.

The museum has a large collection of Asian art, especially Japanese and Chinese works. Major collections include the Samuel H. Kress collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, American and European paintings and decorative arts, art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, textiles, contemporary art, and a graphics collection of over 23,000 works on paper. Other collections include the James A. Michener collection of ukiyo-e prints and the Hawaiian art collection, which chronicles the history of art in Hawaiʻi.

Docents conduct tours for the public, school groups (pre-school and up), and community organizations. In a program called Tour and Tea, docents lead discussions in the galleries followed by iced tea in the courtyard. An introductory tour called Treasures of the Museum highlights selected works in the permanent collection.

Special tours, focusing on temporary exhibitions often include supplementary materials and activities, some specially designed for children. Theme tours concentrate on a specific country, region, time period, art movement, or groups of artists.

Tip:
Definitely check out their monthly after-hours event, Art After Dark, which happens every last Friday of the month – a special time when the museum is open late to feature artists and feed museum-goers gourmet food and specialty cocktails.
You can enter free on the 1st Wednesday and 3rd Sunday. Entry to the Museum shop, the café and the Robert Allerton Art Library is always free.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Honolulu, Hawaii

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Create Your Own Walk in Honolulu

Creating your own self-guided walk in Honolulu is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Honolulu's Architecture Self-Guided Tour

Honolulu's Architecture Self-Guided Tour

Downtown Honolulu is a treasure trove for those, who seek the nineteenth century architectural gems. The district is full of historic buildings showcasing a distinctive Hawaiian style. This style is characterized by a mixture between Western influence and local culture. We encourage you to take this tour and discover the most significant buildings of Honolulu.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Diamond Head Volcano Tour

Diamond Head Volcano Tour

Diamond Head Volcano is perhaps one of the best-known attractions on the island of Oahu. The volcano's rugged cone is seen from almost every part of the island. However, at its base, along the coastal line, are situated a couple of other spectacular sights. Take this walking tour to admire one of the most ancient treasures of Hawaii - Diamond Head.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 km
Waikiki Beach Walk in Honolulu

Waikiki Beach Walk in Honolulu

Waikiki or Waikiki Beach is a beachfront area of Honolulu famed for its long rolling ocean break, ideal for boarding and surfing. Waikiki is also home to public places, such as Kapiolani Park, high-end resort hotels (Royal Hawaiian), and abundance of luxury brand stores concentrated on Kalakaua Avenue, the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. Once the playground of Hawaiian aristocracy, today...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 km
Religious Buildings of Honolulu Self-Guided Tour

Religious Buildings of Honolulu Self-Guided Tour

Religion in Hawaii is a mix of Christianity, Buddhism and native religions. This is the reason why diverse religious structures, such as shrines or catholic churches can be seen everywhere in Honolulu. Since 1820, the Christian missionaries and Chinese began to popularize their religion and traditions. Nowadays, the ancient Hawaiian religions have almost disappeared. Take this walking tour and...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Pearl Harbor Tour

Pearl Harbor Tour

Pearl Harbor, a US deep-water naval base in Honolulu, made history in 1941 when came under attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service prompting the United States' entering World War II. Since 1964, Pearl Harbor has been declared a National Historic Landmark, featuring a number of military objects and installations turned-monuments. This self-guided tour invites you to pay tribute to the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 km
Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu

The Central Business District is situated in Honolulu's downtown, between Bishop Street and Fort Street Mall. This area holds most of the subsidiaries of local companies. Also, it's Honolulu's skyscraper district. You can see popular sites, such as Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew and First Hawaiian Center. We invite you to take this self-guided tour and admire the Business District...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

16 Hawaiian Products To Bring Home from Honolulu

Pineapples, surfing, flower garlands and colorful shirts are the most distinct things coming to mind in association with Hawaii. Still, when it's time to go leisurely-pleasurely in the remotest part of the United States, it is good to know what is there exactly worth picking up in Honolulu, as...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Honolulu for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Honolulu has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Honolulu, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.